Title:
Container for dispensing contents into another container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods of delivering a powdered, granular or liquid material into receptacle container in a clean, easy to use way are disclosed. The systems include a tub or carton configured to contain such materials and to easily release its contents into the receptacle when opened. In some embodiments, these systems are configured to be placed over receptacle such as a beverage or water bottle, baby bottle, child's sippy cup or drinking glass or any other such container with a mouth that can be opened and oriented to point substantially vertically.

In some embodiments, the systems are configured to open when pressed down onto the receptacle such that the seal is pressed against the mouth perimeter and forced to tear or pull away or flex away from the opening at the bottom of the tub, thereby releasing the tub contents with the aid of gravity into the receptacle below. In other embodiments the systems are configured to open when eternal pressure is applied to the tub such that the internal pressure increases and the seal is forced to burst or pop or flex open. In other embodiments the systems are configured to incorporate an internal structure that forces open the tub when external pressure is applied to the tub or areas thereof.

In some embodiments, the systems are configured to be disposable and in other embodiments the systems are configured to be reusable. In some embodiments the systems are configured to incorporate a cap so that they can be bundled with the receptacle container. In some embodiments the tubs are configured to separately contain two or more substances, which may be mixed together with each other and with any contents that happen to be in the receptacle.




Inventors:
Fisher, James M. O. (Walnut Creek, CA, US)
Brock, Daniel R. (Emerald Hills, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/200909
Publication Date:
05/14/2009
Filing Date:
08/28/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
141/330
International Classes:
B65B1/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KELLY, TIMOTHY PATRICK
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
James Fisher (Walnut Creek, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system comprising: a first volume configured to store an additive and including an opening; a second volume configured to receive a lip of a container; and a seal configured to cover the opening , to prevent the additive from leaving the first volume while the seal is intact, and to be broken such that the additive is released from the first volume when the lip is received by the second volume.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the container is a bottle.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the additive is a solid.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the additive is a liquid.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein the first container is tapered.

6. The system of claim 1, further including the additive.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein the seal is configured to break near the opening.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein the additive includes a drink additive.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein the additive includes alcohol, medication, coloring, flavoring, nutrients, fiber, chemicals, engine oil, pesticide, herbicide or fertilizer.

10. The system of claim 1, wherein the additive is edible.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein the seal comprises a food-grade material.

12. The system of claim 1, wherein the seal comprises a foil.

13. A method comprising: placing an additive in a first container, the first container including a first volume configured to receive the additive and a second volume configured to receive a lip of a second container; and placing a seal over the first volume and the second volume, the seal being configured to break and release the additive from the first volume when the lip is received by the second volume.

14. A container comprising: an outlet designed to be narrower than the mouth of a separate receptacle container which has been located underneath the tub; a descending wall or shelf coupled to the tub that is designed to be wider in diameter than the outside perimeter of said receptacle container's mouth or upper opening; a trench or gap between the outlet and the adjacent shelf a seal that prevents leakage of tub contents out of the outlet, configured to open when pressure is applied against the seal by: substantially downward pressure of the seal in the region where it bridges the trench against the mouth of the receptacle container; or internal pressure buildup in the tub against the seal as a result of external pressure being applied to a tub configured to be partially or entirely collapsible or compressible.

15. The tub of claim 14, wherein the seal which covers the tub outlet bridges the gap or trench between the tub outlet and the surrounding shelf and is anchored to the surrounding shelf by any of a variety of affixing methods and materials

Description:

This application claims benefit and priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/966,422 entitled “Container for dispensing contents into another container” and filed Aug. 28, 2007. The disclosure of this application is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of Invention

The invention is in the field of containers designed to dispense powdered, granular or liquid products into other containers such as water bottles.

2. Related Art

In many situations two or more substances need to be combined which are ideally mixed together shortly before use. For example, in the case of consumable sports drinks, energy enhancing additives and electrolytes are often more effective when they are stored in powder form and only released into the liquid drink when the user is ready to consume the beverage, rather than sold pre-mixed into the liquid. In addition, if additives can be stored and transported separately, then the shelf life in many cases can be extended well beyond what it would be if they were mixed prior to distribution. Beverages that contain flavorings and vitamin additives are subject to degrade over time, usually requiring the undesirable use of unhealthy preservatives. In addition, in the case of soda drinks containing ascorbic acid or citric acid (usually from citrus juice or vitamin C additives) and the preservative sodium benzoate, in combination with exposure to light and time act to create benzene, a dangerous carcinogen. There is therefore a significant benefit to being able to add products such as flavorings, and health additives such as vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, etc. to drinks immediately prior to consumption.

Existing powdered additive containers are commonly sachets or packets that must be torn open on one edge and then poured into the liquid.

SUMMARY

Various embodiments of the invention include a disposable container or tub comprising a compartment with an opening or outlet at the underside. Said outlet is designed to fit inside the mouth of a separate receptacle such as a water bottle. The outlet is either flanked on one or more sides or completely surrounded by a descending structure or outer trench wall that is designed to fit outside the mouth of the receptacle bottle. A gap or inverted trench exists between the outlet and the outer trench wall, into which the bottle mouth fits when the container is pressed down onto the bottle. A seal or membrane is applied during manufacture to the underside of said container such that it is secured to said outer trench wall and also seals in the contents of said container. Said seal bridges the gap or inverted trench that exists between the outlet and the flanking or surrounding outer trench wall.

The outer trench wall serves as an anchor to which the seal is attached such that said seal holds tight on at least some portion of the outer trench wall. Said outer trench wall may incorporate a shelf to provide a surface area to which the seal may be affixed.

When the tub is pressed down onto the open mouth of the bottle, upward pressure of the perimeter of the bottle mouth against the lower seal of the tub causes the seal to be either broken or pulled away from the outlet and pulled up into the adjacent trench, such that the contents of the tub can then freely flow out of the outlet and down into the bottle below. This allows the contents of the tub to be released into the bottle in one simple downward action of the tub onto the bottle. This action both unseals the tub and allows the contents to pour out, while ensuring that the outlet is firmly in the mouth of the bottle and reducing the risk of spillage.

Typically, the outer trench wall is configured such that its lowest point is at a similar level to the lowest point of the tub outlet. This provides a relatively even bottom to the tub across which a seal can be more easily applied by labeling machinery. In addition, the tub will store and stack more easily with the resulting flatter bottom surface. In some embodiments the lowest point of the outer trench wall or the optional shelf is higher than the lowest point of the tub outlet such that when the seal is applied, there is positive pressure of the seal against the lower surface of the tub outlet. In these embodiments, a tighter seal against the outlet would result, with less risk of the contents of the tub spilling out of the outlet and into the surrounding trench. In addition, the resulting bump in the bottom of the seal where the outlet is covered provides tactile and visual feedback to assist consumers in accurate positioning of the tub over the bottle mouth. In such embodiments the surface of the shelf may be such that it angles upward as it progresses from its inner edge to its outer edge, at an angle that matches the angle with which the seal approaches the shelf from the lower outlet rim. This ensures that there is not a tendency of the seal to pull away from the inner edge of the shelf during transport and storage prior to use of the tub.

The upper surface of the tub may be completely contained or may be sealed by another membrane or seal. In embodiments in which the only opening to the interior containment area of the tub is through the outlet below, the tub may be inverted for filling and the seal subsequently applied.

In embodiments of the tub in which the upper surface also is open in addition to the outlet below, the a seal may be applied to the underside of the tub and then the tub filled through the opening in the upper side and lastly a seal applied to the upper surface to seal in the contents. It may be easier to fill the tub through the wider opening on the upper surface, which is possible in such embodiments, than it would be to fill the tub via the narrower outlet on the underside as described in the previous embodiments in which there is no opening on the upper surface of the tub.

