Title:
CIGARETTE TIN WITH INTERNAL RAMP
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container for smoking articles is provided. The container includes a slidable lid with an abutment to limit its opening distance and a ramped internal surface to ease a user's access to smoking articles therein. The container may also include a tamper-resistant sealing member and an outer paperboard container.



Inventors:
Mack Jr., Andree Marion (Winston-Salem, NC, US)
Application Number:
12/044576
Publication Date:
09/10/2009
Filing Date:
03/07/2008
Assignee:
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Winston-Salem, NC, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/267, 206/459.5, 206/524.3
International Classes:
B65D85/10; A24F15/12
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DESAI, KAUSHIKKUMAR A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BGL (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A package for packaging articles such as cigarettes, the package comprising: an inner package portion including a tray portion including a tray rear wall and four continuous tray side walls extending upward and generally perpendicular from the rear wall, wherein an upper edge of each of the tray side walls is rolled over to form a first rolled lip around an outer periphery of the tray walls; a lid portion configured to engage the tray portion, the lid having a lid front wall with a front surface and a rear surface, and three continuous lid side walls extending generally perpendicular from the rear surface of the lid front wall, the lid side walls extending approximately perpendicularly downwardly from three edges of the lid front wall, wherein the lid side walls each include a second rolled lip that extends generally continuously along an inner periphery of the lid side walls, the second rolled lip configured to engage the first rolled lip of the tray portion; the lid portion including an abutment protruding downwardly from the rear surface of the lid portion sufficient to engage a tray side wall of the body to restrain movement of the lid portion in one direction relative thereto; and the tray portion including a ramped portion near one end, the ramped portion being generally continuous with the rear tray wall and extending therefrom in the same direction as and to a height about the same as that of the tray side walls.

2. The package of claim 1, further comprising a band of polymeric material disposed about the inner package portion, wherein the band urges the tray portion and the lid portion together into a sealing contact.

3. The package of claim 1, wherein the lid includes an abutment protruding downwardly from a rear surface thereof such that, when the lid is slid to an open position, the abutment will contact a tray side wall.

4. The package of claim 1, further comprising an outer paperboard package portion disposed about the inner package portion and including a rectangular parallelepiped box; a polymeric overwrap film overwrapping the box; five sides of the box forming substantial complete rectangular faces and a sixth side of the box including a hingedly connected panel, the panel being attached along a fold line and covering only a portion of either a front lid surface of the inner package portion or a rear surface of the inner package portion.

5. The package of claim 1, wherein the tray rear wall is curved convexly along a length thereof on a rear side opposite the tray side walls, the tray side walls uniformly following the curve of the tray rear wall; the lid is curved convexly along a length thereof on a side including the lid side walls, the lid side walls uniformly following the curve of the lid front wall such that the first and second rolled lips are also curved in a manner configured to provide for sliding engagement between the lip side walls and the tray side walls.

6. The package of claim 5, further comprising a band of polymeric material disposed about the inner package portion, wherein the band urges the tray portion and the lid portion together into a sealing contact.

7. The package of claim 5, wherein the lid includes an abutment protruding downwardly from a back surface thereof such that, when the lid is slid to an open position, the abutment will contact a tray side wall.

8. The package of claim 5, further comprising an outer paperboard package portion disposed about the inner package portion and including a rectangular parallelepiped box; a polymeric overwrap film overwrapping the box; five sides of the box forming substantial complete rectangular faces and a sixth side of the box including a hingedly connected panel, the panel being attached along a fold line and covering only a portion of either a front lid surface of the package portion or a rear surface of the package portion.

9. The package of claim 5, wherein the convexly curving rear wall and the concavely curving lid length each have a radius of curvature about 100 to about 800 millimeters.

10. The package of claim 5, wherein the rear wall of the body and the lid length each have generally co-centric curved surfaces.

11. The package of claim 1, wherein at least one of the lid portion and the tray portion is formed from a material selected from a polymer and a metal alloy.

