Title:
Collapsible debris container and method of use
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container according to the present invention provides a collapsible debris container including a receptacle having a plurality of framed side panels, a bottom panel, and an open side. A chute may be coupled to the receptacle, or a portion of the container may be decoupled from the remainder, to form a chute. The container may include a handle to ease transportation of debris along the ground.



Inventors:
Kellogg, Michael S. (Oconomowoc, WI, US)
Krotts, Dean B. (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Application Number:
12/150140
Publication Date:
10/29/2009
Filing Date:
04/25/2008
Assignee:
Bajer Design & Marketing, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
EDWARDS, BRETT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RYAN KROMHOLZ & MANION, S.C. (MILWAUKEE, WI, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A collapsible container comprising: a receptacle having an open end and a closed end, a plurality of receptacle side panels extending therebetween, each receptacle side panel coupled to another receptacle side panel, wherein each receptacle side panel comprises a flexible receptacle side panel material coupled to a receptacle side frame member having a folded and an unfolded configuration, said flexible receptacle side panel material assuming the configuration of its associated receptacle side frame member; and a chute portion in cooperation with said receptacle, said chute adapted to assist in the transfer of objects external to said receptacle into said receptacle.

2. A collapsible container according to claim 1, said plurality of receptacle side panels comprising at least three receptacle side panels, each receptacle side panel being coupled to at least two other receptacle side panels.

3. A collapsible container according to claim 1, a first of said receptacle side panels being directly coupled to a second of said receptacle side panels.

4. A collapsible container according to claim 3, said first receptacle side panel being directly coupled to a third of said receptacle side panels.

5. A collapsible container according to claim 1, further comprising a handle.

6. A collapsible container according to claim 1, said chute including a chute back panel coupled to a receptacle side panel and two chute side panels, each chute side panel coupled to said chute back panel and a receptacle side panel.

7. A collapsible container according to claim 1, said closed end comprising a receptacle bottom panel comprising: a flexible bottom material coupled to a bottom frame member having a folded and an unfolded configuration, said flexible bottom material assuming the configuration of said bottom frame member.

8. A collapsible container according to claim 7, each receptacle side panel being indirectly coupled to two other receptacle side panels; and directly coupled to said receptacle bottom panel.

9. A collapsible container according to claim 1, a first receptacle side panel being indirectly coupled to a second receptacle side panel.

10. A collapsible container according to claim 9, said first receptacle side panel being indirectly coupled to a third receptacle side panel.

11. A collapsible container according to claim 10, each receptacle side panel being indirectly coupled to two other receptacle side panels.

12. A collapsible container according to claim 1, the chute portion being formed at least partially by one of said receptacle side panels.

13. A collapsible container according to claim 12, at least a portion of a first receptacle side panel being at least partially detachably coupled to a second receptacle side panel.

14. A collapsible container according to claim 13, said first receptacle side panel being at least partially detachably coupled to said second receptacle side panel by a toggle clasp.

15. A collapsible container according to claim 13, the first receptacle side panel being at least partially detachably coupled to the second receptacle side panel and a third receptacle side panel.

16. A collapsible container according to claim 12, each of said receptacle side panels being at least partially detachably coupled to at least one other receptacle side panel.

17. A collapsible container according to claim 16, a first receptacle side panel being at least partially detachably coupled to a second receptacle side panel and a third receptacle side panel; said first receptacle side panel being indirectly coupled to said second receptacle side panel by way of a first chute side panel; and said first receptacle side panel being indirectly coupled to said third receptacle side panel by way of a second chute side panel.

18. A method comprising the steps of: providing a collapsible container comprising: a receptacle having an open end and a closed end surrounded by at least three receptacle side panels, each receptacle side panel comprising: a flexible material coupled to a frame member having a folded and an unfolded configuration, the flexible material assuming the configuration of its associated frame member; placing said collapsible container upon the ground; and transferring lawn debris into said receptacle.

19. A method according to claim 18 wherein said step of transferring lawn debris into said receptacle comprises moving said lawn debris through said open end of said receptacle.

20. A method according to claim 19 wherein said container further comprises a chute portion cooperating with said receptacle and said step of transferring lawn debris into said receptacle further comprises moving said lawn debris across said chute.