In various embodiments the lower seal (and/or upper seal, if one exists) may incorporate a pull-tab, or grippable area that protrudes beyond the perimeter of the tub surface to which the seal is attached. The presence of a pull-tab allows the consumer an alternative method of opening the tub without pressing it onto a bottle mouth, such as for situations in which the consumer has a tub configured to match a water bottle but wishes to pour the contents into a container that has an opening that is wider than the tub in hand is able to conform to.

The exterior surface of the tub including the outside surface of the seals may also comprise labels with printed material or advertising and may provide visual instructions or cues on how to use the tub.

In various embodiments of the tub the seals may be affixed to the tub by means commonly used to apply labels to disposable food containers, such as glue, heat, pressure or any combination of these means. In typical embodiments strength with which the seal is affixed to the rim of the outlet will be such that when the tub is pressed down onto a bottle mouth the seal will break free of the outlet thus allowing the seal to be pulled outwards, away from the outlet and into the trench.

In various embodiments the seals may comprise one or more layers of material. In embodiments of the tub in which the contents are designed for human or animal consumption, the seals may comprise food-grade sealing materials. In embodiments that combine a food grade material with one or more other materials, the food-grade material may extend across the entire surface of the lower seal or may cover only the outlet of the tub.

In various embodiments the seal covering the tub outlet may be applied to the underside of the tub such that the strength with which it is affixed to the lower lip of the outlet is weaker than the degree of strength to which it is affixed to part or all of the adjacent shelf. This would ensure that the seal is able to break free of the outlet during the opening procedure, without completely breaking free of the shelf.

In embodiments in which the outer trench wall and optional shelf completely surrounds the tub outlet, the strength with which the seal underneath is affixed to the shelf (or outside tub wall in embodiments in which no shelf exists) may be stronger on one section of the shelf, than it is on the remainder of the shelf, such that during the opening action the membrane breaks free from one side of the perimeter of the shelf as well as the entire perimeter of the outlet rim and is pulled clear across most or all of the outlet and into the trench on the side of the outlet closest to where the attachment of the seal to the shelf is strongest. In these embodiments this anchoring zone or section of the shelf to which the seal is more firmly affixed may comprise as much as approximately fifty percent of the perimeter of the shelf such that it is to one side of the outlet.

In other embodiments, the seal is designed to tear (e.g. break) open during the opening action. In some of such embodiments, the path of the tear(s) may be directed by pre-scoring or perforating the intended tear pattern onto one or more layers of the seal during its manufacture. In other such embodiments the seal may be reinforced in part so that it tears in the un-reinforced area or along the edge where the reinforced area meets the un-reinforced area. Said reinforcement may be accomplished by the use of additional layers of material in this area of the seal. In some such embodiments a layer of food grade sealing material that covers the outlet and extends outward to the anchoring zone of the shelf may be used to provide reinforcement. In these embodiments, the seal would typically tear across the un-reinforced area of the seal that is on the opposite side to the anchoring zone of the shelf. The reinforced area of the membrane would be pulled across the outlet and into the trench on one side of the outlet and the un-reinforced area of the membrane would be torn and pulled into the trench on the opposite side of the outlet.

In various embodiments of the tub, the surface area of the mouth of the tub outlet that makes contact with the seal would be affixed to the seal to prevent leakage of the contents of the tub reservoir into the surrounding trench. This could be by any means such as glue, heat, pressure, or a combination of these.

In other embodiments of the tub the outlet may be mechanically plugged by the seal, such as by attaching the seal such that it is under tension over the perimeter of the outlet sufficient to prevent product leakage. In addition, the seal may have one or more lips or ridges in concentric rings that press up against the inside or outside of the outlet mouth in order to improve the effectiveness of the seal. Even if a mechanical seal doesn't provide perfect prevention of product leakage into the trench, some spillage into the trench may be deemed acceptable to the product manufacturer, given that it would still be contained by the seal and that most of the spilled product is still be funneled into the receptacle bottle when the seal is pulled into the trench during tub opening.

The seal system allows the mouth of the tub to be used in conjunction with a variety of standard bottles and container openings.

In various embodiments of the tub, the depth of the trench is sufficient such that the mouth of the opposing container can be inserted sufficiently far in to provide enough pressure to break the seal and would be deep enough to pull the seal clear of the nozzle opening. The depth of the trench should also be sufficient to accommodate any stretching that may occur in the membrane prior to the breaking of the seal.

In various embodiments of the tub, the walls of the interior containment reservoir would be steep enough for the contents to freely fall out or slide out upon opening of the seal, and may eliminate the need to agitate the tub by hand in order to get all of the contents to fall out. The steepness may be varied to suit the contents, such as powder, granules, or liquid, and the ease with which they flow out. In various embodiments, the diameter of the tub outlet would be sufficient to prevent it from being clogged by contents when the seal is opened.

In some embodiments of the tub, the trench has a thread on its inward facing surface such that the tub can be screwed down onto a matching bottle thread. In such embodiments the seal may be opened by the pressure resulting from the action of screwing the tub down to a depth sufficient to open the seal.

In various embodiments the tub would be used to deliver products for human consumption, such as drink flavorings, sports enhancement powders, baby formula, medications, etc.

In typical embodiments the contents of the tub are in powdered or granular form. In other embodiments the tub may contain liquid material.

In some embodiments the tub is used for safely mixing chemicals or compounds that are not intended for human or animal consumption, such as in industrial applications, or for cleanly filling a tank or reservoir, such as for pouring oil into an engine.

In various embodiments tubs can be made to suit specific receptacle container mouth dimensions. In addition, tubs can be sized such that they are flexible enough be used with containers of various mouth sizes. For example, a tub can have an outlet that is narrow enough to fit inside a narrow mouth water bottle in combination with a trench that is wide enough to accommodate a wide mouth water bottle. In this instance, the same size tub can be used on both narrow and wide mouth water bottles.

The tub capacity may be increased to accommodate a greater desired volume of product contents by increasing the height and or width of the tub while maintaining the scale of the outlet and trench to suit the intended receptacles.

In various embodiments of the tub an additional membrane or cover may be applied to the underside of the tub that can be peeled off, in order to ensure that the seal over the outlet is uncontaminated when it is placed on the bottle mouth. In various embodiments the tub may be shrink-wrapped with a thin plastic film and may be sold as a stack of tubs shrink-wrapped together.

In some embodiments of the tub, a screw thread may be incorporated in the trench, above the level of the membrane, such that when the tub is pressed onto the bottle mouth below, it can be screwed down to ensure a tight seal. This would make it less likely for liquid to spill out if the tub and bottle are shaken to speed up the mixing of the tub contents in the bottle below. In such embodiments, the seal on the underside of the tub is thin enough to be able to be pulled between the opposing threads after it has broken free of the outlet.

In some embodiments a small lip or opposing tabs are employed on the inward facing surface of the trench. When the tub is pressed down onto a bottle, this lip can snap around the bottom of the bottle thread or around the ridge that is typically found on water bottles to hold the tamper-evident ring down around the neck of the bottle when the lid is removed.

In other embodiments, the tub has an integrated cap such that it can be sold bundled with a beverage bottle. In some of these embodiments the tub would be upside-down on the bottle and have a cap integrated into the surface opposite to the outlet. The tub-cap combination can be unscrewed from the bottle, flipped over and then pressed down on the now open bottle mouth.

In other cap-tub combinations, the tub may have a thread on the same side as the outlet such that the thread is below the tub seal. The seal can be opened by screwing the tub-cap down further onto the bottle and then the tub-cap can be removed by unscrewing it from the bottle.