12. The package of claim 1, wherein the lid portion includes product differentiation indicia on a front surface.

13. The package of claim 1, wherein the ramp is formed from the same material as and is formed continuously with the tray portion.

14. The package of claim 1, wherein the ramp comprises a separate member that is attached to the tray.

15. The package of claim 1, wherein the ramp is stamped into the tray rear wall.

16. The package of claim 1, wherein the ramp is molded into the tray rear wall.

17. The package of claim 1, wherein the ramp includes a curved surface between the tray rear wall and a tray side wall.

18. The package of claim 1, wherein the ramp includes a generally planar surface between the tray rear wall and a tray side wall.

19. The package of claim 1, wherein the ramp is parallel with and substantially the same length as one of the tray side walls.

20. A smoking article package comprising: an inner package portion including a tray portion including a rear wall and four continuous tray walls extending upward and generally perpendicular from the rear wall, wherein an upper edge of each of the tray walls is configured as a generally continuous first rolled lip around an outer periphery of the tray walls; a lid portion configured to engage the tray portion, the lid having a front surface, a rear surface, and three continuous lid walls extending generally perpendicular from the rear surface, the lid walls extending approximately perpendicularly downwardly from three edges of the lid, wherein the lid walls each include a generally continuous second rolled lip that extends along an inner periphery of the lid walls, the second rolled lip configured to engage the first rolled lip of the tray portion; the lid portion including an abutment protruding downwardly from the rear wall of the lid portion sufficient to engage a tray wall of the body to restrain movement of the lid portion in one direction relative thereto; and the tray portion including a ramped portion near one end, the ramped portion being continuous with the rear wall and extending therefrom in the same direction as and to a height about the same as that of the tray walls, wherein a major surface of the ramped portion is curved to form a partial cylinder surface configured to aid user access to a smoking article; wherein the rear wall is curved convexly along a length thereof on a rear side opposite the tray walls, wherein top and bottom tray walls uniformly follow the curve of the rear wall, and the lid is curved convexly along a length thereof on a side including the lid walls, top and bottom lid walls uniformly following the curve of the lid wall such that the first and second rolled lips are also curved in a manner configured to provide for sliding engagement between the lip walls and the tray walls; and an outer paperboard package generally disposed about the inner package portion.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to packages for smoking articles, such as filter cigarettes, and more particularly to a unique and aesthetically pleasing, tamperproof sliding shell package for cigarettes, which can be only partially opened to dispense the articles, access to which is facilitated by a ramped structure in the package, and which may further be packaged in a paperboard box overwrapped with a polymeric film having a tear tape.

BACKGROUND

It has been known for many years to package cigarettes and other types of tobacco or smoking article products in thin sheet metal packages or boxes of a size suitable for-carrying in a shirt or coat pocket. Such packages have been known as “tobacco tins” or “pocket tins” or “tobacco cans.” Typically, such cans or tins have a hinged top lid which is pivoted open to allow access to the can contents, or a sliding top lid which is slid along guides to one side or the other to allow access to the can contents, or a pressed-on top lid that is urged upwardly to remove it from the top of the can. A few examples of such known tobacco cans are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 1,341,295; 1,797,419; and 1,946,845. It is known that such metal cans or tins are better able to preserve the freshness of cigarettes and other tobacco products contained therein.

In recent years, manufacturers of cigarettes and other tobacco products have packaged cigarettes in paper and paperboard wrappers and boxes and have used foil/paper laminates, metallized paper or plastic wrappers or low permeability transparent or metallized polymeric sheet overwraps, among other types of packaging, to preserve the freshness and aroma of the packaged cigarette and tobacco products. Examples of such packages are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,852,734; 5,139,140; 5,542,529; 6,726,006; 6,736,261; and 7,014,039 assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incorporated by reference herein.

