Title:
Plate with features that cooperatively interact with utensils
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A food serving plate with features that cooperatively interact with utensils to provide fun assistance to young children with their effort to load food onto their utensils. The features on the food serving plate include either or both of: a slotted ramp that accepts the tines of an eating utensil, such as a fork, which allows a person to load food onto the utensil by pushing the food up the ramp and then sliding the utensil under the food when it has reached sufficient height; and a ramp with a nested depression that accepts the leading perimeter contours of a utensil with a food-receiving bowl, such as a spoon, which allows a person to load food onto the utensil by positioning the utensil within the nested depression and by pushing the food up the ramp with a second utensil with a blunt profile, such as a pusher, and over the nested depression.



Inventors:
Malcolm, Carter T. (Ann Arbor, MI, US)
Malcolm, Jacqueline K. (Ann Arbor, MI, US)
Application Number:
12/080771
Publication Date:
10/08/2009
Filing Date:
04/07/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/574
International Classes:
A47G19/02; A47G19/00
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Primary Examiner:
KIRSCH, ANDREW THOMAS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARTER MALCOLM (ANN ARBOR, MI, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A food serving plate that contains a slotted ramp wherein the slots in the ramp are sized to accept the tines of an eating utensil, such as a fork, and wherein the height of the ramp at the peak of its slope is equal to or greater than the vertical thickness of the tines of the eating utensil.

2. The food serving plate of claim 1 wherein the slotted ramp is bound on one or both sides by a raised ridge that extends to a height greater than the slotted ramp along the entire slope of the slotted ramp.

3. The food serving plate of claim 1 wherein the slotted ramp terminates at an opposing feature being either vertical or sloped which has a height that is greater than the peak height of the slotted ramp.

4. A food serving plate which contains a ramp that leads to a nested depression wherein the nested depression is sized to snugly receive the leading perimeter of an eating utensil with a food-receiving bowl, such as a spoon, and wherein the nested depression contains sufficient perimeter contours to properly position the utensil, and wherein the height of the ramp is elevated at or above the height of the utensil when the utensil is positioned in the nested depression.

5. The food serving plate of claim 4 wherein the ramp is bound on one or both sides by a raised ridge that extends to a height greater than the ramp along the entire slope of the ramp and which is sized to receive the contours of a blunt utensil, such as a pusher or the side profile of a knife.

Description:

REFERENCES CITED

U.S. Patent Documents:

4,863,033September 1989Buj
4,986,434January 1991Prestyly et al.
5,172,826December 1992Celaya
5,638,981June 1997Crane et al.
5,938,066August 1999DeMars

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to food serving devices. More particularly, it pertains to an individual food serving plate that is designed to be used by children to facilitate their independent use of utensils.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Many parents struggle to get their children to eat independently with utensils. Prior art exists that has special forms of dinnerware that seek to address this problem by either making the dinnerware entertaining or by offering features that interact with utensils. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,938,066 and U.S. Pat. No. 4,863,033 disclose food serving plates on which utensils can be mounted; the plates and utensils in these disclosures encourage children to eat by using decorations and/or entertaining toy figures that seek to make eating fun. U.S. Pat. No. 4,986,434 discloses a dish that contains a cavity that helps users load string-form pasta onto a utensil by spinning the utensil within the cavity. U.S. Pat. No. 5,638,981 discloses a plate with a hollowed out recess in the bottom that is located at or below the food-receiving surface of the plate and has a lip that overlaps and engages an edge of a utensil, such as a spoon, so that the utensil is retained within the recess and food can be smoothly slid from the plate onto the utensil.

The present invention offers a different solution to get children to eat independently with utensils than that presented by the prior art. The present invention offers features that appeal to children because the features are not only fun, but also because the features interact with utensils to assist children's efforts to load food onto utensils. Additionally, the geometry of the features in the present invention differs from the geometry of the features disclosed in the prior art.

Known prior art includes U.S. Pat. No. 4,863,033; U.S. Pat. No. 4,986,434; U.S. Pat. No. 5,172,826; U.S. Pat. No. 5,638,981; U.S. Pat. No. 5,938,066;

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The general purpose of the present invention, which will be described subsequently in greater detail, is to provide a food serving plate with features that cooperatively interact with utensils to offer a young child fun assistance with their efforts to load food onto utensils.

The food serving plate may include a sloped ramp that leads to a nested depression that is elevated from the main surface of the plate. The nested depression is sized to snugly accept the leading perimeter of a utensil with a food-receiving bowl, such as a spoon. An individual using the plate can load food onto the bowl of the utensil using this feature. The individual would do so by holding the utensil with the bowl placed within the nested depression. With the utensil in place, the individual would use their other hand to manipulate the food up the ramp using a blunt utensil, such as a pusher, or other specifically configured implement. Upon reaching the top of the ramp, the individual would continue to manipulate the food over the nested depression with the blunt utensil. The food will fall from the elevated ramp onto the bowl of the utensil that is held within the nested depression. The individual may then lift the utensil to eat the food.