Tubs may be sold individually or in bundles. In bundled configurations they may be stacked and wrapped so that they are in a cylinder shaped presentation or slotted into a tube that is capped.

Individually sold tubs may be presented at the point of sale in a tube at with a forward-facing opening at the bottom which allows consumers to pull them out one-by-one from the bottom of the stack.

In various embodiments the tub is disposable and made of a lightweight material such as plastic. In other embodiments the tub may be reusable and re-sealable and made of more durable materials than in the case of the disposable tub.

In reusable embodiments, the seal may also be reusable and may be either permanently affixed to the tub or removable for cleaning. In such embodiments the seal may be composed of a durable, flexible material and may have one or more slits cut through the center where the seal covers the outlet. In such embodiments, when the tub is pressed down onto a bottle mouth, the seal is deformed such that the area surrounding the outlet is curved up in a concave shape into the trench and the area covering the outlet is curved down, resulting in the slits opening up and the contents pouring out. Once the contents are released, the consumer can lift the tub up and the seal will reform back into its original closed state.

In some reusable embodiments of the tub, the seal may be configured as a flexible flap that is anchored to one side of the shelf and covers the outlet. Upward pressure from the mouth of a bottle against the portion of the flap that extends between the shelf and the outlet causes the flap to slide away from the outlet and partially into the trench. The flap may be threaded through a slot or covering loop just outside the outlet hole, in order to guide the flap movement back and forth and to hold it down against the outlet. The flap may be wider at its far end than the slot or loophole so that it cannot be pulled out of the slot or loophole. Tracks or parallel lips may be employed as an alternative to or in conjunction with said covering loop. These tracks run along the sides of the outlet to guide the flap movement and prevent it from flapping downward. In a reusable configuration the tub outlet may have a square or rectangular shape rather than the usual circular shape that would be typical in disposable embodiments of the tub.

In various disposable or reusable embodiments of the tub, once the contents are released, the consumer can lift the tub up off the receptacle below and the seal will reform back into its original closed state. A covering lid can then be fitted over the bottom of the tub to prevent unintentional leakage of contents should any pressure be applied to the bottom of the tub during storage or transportation. A removable lid covering the open top of the tub provides an easy means for filling the tub.

In some embodiments of the tub, a rigid flap may be used to cover the outlet. This flap is hinged along one edge of the outlet and the seal end snaps into place covering the outlet by being pressed past small flexible protrusions or lips. The other end of the flap extends beyond the hinge and out into the trench area such that when the tub is pressed down on a receptacle, upward pressure on this area of the flap forces it to hinge up into the trench and the seal area of the flap to snap away from the tub outlet, thereby releasing the contents. The snap protrusions may reside on the sides of the outlet or at the other end of the flap, on the outer trench wall, or a combination of both.

Alternatively, in some such embodiments, since the flap need not be connected to the outer shelf, the shelf may be omitted. A surrounding shelf, if incorporated, can still serve the functions of preventing accidental opening of the flap, providing a means to attach a cover and a wide enough underside on which the tub can rest and could therefore be retained.

In various embodiments of the tub, the material composing and surrounding the containment area would be transparent or translucent such that the consumer can visually determine when the contents are completely released and how full the container is. In some embodiments, volume measurements are indicated up the side of the tub, either on the outside tub wall or the wall of the reservoir, extending down to the tub outlet.

Various embodiments of the reusable tub may be configured as a scoop, with one or more attached handles. Such embodiments may be bundled with large powdered product containers or sold separately.

In some embodiments the reservoir within the tub may be divided into two or more separate compartments by means of one or more substantially vertical walls that extend from the outlet up to the upper surface of the tub. At their centers, the bottom of the divider(s) may extend slightly beyond the level of the surrounding circumference of the outlet, in order to place slightly more pressure on the seal where it is meets the dividers. This extension is in an even curve that sweeps outward from the surrounding opening circumference. This helps ensure a reliable seal and also improve the reliability of the seal breaking such that each of the separate compartments is opened. Perforations or scoring that aligns with the positions of the dividers may be added to the seal to improve the reliability of all compartments being opened.

In embodiments where there may be substances that should only be mixed with specific other substances, the openings of the tubs may be sized such that they are only compatible with the correct matching containers. The tubs and containers can also be color-coded to indicate those that match each other.

Tubs may be made of a variety of materials, including plastic and may be formed using various processes such as blow molding, stamping and vacuum forming. In some embodiments it may be constructed as one piece. In other embodiments the tub is constructed from two or more pieces, which are then combined, such as an internal reservoir, which is inserted into the external support structure including the outer trench wall.

In another embodiment of the tub, the seal is designed so that it opens under pressure. In such embodiments, the action of pressing the tub down onto a bottle mouth causes internal pressure in the tub reservoir to increase to the point that the seal is popped open. In various embodiments of such a tub, the walls of the tub may be designed to partially or entirely collapse when the consumer presses the tub down onto the bottle mouth. This helps maintain the symmetry and integrity of the tub as it collapses and allow for pressure buildup to be more than sufficient to reliably open the seal on the outlet below. The seal on the outlet may be a flap configuration with strong anchoring on one edge such that it hinges open on said edge and doesn't fall into the bottle. In other embodiments the seal may be designed to burst open under pressure, such as in a pre-determined cross or star configuration, and would maintain its anchoring around the entire perimeter of the shelf.

Various embodiments of the invention include a system comprising: a first volume configured to attach to the top of a bottle cap; a first volume configured so that the walls of the containment area are in a conical shape first volume configured such that it can be thermoformed out of a single sheet of material.

Various embodiments of the invention include a method comprising: feeding a thin sheet of material such as plastic through thermoforming machinery, which heats the sheet and stamps out multiple tubs using top and bottom molds, and affixing a seal to one side of each tub (either the top or bottom side), and filling the tub via the remaining open side (with it oriented to face up), and affixing a sealing to the remaining open side.

Various embodiments of the invention include a method comprising: affixing one side of each tub to a bottle cap prior to filling the tub and affixing a seal on the one remaining open side of the tub. The tub may be affixed with its orientation upside-down such that its contents are introduced to the interior of the bottle by unscrewing the cap from the bottle, flipping it over and pressing the tub down on the bottle mouth. In this configuration a seal on the side of the tub that is affixed to the cap is optional, given that the top surface of the cap may sufficiently seal in the contents. Alternatively, the cap may be open on top and the tub affixed to its upper rim with the tub oriented right-side up. The tub contents may be introduced into the bottle below by screwing the cap on further such that the seal between the tub and the cap is breached.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A illustrates a perspective view of the tub, according to various embodiments, in position over a bottle against which it will be pressed down. FIGS. 1B -D illustrate close-up cross-sectional perspective views of the process of pressing the tub onto the bottle mouth and thereby opening the tub and releasing its contents. In order to clearly depict the tub, the contents of the tub are not shown. In the depicted configurations the trench into which the bottle mouth is pressed is wide enough to accommodate both narrow and wide-mouthed bottles and the tub outlet nozzle is narrow enough to fit into a narrow-mouthed bottle. The tub can in this way be configured to be compatible with a range of bottle or receptacle sizes.

FIGS. 2A and B illustrate cross-sectional views of the tub sliced in half, according to various embodiments. FIG. 2A is a side view and FIG. 2B is a perspective view.

FIG. 3A illustrates a cross-sectional perspective view of the container with a quarter section removed.

FIG. 3B illustrates a cross-sectional perspective view of a wedge of the tub, according to various embodiments.

FIG. 4 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the tub, in which the volume between the reservoir and outer wall is solid or a combination of solid material and empty space (e.g honeycomb structure). In other embodiments in which said volume exists, it may be empty space. Said volume is optional and in some embodiments of the tub, as depicted later, may be omitted.