Such packaging has become commonplace for most cigarette manufacturers so that, apart from strong brand names and trademarks, product packaging itself has not provided the sort of product differentiation in the marketplace for cigarettes that it has for other consumer products, many of which utilize unique forms of packaging for product differentiation or product origin purposes. It would be desirable, therefore, to provide a cigarette package and a packaging method that would improve product differentiation of cigarettes in the marketplace and still achieve appropriate preservation of the freshness and aroma of the cigarettes.

While it is desirable to have a sliding front lid, it is also useful for the consumer to have a mechanism that prevents such a lid from being completely removed from the tin. Such mechanisms have been complicated and costly to manufacture, in comparison to the overall manufacturing costs of the tin. Furthermore, such mechanisms still allow the tin to be completely open, making the contents of the tin susceptible to spilling during use of the device. Therefore, it is desirable to have a sliding shell tin with a mechanism that will allow the lid of the tin to slide only partially across the body of the tin, allowing the user to access only the contents of the tin which are desired for use.

BRIEF SUMMARY

The present invention is directed to a novel cigarette package comprising a curved metal box or tray with a metal lid slidable along an arcuate path, or a generally flat metal box or tray with a slidable metal lid. In one set of embodiments, a package of the present invention will be configured for containing a plurality of smoking articles (such as, for example, 20 filter cigarettes) in a tamperproof and freshness-preserving manner, as well as a method of packaging and unpackaging the smoking articles. Conventionally, a filter cigarette package is in the form of a rectangular parallelepiped having six sides or panels, wherein the “top” of the package is that package side or panel toward which all of the filters of the filter cigarettes are oriented, and the “bottom” of the package is the side or panel opposite the “top.” The “front” and “rear” of the typical conventional cigarette package are the two sides or panels of the greatest surface area, and the remaining two end panels extend between and connect the front and rear and the top and bottom. The package of the present invention will be described generally using these conventional terms, namely, top and bottom, front and rear, and end panels.

Although the package of the invention may be configured in a number of forms that are not specifically illustrated herein, a preferred embodiment of the invention includes two components: (i) a generally rectangular metal box or tray with that includes an open front and an outer rim along at least two of its sides; and (ii) a metal front lid that includes guides or tracks along two edges that are configured to mate slidably with the outer rim of the metal box. The top, bottom, and end panels of the box are approximately perpendicularly upstanding from the rear of the box. The guides or tracks of the front lid are slidable along complementary guides or tracks on two edges of the metal box to thereby open and close the open front of the metal box. In the curved embodiment, the rear of the metal box and the front of the metal lid each have a curved or arcuate shape generally in the form of a segment of a cylinder, the radius of curvature of the rear of the metal box being somewhat smaller than the radius of curvature of the front of the metal lid. Thus, when the metal lid is slid along the complementary guides relative to the metal box, it moves along an arcuate path with a radius corresponding substantially to the radius of curvature of the metal lid. In the generally flat embodiment, the path of the lid is generally straight and parallels the longitudinal central axis of the container. In both the curved embodiment and the flat embodiment, the rear of the metal box is stamped or otherwise formed to include a ramped structure configured to facilitate removal of cigarettes from the package.

The metal box and lid preferably are formed of a thin metal, such as 1018 steel alloy or 3003 aluminum alloy, having an as-formed thickness of between about 0.005 to about 0.015 inches. The box and lid have rounded corners and are preferably shallow drawn cans, but may be formed by other conventional metal working processes. The upper edges of the four upstanding sides of the box are rolled over to form a smooth rolled lip around the entire periphery of the upper edge of the box. This rolled lip advantageously eliminates any exposed sharp metal edges that might otherwise cut the consumer and also provides a track for slidably engaging a complementary rolled edge on three edges of the metal lid in substantial metal-to-metal contact. The non-rolled edge of the lid and short portions of the adjacent lid edges preferably are folded over and flattened to eliminate exposed sharp edges on the lid that could cut the consumer. The flattened portions of the lid preferably contact the rolled lip of the box so that the lid engages the rolled lip in substantial metal-to-metal engagement around the entire periphery of the open front of the box. The metal lid and/or metal box may be embossed, stamped, or printed, for decorative purposes or for providing additional stiffness to the metal box or lid.