The food serving plate may include a slotted ramp. The slots in the ramp are designed to accept the tines of an eating utensil, such as a fork. The slotted ramp may lead to a vertical or sloped wall. An individual using the plate can load food onto the utensil using this feature. The individual would push food over to the slotted ramp with the utensil. The individual would align the tines of the utensil with the slots in the ramp and then push the food up the slotted ramp with the utensil. As the utensil progresses into the slotted ramp, the tines of the utensil first push the food up the ramp and then slide under the food once the food is sufficiently elevated on the ramp to clear the top of the tines of the utensil. A vertical or sloped wall may provide assistance as a backstop to prevent large food items from being pushed over the top of the ramp by the utensil. When the utensil is sufficiently positioned under the food, the individual can lift the fork upward to remove it from the slotted ramp and thereby load the food on the utensil.

The food serving plate may include both of the previously described features: a sloped ramp that leads to a nested depression that is elevated from the main surface of the plate; and a slotted ramp.

While other prior art discloses features that assist individuals with loading food onto utensils, none do so with the same elements as disclosed within the present invention. Prior art exists that discloses a hollowed out recess that accepts a spoon to facilitate the loading of food onto the spoon. The hollowed out recess in the prior art is positioned below the main eating surface of the plate and has an overlapping lip that will allow the utensil to be cantilevered and retained in the recess. The present invention differs from this and other prior art in several ways: the present invention uses a combination of a ramp and a nested depression to load food onto a spoon; the present invention uses a nested depression which snugly accepts the leading perimeter of the spoon, but does not snugly receive the bowl of the spoon; the present invention does not use an overlapping lip to engage, cantilever and retain the spoon within the nested depression; the present invention uses a nested depression that is below the top of the ramp, but not below the main eating surface of the plate. No other prior art exists that offers a slotted ramp to load food onto a fork.

The features of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description considered in connection with the accompanying drawing. It is to be understood, however, that the drawing is designed as an illustration only and not as a definition of the limits of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a food serving plate formed in accordance with this invention;

FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the food serving plate of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the food serving plate of FIG. 1 with the addition of a fork, spoon and pusher;

FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the food serving plate of FIG. 3 with the addition of a fork, spoon and pusher;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view of the food serving plate taken along the lines 5-5 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmented sectional view of the ramp and nested depression in the plate;

FIG. 7 is a sectional view of the food serving plate taken along the lines 7-7 of FIG. 4; and

FIG. 8 is an enlarged fragmented sectional view of the slotted ramp in the plate.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to the drawings, there is shown in FIG. 1 a preferred embodiment of a plate 1 formed in accordance with this invention. The plate 1 includes a ramp 2 that may lead to a vertical or sloped wall 3. The ramp 2 has multiple slots 4. The width and number of slots 4 present are configured to accept the tines of an eating utensil 5, such as a fork (shown in phantom). The length and angle of the ramp 2 are sized to allow the height of the ramp 2 at the top of its slope to be greater than or equal to the height of the tines of the utensil 5 (as best shown in FIG. 7 and FIG. 8). The height of the wall 3 should sufficiently extend above the top height of the ramp 2 to retain any food items when the utensil 5 manipulates the food up the ramp 2. The ramp 2 may be bound on either side by a raised ridge 11. The ridges 11 should be taller than the height of the ramp 2 to a sufficient extent to retain any food items that the utensil 5 is manipulating up the ramp 2.

The plate 1 also includes a ramp 6 that leads to a nested depression 7 that is sized to snugly accept the leading perimeter of a utensil with a food-receiving bowl 8, such as a spoon (shown in phantom). The ramp 6 may be bound on either side by a raised ridge 9 (as best shown in FIG. 2 and FIG. 4) that are sized to accept the contours of a blunt utensil 10, such as a pusher (shown in phantom). The ridges 9 should be elevated above the ramp 6 to a sufficient extent to retain any food items that the blunt utensil 10 is manipulating up the ramp 6. The height of the ramp 6 should be sufficient so that the top of the bowl 12 of the utensil 8 will be below the top surface 13 of the ramp 6 when the utensil 8 is positioned within the nested depression 7 (as best shown in FIG. 5 and FIG. 6). The nested depression 7 should have sufficient perimeter contours 13 to allow an individual to properly position the bowl 12 of the utensil 8 so that food items manipulated over the ramp 6 will be deposited onto the bowl 12 of the utensil 8.

It is possible to make the plate from any suitable material or combination of materials and it can be manufactured in many different sizes and in one or many colors.

Many changes and variations of the disclosed embodiments of the present invention may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the inventive concept. Such changes, modifications and rearrangements are deemed readily apparent and obvious to one skilled in the art and all equivalent relationships to those illustrated in the figures and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed by the present invention. The present invention is not intended to be limited otherwise than as required by the appended claims.