FIG. 5 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the tub, showing sample granular contents flowing out of the open nozzle outlet, according to various embodiments.

FIGS. 6A and B illustrate a perspective view of the top of the tub, according to various embodiments.

FIGS. 7A and B illustrate a perspective view of the underside of the tub, according to various embodiments.

FIGS. 8A and B illustrate the tub, according to various embodiments being applied to a receptacle bottle with a compatibly sized mouth.

FIG. 9A and B illustrate cross-sectional side views of the tubs incorporating various features, according to various embodiments.

FIG. 10 illustrates a cross-sectional perspective view of the tub and a compatible receptacle container, according to various embodiments.

FIGS. 11A through C illustrate tubs of varying shapes and capacities as well as variations in some of their features. FIG. 11D shows a tub embodiment in which the outer trench wall does not extend all the way around the nozzle outlet.

FIGS. 12A through C show additional tub embodiments of varying structural design.

FIGS. 13A through D show additional tub embodiments of varying structural design. In addition to the tub, FIG. 13D also illustrates a lower seal that may be applied to the tub by affixing a lip around the outside surface of the tub, thereby eliminating the necessity for a downward facing shelf.

FIGS. 14A through D show tub embodiments similar to those illustrated in FIGS. 13A through D, with the exception that in these embodiments the internal reservoir of the tub does not extend upwards substantially above the height of the trench.

FIGS. 15A through E depict the tub outlet seal according to various embodiments in which the central region of the seal which covers the tub outlet nozzle and the trench is configured to tear in patterns directed or initiated along the dotted lines, and pull away from the nozzle area.

FIGS. 16A and B depict the tub outlet seal according to various embodiments in which tearing of the seal does not occur in the region which covers the tub nozzle outlet. Tearing of the seal may occur in the area of the seal that covers the tub trench according to the patterns directed by the dotted lines.

FIGS. 17A and B illustrate cross-sectional perspective views of tubs that two separate compartments for holding diverse contents, which are to be mixed together at time of use.

FIGS. 18A through 18E illustrate upper and perspective views of tubs that incorporate two or more separate compartments for holding diverse contents, which are to be mixed together at time of use.

FIGS. 19A and B illustrate a double tub in which both ends may be independently opened by flipping the double-tub over and successively pressing each end down onto a receptacle container.

FIGS. 20A through C illustrate a reusable, refillable tub according to some embodiments.

FIGS. 21A through C illustrate close-up views of the nozzle outlet of the reusable tub according to some embodiments, in which the outlet seal flexes open in a star or cross pattern when pressed down onto a receptacle container mouth.

FIGS. 22A and B depict a the outlet of a reusable tub closed and open respectively, according to some embodiments, in which the seal is a substantially rigid flap which hinges open when pressed down onto a receptacle container mouth.

FIG. 23A illustrates a reusable tub according to some embodiments in which the lid or upper surface incorporates a convex surface or bulb that can be pressed down or inverted in order to increase the positive internal pressure inside the tub reservoir, such that the seal on the tub outlet is forced open. FIG. 23B depicts a reusable tub with a flap seal that hinges open in the direction of the arrow under internal pressure and may be closed by tilting it back into position past the securing tabs, according to some embodiments.

FIGS. 24A through 27B depict a tub that has an integrated bottle cap, according to some embodiments. This allows the cap to be retailed together with a bottle such as the example of a beverage sold with a tub that contains powder for mixing just prior to consumption.

FIGS. 28 through 29D depict a tub in which a thread has been incorporated on the same side as the nozzle outlet, according to some embodiments. The tub can be screwed down part way onto a bottle to a point prior to where the bottle mouth would apply substantial pressure against the seal. The tub may be sold at retail in place of a cap on the bottle. At time of use, the consumer would screw the tub down further, breaking any seals on the tub and bottle mouth, and releasing the tub contents into the bottle.

FIGS. 30A through F depict tubs that open under internal pressure, according to various embodiments. These “internal-pressure-opening tubs” are opened by the action of pressing the tub down onto the mouth of a receptacle container or by squeezing or applying pressure to an area of the tub that is configured to deform or invert such that internal pressure in the reservoir is increased to a degree which is sufficient to pop open the seal.

FIGS. 31A through D illustrate embodiments of the tub in which an internal structure (“plunger”) forces open the tub outlet when pressure is applied to the tub or to a collapsible or invertible surface of the tub. In some of such embodiments, the lower outlet may be sealed by a plug which may be attached to said plunger, rather than employing a membrane for a seal.

FIGS. 32A through D illustrate embodiments of the tub similar to those depicted in FIGS. 31A through D, in which the plunger incorporates a cutting structure on its lower surface. The plunger-cutter structure may also act as a plug, sealing in the contents of the tub. The cutting structure may be employed to cut through a seal that may be affixed to a bottle mouth and in embodiments such as depicted in FIGS. 32C and D, in which a seal is applied to the underside of the tub, the cutter would cut this seal open as well as any seal that may reside on the bottle below.

FIG. 33 depicts an embodiment of the “internal-pressure-opening tub” in which a threaded section has been incorporated in order to add the same functionality as described for FIGS. 28 through 29D.

FIG. 34 depicts an embodiment of the tub with an internal “plunger” structure combined with a threaded section in like fashion to FIG. 33.

FIGS. 35A and B. depict a compact embodiment of the tub that is thermoformed from a single sheet of material with no undercuts. The material is of uniform thickness. Corrugations in the outside wall of the tub provide additional strength to prevent collapse of the tub when it is pressed down onto a bottle mouth.

FIGS. 36A and B depict a larger capacity embodiment of the same type of tub depicted in FIGS. 35A and B.

FIGS. 37A and B. depict an embodiment of the tub in which the tub has been affixed to or integral to a bottle cap. The tub and cap may be molded together in one part according to some embodiments. In other embodiments the tub and cap are attached to each other after forming. In FIG. 37A, the cap is open on its upper side and the tub is oriented with the nozzle facing down through the open cap. By screwing the cap down past the top of the cap threads, the bottle mouth will engage and rupture the tub seal, thereby releasing the tub contents into the bottle. In FIG. 37B, the tub is oriented upside down and attached to a cap that may be closed on top as is the case with a conventional cap. In this embodiment, the tub contents are introduced to the interior of the bottle by unscrewing the combined cap-tub unit from the bottle and then flipping it over and pressing the tub nozzle into the bottle mouth, thereby rupturing the seal. In this embodiment, the seal depicted between said tub and said cap is optional, given that the upper surface of the cap may act as an effective seal once it is bonded to the tub.

FIG. 38 depicts the process by which tubs may be produced from sheets of plastic using an inexpensive process such as thermoforming, filled and sealed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIGS. 1A illustrates a perspective view of the tub 1 according to various embodiments in position over a bottle 13 against which it will be pressed down. FIGS. 1B-D illustrate close-up cross-sectional perspective views of the process of pressing the tub onto the bottle mouth and thereby opening the tub and releasing its contents (contents of the tub and bottle are not shown). The nozzle outlet 3, which is covered by a seal 5, is designed to fit inside the mouth of the bottle below. In FIG. 1B, the tub is centrally located over the bottle. In FIG. 1C, the tub is being pressed down onto the bottle such that the seal is being deformed over the rim of the bottle and tension in the seal 5 is increasing. A hand pressing the tub down is not illustrated. In FIG. 1D, the tub as been pressed down with sufficient force and far enough onto the bottle such that the seal 5 has been ruptured and pulled away from the tub nozzle outlet 3, thereby releasing the tub contents. Various seal configurations and ways in which the seal may be torn and or pulled away from the nozzle outlet are discussed later. During and after the opening process the seal remains attached to part or all of the outside of the trench 7. The surface area of the seal that remains attached to the tub may be affixed near the bottom of the outer trench wall 4 or to an adjacent or attached structure such as the shelf 44 or outside tub wall 8.