After the metal box is filled with smoking articles, cigarettes, for example, and the lid is slid over the open front of the box to close the same, a shrinkable band, preferably a heat-shrinkable polymeric band, is positioned around the engaged edges of the lid and box and is shrunk, e.g., by application of heat, to urge the edges of the lid and the rolled lip of the box in substantial sealing contact so as to aid in preserving the freshness and aroma of the cigarettes contained in the box. The shrinkable band is preferably provided with one or more rows of transverse perforations or a tear strip for assisting in the removal of the band when it is desired to open the box.

The sealed metal cigarette box may be marketed as the final cigarette package, however, according to another aspect of the invention, the sealed metal cigarette box may be further packaged in a paperboard box or label wrap overwrapped with a polymeric film, such as a transparent polypropylene film or a metallized polyethylene terephthalate film, and may be provided with a tear tape for tearing off the overwrap film covering the paperboard box or label wrap. The paperboard box preferably is formed as a rectangular parallelepiped with the front panel or lid thereof hinged at one side by a fold or crease line in the paperboard box. To enhance the attractiveness of the package when a transparent overwrap film is used, a portion of the lid of the paperboard box may be cut away to expose a portion of the curved metal box, preferably a portion of the metal lid of the box having a design or indicia embossed or printed thereupon.

When the overwrap is a transparent polymeric film, the paperboard box is preferably printed with product indicia, logos and the like. If the overwrap is a metallized polymeric film, such as, for example, the overwrap film described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,427,235, the printed product indicia, logos, etc., may be printed on the overwrap film and may be duplicated on the paperboard box.

According to a method of the invention, a package comprising a metal box containing a plurality of cigarettes is closed by a metal lid which is mechanically and slidably engaged to the metal box. The metal lid is sealed in substantial metal-to-metal contact to the metal box with a perforated shrinkable band, and then the sealed metal box is packaged in a paperboard box overwrapped with a polymeric film having a tear tape. To open or unpackage the cigarettes in the metal box, the tear tape is used to tear the polymeric film away so that the metal box can be removed from the paperboard box. The shrinkable band is then ruptured along the perforations in the band and removed and the metal lid is slid along the complementary rolled edges to open the front of the metal box and expose the cigarettes contained therein.

With the foregoing and other advantages and features of the invention that will become hereinafter apparent, the nature of the invention may be more clearly understood by reference to the following detailed description of the invention, the appended claims, and the views illustrated in the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a cigarette box package made according to the invention with a sealed metal cigarette box enclosed in a paperboard box and overwrapped with a polymeric film;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the package of FIG. 1 showing the overwrap removed and the hinged partial lid of the paperboard box open for removal of the metal cigarette box sealed with a shrinkable band;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the metal cigarette box of FIG. 2 showing the shrinkable band removed from the metal box and the slidable lid of the metal box opened to expose the cigarettes contained therein;

FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the metal cigarette box of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional detailed view taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 4 showing the structure of the mechanical sliding engagement between the rolled edges of the metal lid and the metal box of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a plan view of the metal lid for the metal cigarette box of FIG. 4 as viewed from the underside or from the inside of the box; and

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional detailed view taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 6 showing the transition between the flattened edge of the metal lid and the rolled edge of the metal lid;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a cigarette box package filled with cigarettes and made according to the invention;

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the cigarette box of FIG. 8 taken along line 9-9 showing the indentation of the lid protruding into the open front of the body;

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of the cigarette box of FIG. 8 taken along line 10-10;

FIGS. 10 and 10B show two different ramp embodiments;

FIG. 11A is front perspective view of yet another embodiment of the metal box showing the different radii of curvature for the various components of the box;

FIG. 11 is front perspective view of yet another embodiment of the metal box showing the different radii of curvature for the various components of the box;