21. A method according to claim 18 wherein said container further comprises a chute portion cooperating with said receptacle and said step of transferring lawn debris into said receptacle further comprises moving said lawn debris across said chute.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to containers, and more specifically to collapsible debris containers that may be used to receive, contain, and/or transport lawn debris.

Collapsible containers have been desirable, and indeed employed, for decades. Generally, debris containers involve two methods of collapsibility, however, each of which has its respective drawbacks.

First, many prior collapsible debris containers comprise only a plurality of rigid support members. While offering the benefits of debris containment, transportation and container collapsibility, there are at least two potential disadvantages to such devices. Another disadvantage of using plant stands incorporating rigid structural members is the required assembly and disassembly during setup and storage, respectively. For a given container structure, as the desired storage size decreases, the required number of pieces into which it must be broken down increases, as does the time required for assembly and disassembly.

Second, some prior collapsible plant stands utilize a combination of rigid support members and flexible members such flexible panels of material. Again, similar to containers employing only rigid support members, these prior devices offer suitable debris containment, transportation and container collapsibility; however, sacrifice is often made during storage. The flexible members of prior devices tend to require decoupling from the rigid members, often causing frustration during preparation for the next season's use.

Therefore, the art of lawn maintenance would benefit from an improved collapsible container that addresses at least the assembly and storage concerns surrounding prior devices.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A debris container according to the present invention provides a collapsible container including a receptacle having an open end and a closed end. At least two receptacle side panels extend between the open end and the closed end. Each receptacle side panel is coupled, directly or indirectly, to another receptacle side panel. Each receptacle side panel includes a flexible side panel material coupled to a side frame member having a folded and an unfolded configuration. The flexible side panel material assumes the configuration of its associated side frame member. A container according to the present invention also includes a chute coupled to the receptacle, where the chute is adapted to assist in the transfer of objects outside of the receptacle into the receptacle. In another embodiment, a container according to the present invention includes at least three receptacle side panels, each of which is coupled, directly or indirectly, to at least two other receptacle side panels.

In one embodiment, a collapsible container according to the present invention includes a first of receptacle side panel directly coupled to a second receptacle side panel, such as by being sewn thereto. In another embodiment, the first side panel that has been directly coupled to the second side panel is also directly coupled to a third side panel.

One or more receptacle side panels could also be indirectly coupled to one or more other side panels, such as by way of a panel separator. In one such embodiment, a first receptacle side panel is indirectly coupled to a second receptacle side panel. In another embodiment, a first receptacle side panel is indirectly coupled to a second receptacle side panel and a third receptacle side panel. In yet another embodiment, each receptacle side panel is indirectly coupled to two other receptacle side panels.

A collapsible container according to the present invention may further include a handle, which may be directly coupled to the receptacle or the chute. Further, chute of a container according to the present invention may include a chute back panel coupled to one of the receptacle side panels and two chute side panels, each chute side panel being coupled to the chute back panel and a receptacle side panel.

The closed end of a container according to the present invention may include a receptacle bottom panel having a flexible bottom material coupled to a bottom frame member having a folded and an unfolded configuration. The flexible bottom material assumes the configuration of the bottom frame member. If such a bottom panel is employed, another variation would include each receptacle side panel being indirectly coupled to two other receptacle side panels and directly coupled to the receptacle bottom panel.

The chute portion of a collapsible container according to the present invention may be formed at least partially by one of the side panels. Additionally, at least a portion of a first side panel may be at least partially detachably coupled to a second side panel, such as by way of a toggle clasp. The first side panel may also be at least partially detachably coupled to the second side panel and a third side panel. In fact, each side panel may be at least partially detachably coupled to at least one other side panel. Additionally, or alternatively, a first side panel may be at least partially detachably coupled to a second side panel and a third side panel where the first side panel is indirectly coupled to the second side panel by way of a first chute side panel, and the first side panel is indirectly coupled to the third side panel by way of a second chute side panel.

A method according to the present invention includes providing a collapsible container comprising a receptacle having an open end and a closed end surrounded by at least three receptacle side panels, each receptacle side panel comprising a flexible material coupled to a frame member having a folded and an unfolded configuration, the flexible material assuming the configuration of its associated frame member. The provided container is placed upon the ground and lawn debris is transferred into the receptacle. The step of transferring lawn debris into said receptacle may include moving said lawn debris through the open end of the receptacle.