FIGS. 2A and B illustrate cross-sectional views of the tub 1 sliced in half, according to various embodiments. FIG. 2A is a side view and FIG. 2B is a perspective view. The reservoir 2 is where the tub contents are stored prior to their release through the nozzle outlet 3 and into a container below. Shelf 44 provides a surface surrounding the nozzle outlet to which the seal 5 may securely be attached. The outer trench wall 4 and optional shelf 44 allows the tub to sit on a flat surface without falling over and to also be stacked. Trench 6 provides a space into which a receptacle container mouth can be pushed such that pressure is applied to seal 5 causing the seal to open and the tub to release its contents. Empty space 7 may exist between the exterior tub wall 8 and the reservoir 2. Depending on the method of manufacturing the tub and factors such as molding requirements and desired structural strength and weight, this space may be hollow or of solid material or composed of a combination of material and hollow space such as a honeycomb structure. The depth to which the nozzle can be inserted into the bottle may be limited by the roof of the trench 6 blocking further insertion or by the point at which the nozzle or reservoir becomes too wide to go any further into the bottle. In this way the tub can be configured to prevent the nozzle from going far enough into the intended receptacle container that it would make contact with the contents of the receptacle container. An example of this is a tub designed to release powder into a water bottle without the tub nozzle getting wet, so that the contents can fall freely without getting stuck to a wet tub nozzle.

In the embodiments of the tub 1 depicted in FIGS. 2A and 2B, the wall 11 of the tub nozzle is composed of two concentric layers of material. In the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 3A and 3B, the wall of the tub nozzle 11 is composed of a single layer of material. The selection of a double or single wall may vary according to tub capacity, strength requirements, material thickness and molding considerations.

FIGS. 2A and B incorporate an optional lip 10 that extends around the circumference of the upper surface of the tub. Said lip 10 may be incorporated to provide surface area to which a seal or covering 9 can be securely affixed in order to close the top of the tub. The upper seal 9 that encloses the top the tub may be a membrane of like material to that used for the seal 5 covering the tub outlet or it may be of like material to the tub itself. Upper seal 9 may be affixed to the tub after the tub is filled or it may be an integral part of the tub structure and may be molded as part of the tub or permanently bonded to the tub.

In some embodiments the upper seal 9 that encloses the top the tub may be a membrane that is affixed to the structure of the tub after the tub has been filled with its intended contents. In such configurations the upper seal 9 may be a thin flexible membrane such is the coated aluminum foil seals or flexible plastic seals commonly found on food cartons such as yogurt cups and other disposable plastic tubs. The lip 10 as depicted protrudes inward and outward from where it meets the outer wall 8 of the tub. In various embodiments of the tub that incorporate a lip 10, it may extend inwards only or outwards only or in both directions. In other embodiments the tub may not incorporate a lip 10 and the seal may be affixed by wrapping its outer edge around the tub exterior wall 8, or the seal may be molded as part of the tub.

The reservoir 2 holds the contents of the tub and its walls would be steep enough to allow the contents to freely exit the tub outlet 3 once the seal 5 below has been opened. The degree of steepness of the reservoir walls and nozzle walls 11 may be varied to match the ease with which the intended contents are able to flow. Dense powder, light powder, granules, and liquids of varying viscosity will each exhibit different tendencies in this regard and the tub designs can therefore be customized to suit the specific intended contents. Similarly, the nozzle outlet 3 width can also be adjusted accordingly to maximize outflow while maintaining a size small enough to cleanly direct all the contents into the intended receptacle container. An optional exterior wall 8 can be employed to provide additional structural support for the tub and to give it a consumer-friendly exterior that is easy to hold and stack. This may result in the existence of empty space 7 between said wall 8 and the internal reservoir 2.

FIG. 3A illustrates a cross-sectional perspective view of the container with a quarter section removed and FIG. 3B illustrates a cross-sectional perspective view of a wedge of the tub, according to various embodiments.

FIG. 4 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the tub, in which the volume 7 between the reservoir 2 and outer wall 8 is solid or a combination of solid material and empty space (e.g honeycomb structure). In other embodiments in which volume 7 exists, it may be empty space. Volume 7 is optional and in some embodiments of the tub, as depicted later, may be omitted.

FIG. 5 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the tub 1, showing sample granular contents 12 flowing out of the reservoir 2 through the open nozzle outlet 3, according to various embodiments. The broken, detached or torn seal 5 that covers the nozzle outlet 3 is not shown. FIGS. 6A and B illustrate a perspective view of the top of the tub, according to various embodiments. In FIG. 6A the upper lid or cover is not shown, so that the interior shape of the reservoir 2 and outlet 3 can be seen. Radiating shade lines have been added to help one visualize the shape of the interior cavity. FIG. 6B illustrates the same perspective of the tub with a shaded membrane or covering 9 on top and without the radiating lines shown. The tub outlet 3 at the underside of the tub can be seen through the top covering and is depicted with phantom lines.

FIGS. 7A and B illustrate a perspective view of the underside of the tub, according to various embodiments. In FIG. 7A the seal covering the tub outlet is not shown, so that the shape of the nozzle and surrounding trench and shelf can be easily seen. Radiating shade lines have been added to help one visualize the nozzle outlet 3, trench 6 and surrounding shelf 44. FIG. 7B illustrates the same perspective of the tub with a shaded seal 5 over the outlet 3 and without the radiating lines shown. The trench 6 and tub outlet 3 can be seen behind the seal, as depicted in phantom lines.

FIGS. 8A and B illustrate the tub 1, according to various embodiments being applied to an accompanying receptacle bottle 13. In FIG. 8A the tub is not yet in contact with the bottle. In FIG. 8B the tub is being pressed down onto the bottle such that the nozzle is inserted into the bottle mouth and the surrounding tub shelf has moved down around the bottle mouth. This has resulted in upward pressure on the seal 5 by the rim of the bottle mouth as depicted. The seal has stretched but not yet burst open in the depiction. Actual seals may or may not stretch prior to bursting open. The trench 6, which surrounds the tub outlet is wide enough to allow the bottle mouth including any screw threads it may incorporate to pass upward for a distance sufficient to provide more than adequate pressure to open the tub seal 5 and pull it clear of the outlet and into the trench 6. The seal 5 may be configured to open in various ways as described later.

FIG. 9A shows a cross-sectional side view of the tub with the seal 5 attached to the bottom of the tub. In this embodiment, the mouth of the nozzle 3 extends slightly below the level of the surrounding shelf 44, such that the seal 5 is under some tension, in order to provide a tighter seal against the tub outlet 3. In addition, the upper surface of the tub has been sealed shut by the application of a seal or membrane 9, which has been affixed to the substantially horizontal surface area of rim 10 which runs around the perimeter of the top of the tub. This allows the tub to be filled via the wide opening in the top of the reservoir, which is subsequently sealed shut by seal or membrane 9. In such a manufacturing process the tub outlet on the underside would be sealed prior to filling of the tub.