FIG. 11B is rear perspective view of yet another embodiment of the metal box showing the different radii of curvature for the various components of the box;

FIG. 12 is a top-front perspective view of still another embodiment of the metal box of the present invention including a shrink wrapped band around the periphery of the box;

FIG. 13 is a top perspective view of a generally flat cigarette container embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is a bottom view of the embodiment of FIG. 13; and

FIG. 15 is a partial longitudinal section view of the embodiment of FIG. 13.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now in detail to the drawings, preferred embodiments of the invention shown in FIGS. 1-14 comprise a smoking article (e.g., filter cigarette, cigarillo) package 10. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, package 10 has a rectangular parallelepiped shape and contains a metal cigarette box 12 described in more detail below. The package 10 includes a paperboard container 14 folded from a paperboard blank (not shown) into a parallelepiped shape. The container 14 is provided with a front panel or lid 16 hinged along folded corner 18 of the container 14. Front panel 16 only partially covers the front opening of the box so as to leave exposed a portion of the metal cigarette box 12.

The free edge 20 of the lid 16 is generally S-shaped as shown, it being understood that edge 20 may have other shapes, both linear and non-linear. For instance, the edge 20 may be a straight linear edge oriented at an angle with respect to hinged corner 18, it may have a V-shape, or it may have a rounded, generally D-shape. Preferably, however, the shape of the edge 20 provides the paperboard box with a product differentiation or recognition feature. For example, the illustrated S-shaped edge of the paperboard box makes the package 10 of the invention especially suited for packaging the Salem® brand of menthol cigarettes manufactured by the assignee of the present invention. Other shapes of the front panel 16 that provide product differentiation or recognition features will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

The front panel 16 of the container 14 may also include printed product information or indicia, such as a logo or other trademark, and the other panels of the container 14 may also have printed indicia thereon, such as product information.

The container 14 is overwrapped with an overwrap film 22 which may include a transparent polymeric film, such as—for example—polypropylene or a metallized polymeric film. The film 22 is folded over at the top and bottom (not shown) of the package 10 and the flaps 24, 26 are heat sealed in a conventional manner. In one embodiment where the film 22 is a metallized polymeric film, the printed indicia on the paperboard container 14 may be printed on the film 22 instead of, or in addition to, being printed on the panels of the box. A tear tape 28 is provided on the overwrap film 22 for use in removing the overwrap film from the paperboard to ease being opened by a consumer.

FIG. 2 depicts the package 10 with the overwrap 22 and tear tape 28 removed and the front panel 16 swung away from the container 14 to permit the metal cigarette box 12 to be removed from the paperboard container 14. As shown in FIG. 2, the front panel 16 may be provided with side tabs 30 (only one shown) folded inwardly so as to slide along the inside of the top and bottom panels of the container 14 and thereby provide additional support for the panel 16.

The metal cigarette box 12 includes a metal tray portion 32 and a slidable metal lid portion 34 covering a front open side of the tray portion 32. The top, bottom, and opposite sides of the tray portion 32 are approximately perpendicularly upstanding from a rear wall of the tray portion 32. (See FIGS. 3-11B). The lid portion 34 preferably is embossed or stamped for purposes of stiffness and/or product differentiation or product origin information. In the illustrated embodiment, the lid 34 is embossed with a generally S-shaped ridge or bead 36 that corresponds to the S-shaped edge 20 of the paperboard front panel 16 in a manner that may provide product differentiation or product origin information even after the paperboard box is removed and discarded. Other portions of the lid 34 may also be embossed, stamped, or printed.

A band 38 of shrinkable polymeric material, preferably a heat-shrinkable polymer, is shrunk about the perimeter of the metal cigarette box 12 to seal the lid portion 34 to the tray portion 32 in a tamper-resistant/tamper-evident manner (See FIGS. 2 and 12). Perforations 40 are provided on the band to ease a consumer's access to cigarettes in the box.

The metal cigarette box 12 is described with reference to FIGS. 3-11B. As shown in FIGS. 3, 4, 8, and 11A-11B, the tray portion 32 and lid 34 each have a curved shape and rounded corners. Referring specifically to FIGS. 11A-11B, the tray portion 32 and the lid 34 each have an opposing major surface (33 and 35, respectively) with a radius of curvature R2 and R3 between 100 mm and 800 mm, respectively. The box and the lid are positioned with respect to each other such that a hypothetical surface 37 midpoint P on a curved plane generally parallel between major surfaces 33 and 35 also has a radius of curvature R1 between 100 mm and 800 mm. Preferably the radius of curvature R1 is about 200 mm. Preferably, the radii of curvature R2 and R3 of the opposing major surfaces 33 and 35 are selected and the surfaces positioned so that they are concentric about a common axis 39 when the cigarette box 12 is in a closed position. Generally, the radius of curvature of the major opposing surface 33 of the tray portion 32 will be smaller than that of the major surface 35 of the lid 34. The designed curvature corresponds generally to the curvature of the torso of the human body so that the box will fit comfortably in, and generally conform to, the body when the box is placed, for example, in a shirt or pant pocket. The rounded corners and edges of the box are also designed to provide a more comfortable “feel” for the consumer as well as an attractive package.

As shown in FIGS. 10A, 10B, and 11B, the rear wall of the tray portion 32 includes a ramped portion 49 that extends along at least a portion of a top-to-bottom axis of the box 12. The ramp 49 may be molded or stamped, or may include a separate ramped member attached to the tray portion 32 and may have a curved surface forming a partial cylindrical face 49a (as shown in FIG. 10A), or a generally flat planar surface 49b (as shown in FIG. 10B). A ramp 49a with a curved surface preferably has at least one radius of curvature R4 that will be about equal to or greater than the depth of the tray portion 32. In one embodiment configured to contain a plurality of cigarettes, the radius of curvature may be 14.8 mm, which configuration may be particularly useful for cigarettes having an outer diameter of about 7.4 mm. Of course, the dimensions of a box 12 of the present invention may be varied within the scope of the invention to allow different quantities of cigarettes to be stored therein. Those of skill in the art will appreciate that the configuration and position of the ramp will aid a user in extracting a smoking article such as a cigarette from the package. Specifically, by opening and then angling the box 12 such that the open end is lower than the closed end, a smoking article will typically roll up along the ramp 49 where it may be more easily grasped than it would be in a strictly rectangular container where a user may have to invert the container completely or reach down into it to grasp a cigarette therein.

The lid 34 is slidable in one direction (e.g., to the left as shown by the arrow 42 in FIGS. 3 and 8) to open the box 12 and permit a consumer to access cigarettes C in the box portion 32. The lid 34 may also include an abutment 60 that protrudes from the underside of the lid 34 into the open front of the box (See FIG. 9). This abutment 60 preferably will prevent the lid 34 of the metal box 12 from being completely removed from the tray portion 32, unless additional force is applied to push the abutment past the side wall 45 of the tray portion 32. As shown in FIG. 10, the abutment 60 on the lid may be an indentation in the metal lid 34. The abutment may be added separately to the lid or it is, desirably, formed integrally with the lid.

The abutment 60 of the lid 34 is positioned to allow the lid 34 to be opened a distance D, which preferably is less than half the width of the box. More preferably, dimension D will be approximately equal to the diameter of two cigarettes. The abutment 60 may be hidden or partially disguised in product differentiation indicia 64 that are placed on the outer surface of the lid 34. (See e.g., FIGS. 8, 12, and 14). The lid 34 of the box 12 may be flexible enough that the user, upon applying added force, may push the abutment 60 of the lid 34 past the side wall 45 of the tray portion 32 to open the box 12 completely.