FIG. 9B shows a cross-sectional side view of the tub with the seal 5 shown separately below the tub. This embodiment is similar to FIG. 9A with a few differences: The shelf 44 is narrower, the interior reservoir 2 has a slightly bowl shaped curve and the upper surface 9 sealing in the top of the tub has been formed as part of the tub rather than as a seal subsequently applied after the tub is formed. In such embodiments the tub may be filled by placing it upside down and filling it through the nozzle outlet 3, or may be filled via a small hole in the upper surface 9, which is then plugged or sealed. In addition, unlike FIG. 9A, in which the tub nozzle 11 is composed of a single wall, in FIG. 9B the nozzle 11 is composed of a double wall. In addition, the surface of the shelf 44, to which the lower seal is attached, may be raked downward slightly so that with the nozzle extending lower than the shelf, a substantially uniform angle 14 from the outer edge of the seal to the point at which the seal meets the nozzle is achieved. The result is that the outer edge 44A of the shelf is higher than the inner edge 44B of the shelf. This prevents the seal from pulling away from the inner edge 44B of the shelf and creates an even bond of the seal across the shelf 44. Embodiments of the tub may incorporate any of these disparate elements shown in FIGS. 9A and 9B in a variety of combinations.

FIG. 10. illustrates a cross-sectional perspective view of a tub and a compatible bottle 13 below, with the upper tub seal 9 and lower tub seal 5 shown separate from the tub. Seal 5 is depicted as a circular disc shape, which is affixed during manufacture to the underside of the shelf 44 surrounding the trench 6. Note that the seal 5 need only be shaped such that it covers the outlet 3 and extends out on at least one side across the trench 6 and to the shelf 44 where it is affixed. This extension can be narrow, provided enough surface area of the seal is provided to hold fast to the shelf and is strong enough to pull the membrane away from the outlet 3 during the opening process. In the depicted embodiment a lip or rim 10 surrounding the interior reservoir 2 provides surface area sufficient for the secure application of the upper seal 9 to the top of the tub.

FIGS. 11A through C show tub embodiments in which the capacity of the tub has been varied to hold differing quantities of material while maintaining compatibility with the same intended receptacle size. In each of these three figures, the scale of the outlet 3, shelf 44 and trench 6 has been kept the same to illustrate how tubs of widely varying capacity can be configured to fit the same bottle. In FIG. 11B, the capacity of the tub has been increased beyond the capacity of the tub shown in FIG. 11A by extending the tub upwards and also by increasing the reservoir's 2 diameter. In FIG. 11C, the capacity of the tub has been increased beyond the capacity of the tub shown in FIG. 11A by extending the tub upwards.

In addition to demonstrating tubs of varying capacities, FIGS. 11A, B and C also illustrate variations in some of their features. FIGS. 11A through C show variations in the structure of the lip or rim 10 to which the upper seal 9 is to be attached. FIG. 11A shows the rim 10 extending inward and outward from the perimeter of the tub. FIG. 11B shows the rim 10 extending inward from the perimeter of the tub and FIG. 11C shows the rim 10 extending outward from the perimeter of the tub. FIG. 11C has a single layered wall encompassing the upper region of the interior reservoir, unlike FIGS. 11A and B, which have double walls. In FIGS. 11A and B the empty space 7 that exists between the interior reservoir 2 and the outer wall of the tub extends up the entire height of the tub. By contrast, in FIG. 11C the empty space 7 does not extend all the way up, the result being that the reservoir 2 is bounded by a single wall 8 where it extends above the empty space 7.

FIG. 11D shows a tub embodiment in which the outer trench wall 4 does not extend all the way around the nozzle 11. In this embodiment, the outer trench wall 4 is only on one side of the nozzle and the seal 5 has been shaped to match this configuration. The seal 5 is shown unattached below (not in cross-section).

FIGS. 12A, B and C show additional tub embodiments. FIG. 12A is substantially the same as FIG. 11B and FIG. 12C is substantially the same as FIG. 11C with the exception that the in FIGS. 12A and C the upper surface 9 of the tub is a solid ceiling and not a flexible membrane. FIG. 12B is substantially the same as FIG. 11C with the exception that the walls of the lower areas of tub that comprise the nozzle 11 and outer trench wall 4 are single-layered in FIG. 12B. In this case the shelf 44 has been formed as an outward protruding lip in order to provide surface area for the application of the seal. This optional shelf could alternatively be protruding inward from the wall 4.

FIGS. 13A, B and C show additional tub embodiments. Note how FIG. 13B shows an interior reservoir that is not tapered. The tapering of the upper volume of the reservoir and of the nozzle 11 that is depicted in most of the figures in this application is not required. The tub will perform well as long as the reservoir 2 has sides that are steep enough to allow the tub contents to fall unobstructed out of the tub when it is opened. The nozzle outlet 3 need only be narrow enough to fit inside the mouth of the intended bottle size and the trench 6 wide enough to allow the outer trench wall 4 to pass outside the bottle mouth.

FIG. 13D depicts a tub without a shelf 44 at the bottom. In this case, the seal 5 can be applied to the tub such that its outer edge 43 is wrapped up and around the outside of the tub or the outer trench wall 4, where it would be bonded to the tub.

FIGS. 14A through D depict tubs substantially the same as depicted in FIGS. 13A through D respectively, with the exception that in FIGS. 14A-D the tubs' internal reservoirs 2 do not extend substantially upwards above the level of the top of the trench 6. In the depicted figures the ceiling 9 is shown as a solid structure, but it may alternatively be a seal, which is applied to the top of the tub.

FIGS. 15A through E show the lower seal 5 according to some embodiments. Scoring or perforation 15 in one or more layers of the seal directs the seal to tear according to the pattern indicated by the dotted lines. FIG. 15A shows the scoring or perforation 15 extending from the trench area 6 into the nozzle outlet area 3. FIG. 15B shows the scoring or perforation 15 only in the trench area 6. In this embodiment the scoring or perforation 15 would direct where the tearing of the seal 5 begins during the opening procedure, and the seal would continue to tear—undirected by any scoring or perforation—into the nozzle outlet area where the tears would meet. Layering or reinforcement of the seal may also be applied in order to direct the tearing pattern. The directed tear pattern may take a variety of forms, as illustrated in the examples shown in FIGS. 15C through E. In each case, during opening, the seal would break free of any glue or other bond that has been applied to seal 5 it to the rim of the nozzle outlet 3 and the seal 5 would hold fast to the surface of the surrounding shelf 4. The center of the seal would tear apart and the resulting sections of seal would be pulled away from the nozzle outlet and into the surrounding trench 6. These figures illustrate ways in which the seal may be configured to open and the seal is not limited to the patterns or methods illustrated in these examples.

FIGS. 16A through C illustrate embodiments of the seal 5 in which tearing during opening does not occur across or within the perimeter of the nozzle outlet 3. Instead, the tearing of the seal is directed outside of the outlet rim such that the area of the seal area that covers the outlet rim 3 can be pulled away from the nozzle outlet and to one side as illustrated by directional arrow 21 and into the adjacent trench 6. The remaining area of the seal, having torn away along the dotted lines 15 will be pulled over to the other side in the direction of arrows 22. This section of the seal would, in various embodiments remain attached to the far side of the trench so that there are no loose pieces of seal that can potentially fall into the receptacle bottle. In FIG. 16B, the bond holding the seal to the nozzle outlet 3 and to the area 23 of the surrounding trench wall 4 or shelf 44 is of a strength such that during opening of the tub, the seal breaks free of these bonds and is pulled over in the direction indicated by arrows 21 towards the area of the shelf that has been affixed to the seal with a greater strength bond, as indicated by shaded area 24. In some embodiments, the seal may be perforated or scored to tear away from the inside edge of the shelf along dashed line 25 instead of breaking free of its bond with the shelf along area 23 of the shelf. Dashed line 25 may approximately coincide with the inside edge of the outer trench wall 4 (or the inside edge of the shelf 44 if one exists) or may trace any route across the seal to the left of the nozzle outlet 3. In such embodiments, the bond between the seal and the shelf would be strong enough to hold fast around the entire perimeter of the shelf and the torn away area of the seal would be pulled across the nozzle outlet in the direction of arrows 21 and into the adjacent trench 6.