After a cigarette C is removed from the box portion 32, the lid 34 may be slid in the direction opposite the motion arrow 42 to reclose the box 12. The lid 34 is mechanically and slidably retained on the box portion 32 by interengaging rolled edges or lips 44 and 46 on the box portion 32 and the lid portion 34, respectively (FIG. 5). The rolled lip 44 of the box portion 32 is formed around the entire perimeter of the box portion 32, whereas the rolled lip 46 of the lid portion 34 is formed along an entire end edge 48 and a substantial portion of top and bottom edges 50, 52 of the lid portion (FIG. 6). The edge 54 of the lid portion 34 and short sections 56, 58 of the edges 50, 52 may be rolled over and flattened as shown in FIGS. 4 and 7 to permit the lid to be slid back-and-forth over the open front of the tray portion 32. It should be appreciated that the lid 34 cannot be slid open to the right (as viewed in FIG. 3) because the rolled lip 46 along edge 48 of the lid acts as a positive stop or abutment when the lid 34 is moved in a direction to close the box 12.

Preferably, there is metal-to-metal engagement between the rolled lips 44, 46 along the edges 48, 50, 52 of the lid and between the rolled lip 44 of the tray portion 32 and the flattened edges 54, 56, 58 of the lid 34. Such metal-to-metal engagement between the tray and lid portions 32, 34 will help to preserve the freshness and aroma of cigarettes contained in the metal cigarette box 12. To the extent the rolled lips and flattened edges of the lid 34 do not engage completely in metal-to-metal sealing contact with the rolled lip 44 of the tray portion 32, the shrinkable band 38 may provide an additional force to urge those lips and edges into sealing, metal-to-metal contact until the band 38 is removed from the box 12.

The metal from which the cigarette box 12 is formed preferably includes a metal or metal alloy, such as 1018 steel alloy, having a thickness in the range of 0.005 inch to 0.015 inch. Other metals or metal alloys, such as 3003 aluminum alloy, may also be used to manufacture the box 12. Conventional metal working processes apparent to those skilled in the metal working art may be used to form the curved box and lid and to roll and flatten the edges of the box and lid. The embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1-15 are configured to hold twenty cigarettes in a 2 by 10 arrangement, but those of skill in the art will appreciate that other container sizes may be practiced within the scope of the present invention.

Although the box 12 of the present invention preferably is made of a thin sheet metal alloy, for an alternative embodiment, one may mold the box of a polymeric material, e.g., an injection molded high density polyethylene, polycarbonate, or other suitable moldable plastic material. In such case, the interengaging lips between the box and lid portions may be molded to sealingly engage in a manner similar to the engagement of rolled lips and edges of the metal box and lid, or may even include an interengaging structure such as, for example, a “tongue-and-groove” interface. As another alternative, those of skill in the art will appreciate that a ramp practiced within the scope of the present invention may include a separate structure that is attached to an interior surface of the package.

FIGS. 13-15 depict a tray portion 132 and a lid portion 134 of an example of the present invention embodied as a generally flat cigarette container 112 having a ramped rear portion. The container 112 is similar in most aspects to the curved embodiment described above with reference to FIGS. 1-12, except that its overall shape is generally flat rather than curved. The tray and lid portions 132, 134 (respectively) preferably include rounded rather than sharp corners. The edge engagement mechanism of the container 112 may be substantially similar to one of the engagement mechanisms described above (e.g., with reference to FIGS. 3-10), except for its lack of curvature. The tray portion 132 includes a ramped portion 149, which may be generally flat/planar, or which may be curved (e.g., as a partial surface of a cylinder) as is shown in the section view of FIG. 15. In this embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 13 and 15, the ramp 149 extends across nearly the entire space between the top and bottom walls 162, 164 of the tray portion 132.

Although certain presently preferred embodiments of the present invention have been specifically described herein, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art to which the invention pertains that variations and modifications of the various embodiments shown and described herein may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is intended that the invention be limited only to the extent required by the appended claims and the applicable rules of law.

It is therefore intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting, and that it be understood that it is the following claims, including all equivalents, that are intended to define the spirit and scope of this invention.