FIG. 16C shows a smaller seal in which the seal covers the nozzle outlet 3 and extends out on one side to where it is affixed to the outer trench wall 4 or shelf 44. Such a minimalist configuration may be used with a tub that has an outer trench wall 4 that does not surround the nozzle outlet 3, such as in FIG. 11D. It may also be used with a tub that has a trench wall 4 that does surround the nozzle outlet 3. In such instances, the trench would not be entirely covered by the seal 5. In such a seal configuration, the seal would simply be pulled away from the nozzle outlet 3 and into the trench 6 in the direction indicated by arrow 21.

In embodiments such as depicted in FIGS. 16A through C, since the seal is not predisposed to tear within the perimeter of the nozzle outlet, the potential for unintended product leakage from the tub may be reduced.

In each embodiment, the relative proportions of the depth and width of the trench, the diameter of the outlet and the size of the area of seal that is to be pulled away from the outlet are such that the seal would be pulled substantially clear of the nozzle outlet during the opening action.

FIGS. 17A and B illustrate upper and lower cross-sectional perspective views of an embodiment of the tub in which a vertical divider 16, splits the funnel tub into two separate compartments for holding diverse contents which are to be mixed together at time of use. According to some embodiments, the center point 17 of the bottom of the divider may extend slightly below the rim of the outlet 3, such that it forms a tight seal between the two compartments. The bottom of the divider curves up from this center point to the edge of the outlet 3, where it is at the same level as the outlet mouth, in order to ensure an even, flush surface for the membrane to attach to. Where the divider 16 meets the seal, it may be bonded to the seal with a like bond to that which holds the seal to the perimeter of the outlet such that the seal is able to break free from the outlet perimeter and the dividers during opening. The tub may have a rim 18, which extends below everything else so that the tub is able to sit on a flat surface or be stacked without rocking on the nozzle outlet and to protect the seal from abrasion or unintended rupture during storage and transport of the tubs. This downward protruding rim 18 may be also provide tactile feedback to the consumer to help him or her guide the tub into position and prevent the tub from slipping off the bottle mouth during the opening action.

FIGS. 18A through E illustrate tubs with diverse number of dividing walls 16, allowing for multiple separate compartments.

FIGS. 19A and B illustrate a double-tub, containing two separate reservoirs, in which both ends may be independently opened by flipping the double-tub over and pressing it down onto a receptacle container. Double-tubs may be assembled by joining two tubs top to top.

FIGS. 20A through C illustrate a reusable, refillable tub according to some embodiments. FIG. 20A shows the reusable tub without any caps or seals so that the nozzle outlet 3 can be clearly seen. FIG. 20B shows the reusable tub with the seal 5 in place covering the nozzle outlet underneath. In the depicted configuration, the center of the seal is cut through in a star or cross pattern that flexes open when the tub is pressed down onto a receptacle container. The upper lid 33 and lower lid 34 are shown unattached. These lids may be flexible and designed to fit on around a lip or they may be substantially rigid and embody threads, which screw onto compatible threads that would be incorporated into the tub. FIG. 20C shows the tub with the upper and lower lids secured in place on the tub. The outlet, trench and shelf of the reusable tub may scaled to work with various receptacle container sizes, such as a baby bottle, child's sippy cup, a drinking glass, reusable water bottle, etc. Tubs may be configured with one or more optional handles 19 to make it easier for the consumer to use the tub to scoop powdered products out of a larger container.

FIGS. 21A through C illustrate close-up views of the outlet of the reusable tub according to some embodiments. FIG. 21A shows the reusable tub without any caps or seals so that the nozzle can be clearly seen. FIG. 21B shows the reusable tub with the seal 5 in place covering the nozzle outlet 3, shown in phantom lines. Said seal may be permanently bonded to the tub. In the depicted configuration, the center of the seal 5 is cut through in a star pattern (as shown in FIG. 21B) that flexes open when the tub is pressed down onto a receptacle container (as shown in FIG. 21C). Note that for clarity, in FIG. 21C the receptacle container that would be pressing up against the seal in the direction of arrows 26 in order to flex the seal open is not depicted.

FIGS. 22A and B depict a the outlet of a reusable tub closed and open respectively, according to some embodiments, in which the seal is a substantially rigid flap 27 which hinges open approximately along one edge 32 of the nozzle outlet 3. When sufficient upward pressure on the flap 27 is applied in the direction indicated by arrow 31 from the receptacle container mouth (not shown), the flap snaps over the tabs 29 and 30 and opens the nozzle outlet 3. The flap can be closed by hand by tilting it back into place and snapping it past the securing tabs 29 and 30. A lid or cover 34 such as shown in FIGS. 20B and C can be fitted over the bottom of the tub to prevent unintended opening and spillage.

FIG. 23A illustrates a reusable tub according to some embodiments in which the lid or upper surface incorporates a convex surface or bulb 38 over all or part of its surface area that can be pressed down in order to increase the positive internal pressure inside the tub reservoir, such that the seal on the tub outlet is forced open. The bulb 38 on the upper surface of the tub or the tub itself may alternatively be configured to be squeezed around its sides to increase internal pressure. Such a pressure-opening bulb configuration would typically be combined with a tub outlet opening configured such that the outlet does not automatically close when the internal pressure drops. Such an outlet may employ a flap similar to the flap 27 illustrated in FIG. 23B. In this case, the trench 6 and shelf 4 may be omitted since the flap 27 of the internal-pressure-opening tub does not have to be configured to open as a result of upward pressure from the rim of a receptacle container against the flap 27 (unlike the embodiments shown in FIGS. 22A and B). Volume measurement markings 28 are depicted here and may be applied to any tub embodiment, including disposable tubs. Such markings may be applied to the exterior wall 8 of the tub and or the wall of the reservoir 2. Tubs may comprise transparent or translucent material so that the level of the contents inside can be easily compared to the measurements 28.

FIGS. 24A through 27B depict a tub that has an integrated bottle cap, according to some embodiments. This allows the cap to be retailed together with a bottle such as the example of a beverage sold with a tub containing powder for mixing. The cap 20 and bottle 13 would have matching threads so that the tub can be inverted and screwed down onto the bottle according to some embodiments. In other embodiments, in which the bottle mouth has a lip instead of a thread, the cap may be pressed on and snapped in place. The consumer would remove the cap-tub combination, thereby opening the bottle, invert the cap and then press the cap-tub down onto the bottle mouth to open the tub. The bottles and caps may be stackable, as depicted in FIGS. 27A and B. In some such embodiments, the upper surface of the tubs and lower surface of the bottles would approximately complement to each other's shapes so that they can be stacked in a stable manner. An optional lip 18 may be incorporated to prevent lateral slipping of the bottle on the tub below.

In another embodiment of the tub-cap combination, the cap area of the tub may be configured such that it doesn't actually replace the cap that is normally provided on a bottle. In such an embodiment, the tub may be pressed down around the cap where it would be held in place by a tight fit or snaps or protrusions that click into place once the tub is secured on the cap. Alternatively, the bottle cap may be configured with a second, externally facing thread and the tub with a matching thread that allows it to be screwed down around the cap.

FIG. 28 depicts a tub in which a thread 35 has been incorporated on the same side as the nozzle outlet, according to some embodiments. The tub can be screwed down part way onto a bottle 13 to a point prior to where the bottle mouth would apply substantial pressure against the seal 5. The tub may be sold at retail in place of a cap on the bottle. At time of use, the consumer would screw the tub down further, breaking the seal, and releasing the tub contents into the bottle. A seal 36 may also be employed on the bottle 13, which would also break during the same action that opens the tub. After the tub contents are released the bottle can be agitated to mix the tub material with the bottle contents and the tub then unscrewed and removed for consumption of the mixed bottle contents.

FIGS. 29A through D depict side views of the same tub illustrated in FIG. 28. These views show the successive steps in the opening process.

FIGS. 30A through D depict a tub that opens under internal pressure, according to some embodiments. This “internal-pressure-opening tub” is opened by the action of pressing the tub down onto the mouth of a receptacle container with sufficient force to pop open the seal. The depicted embodiments show the seal as a hinged flap, but this could be any type of membrane or surface that is capable of rupturing under pressure in a controlled manner such that it remains attached to the tub. FIG. 30A shows a lower perspective view of a complete tub and FIGS. 30B through C show the tub in cross-section. In some embodiments of the tub, collapsible corrugations 37 may be incorporated in the walls of the tub 1 in order to make it easier for the consumer to press the tub down and build up sufficient pressure to pop open the seal 5. Said corrugations also help ensure an even collapse of the tub. Other embodiments may not require corrugations and may employ a material flexible enough to be easily squeezed or compressed. Such embodiments may be held in one hand and squeezed around the sides of the tub circumference or pressed down onto the receptacle container from above in order to pop the seal open.

In various embodiments of the internal-pressure-opening tub, the outer trench wall 4 functions to enable the tub to sit flat and to stack uniformly, protects the seal where it covers the outlet, guides the nozzle outlet 3 into bottle mouth and prevents the tub from being completely inserted into the bottle. In other embodiments of the tub in which the seal 5 is opened by external pressure of the mouth of the bottle on the seal, the outer trench wall 4 also functions to suspend the seal across the trench 6 and secure it. In some embodiments of the internal-pressure-opening tub, the shelf surrounding the nozzle outlet may be eliminated since it is not required for securing the seal.

The pressure-opening tub may be configured with an integrated cap in similar fashion to those depicted in FIGS. 24A through 28.

FIG. 30E depicts an embodiment of the internal-pressure-opening tub that is configured so that the nozzle outlet does not enter the mouth of the bottle when it is pressed down onto the bottle. Just as with other embodiments of the tub, the tub would be positioned over the mouth of the bottle by the consumer so that the tub nozzle outlet is aiming into the mouth of the bottle, but when the consumer presses down on the tub to open it, in this embodiment the nozzle outlet 3 does not enter the bottle mouth. In the depicted embodiment, the tub shelf 44 is extended inward from the outside perimeter of the tub such that it may connect with the nozzle outlet 3 and act as a barrier preventing the nozzle outlet 3 from being inserted into the bottle mouth. A downward protruding lip 18 may be incorporated to help provide tactile feedback to the consumer to help him or her guide the tub into position and prevent the tub from slipping off the bottle mouth during the opening action.

FIG. 30F illustrates a tub according to some embodiments in which the lid or upper surface incorporates a convex surface or bulb 38 over all or part of its surface area that can be pressed down in order to increase the positive internal pressure inside the tub reservoir, such that the opening underneath the tub is forced open. This would allow the tub contents to exit freely. The bulb 38 on the upper surface of the tub or the tub itself may alternatively be configured to be squeezed around its sides. In this case, the trench 6 and outer trench wall 4 may be omitted since the tub does not have to incorporate a seal that extends from the nozzle outlet across to the adjacent shelf in order to open the outlet seal 5 or a shelf 44 may be incorporated in like fashion to FIG. 30E

Internal-pressure-opening tubs such as those depicted in FIGS. 30A through F may be combined with a cap in similar fashion to those depicted in FIGS. 24A through 28.

FIGS. 31A through D illustrate embodiments of the tub in which an internal structure 40 (“plunger”) forces open the tub outlet when pressure is applied to the tub or to a collapsible or invertible surface of the tub. In some of such embodiments, the nozzle outlet 3 may be sealed by a plug 39 which may be attached to plunger 40, rather than by employing a membrane for a seal on the nozzle outlet 3. The perimeter of the plug may be bonded to the perimeter of the outlet 3 or may simply provide a mechanical barrier by firmly pressing against the perimeter of the outlet 3 until the tub is opened.

FIGS. 32A through D illustrate embodiments of the tub similar to those depicted in FIGS. 31A through 3, in which the plunger 40 incorporates a cutting structure 42 on its lower surface. The plunger-cutter structure may also incorporate a plug, sealing in the contents of the tub. The cutting structure may be employed to cut through a seal 36 that may be affixed to a bottle mouth (not illustrated here) and in embodiments such as depicted in FIGS. 32C and D, in which a seal 5 is applied to the underside of the tub, the cutter would cut this seal open as well as any seal 36 that may reside on the bottle below.

FIG. 33 depicts an embodiment of the “internal-pressure-opening tub” in which a threaded section 35 has been incorporated in order to add the same functionality as described for FIGS. 28 through 29D.

FIG. 34 depicts an embodiment of the tub with an internal plunger 40 combined with a threaded section 35, in like fashion to FIG. 33. Just as with FIGS. 32A through D, the cutter may be employed to cut open either the tub seal 5 or the bottle seal 36, whichever exists, or both.

FIGS. 35A and B. depict a compact embodiment of the tub that is thermoformed from a single sheet of material optionally with no undercuts. The material may be of uniform thickness. Optional corrugations 7 in the outside wall 4 of the tub provide additional strength to prevent collapse of the tub when it is pressed down onto a bottle mouth.

FIGS. 36A and B depict a larger capacity embodiment of the same type of tub depicted in FIGS. 35A and B.

FIGS. 37A and B. depict an embodiment of the tub in which the tub has been affixed to a bottle cap 46. The tub and cap may be molded together in one part according to some embodiments. In FIG. 37A, the cap 46 is open on its upper side and the tub is oriented with the nozzle facing down through the open cap. The tub shelf 44 to which the seal 5 is affixed may also be affixed to the cap 46. A shelf 48 may exist on the upper surface of the cap in order to provide sufficient surface area on the cap for an effective bond with the tub to be produced. By screwing the cap (with its affixed tub) down past the top of the cap threads 47, the bottle mouth will engage and rupture the tub seal 5, thereby releasing the tub contents into the bottle. The tub outer wall 4 may flex in order to accommodate the bottle mouth as it enters the cavity 7.

In FIG. 37B, the tub is oriented upside down and attached to a cap 46 that may be closed on top as is the case with a conventional bottle cap. In this embodiment, the tub contents are introduced to the interior of the bottle by unscrewing the combined cap-tub unit from the bottle and then flipping it over and pressing the tub nozzle into the bottle mouth, thereby rupturing the seal 5. In this embodiment, the seal 9 depicted between said tub and said cap is optional, given that the upper surface of the cap may act as an effective seal once it is bonded to the tub.

FIG. 38 depicts the process by which tubs may be produced from sheets of plastic using an inexpensive process such as thermoforming, filled and sealed.

In those embodiments wherein the tub is integrally coupled to a bottle cap or lid, the tub may be bundled and sold with the bottle such that it caps the bottle.

Tubs may be configured in a variety of shapes and sizes to facilitate the placement and opening of the tubs on complementary shaped and sized receptacle containers.

Several embodiments are specifically illustrated and/or described herein. However, it will be appreciated that modifications and variations are covered by the above teachings and within the scope of the appended claims without departing from the spirit and intended scope thereof.

The embodiments discussed herein are illustrative of the present invention. As these embodiments of the present invention are described with reference to illustrations, various modifications or adaptations of the methods and or specific structures described may become apparent to those skilled in the art. All such modifications, adaptations, or variations that rely upon the teachings of the present invention, and through which these teachings have advanced the art, are considered to be within the spirit and scope of the present invention. Hence, these descriptions and drawings should not be considered in a limiting sense, as it is understood that the present invention is in no way limited to only the embodiments illustrated.