The provided container may further comprise a chute portion cooperating with the receptacle and the step of transferring lawn debris into the receptacle may further comprise moving the lawn debris across the chute. If the chute is coupled to the open end of the container, the step of transferring lawn debris into the receptacle may include moving the lawn debris across the chute and through the open end of the receptacle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a collapsible debris container according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in use.

FIG. 3A is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in a first collapsed configuration.

FIG. 3B is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in a second collapsed configuration.

FIG. 3C is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in a third collapsed configuration.

FIG. 3D is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in a coiled configuration.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of the present invention in an unfolded configuration.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 4 in a first assembled configuration.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 4 in a second assembled configuration.

FIG. 7 is a close-up view of an embodiment of an assembly mechanism used in connection with the embodiment of FIG. 4.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 4 in use.

FIG. 9A is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 4 in a first folded configuration.

FIG. 9B is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 4 in a second folded configuration.

FIG. 9C is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 4 in a third folded configuration.

FIG. 9D is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 4 in a fourth folded configuration.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Although the disclosure hereof is detailed and exact to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, the physical embodiments herein disclosed merely exemplify the invention which may be embodied in other specific structures. While the preferred embodiment has been described, the details may be changed without departing from the invention, which is defined by the claims.

Turning now to the figures, FIG. 1 provides an embodiment 100 of a container according to the present invention. The container 100 generally comprises a receptacle 110 and a chute 130. The receptacle 110 includes a closed end 114, an open end 116, and plurality of framed receptacle side panels 120. The closed end 114 is preferably provided by a back panel 118. The chute 130 may be provided to cooperate with, or as a part of, the receptacle 110. The receptacle side panels 120 and back panel 118 are coupled or able to be coupled to form a generally parallelepiped container having an open side 116. The framed receptacle side panels 120 may be those that are generally known in the art, which are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,971,188, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

The receptacle 110 of the first embodiment 100 is preferably formed according to the general construction of a collapsible container included in the incorporated patent. While the web on the incorporated side panels may be a flexible foldable material, such as nylon cloth, any suitably flexible material, including string reinforced polyethylene sheet material, may be utilized. The nylon, or other flexible material, may be solid or perforated. In addition, as previously mentioned, the debris container 100 preferably includes a chute 130 coupled to the receptacle portion 110. The chute 130 generally includes a chute back panel 131 and may further include chute side panels 132, each side panel 132 extending between the back panel 131 and a framed receptacle side panel 120 of the receptacle 110. If desired, the chute back panel 131 may have a construction at least similar, if not identical, to that of the framed receptacle side panels 120.

A collapsible container according to the present invention also preferably includes a handle 112. The handle 112 is preferably a flexible strap 113 that may be formed from a stretch-resistant material having a mesh web, which may be coupled directly, such as being stitched, to a portion of the receptacle 110 or to a portion of the chute 130, as shown. Although stitching is a preferred means for directly coupling the elements of the container 100 and permitting relatively convenient folding of the container 100, it is to be understood that other methods of attachment can be used in this invention. Such methods may include heat sealing, gluing and the like. Accordingly, construction of the collapsible container 100 should not be limited to stitching alone.

As shown in FIG. 2, to use a container 100 according to the present invention, a user 301 may place the container 100 on the ground 300. The user 301 may transfer debris 303 from external the receptacle 110 into the container 100 by using a rake 302, for example, to direct debris across the chute 130 and into the receptacle 110. When it is desirable to transport the container 100 to another location, the user 301 simply grasps the handle 112 and pulls the container 100 along the ground 300.

From the expanded state, the container 100 may be folded into a collapsed state for storage and transportation. FIGS. 3A to 3D show various steps for collapsing the container 100. In FIG. 3A, the chute 130 has been folded into the receptacle 110. The next step requires grasping opposite corners of the container 100 and biasing one toward the other to collapse the container 100 further into a V-configuration, as shown in FIG. 3B. FIG. 3C shows the container 100 in a third collapsed configuration, which includes the plurality of receptacle side panels 120 stacked atop one another. In the preferred embodiment, the resulting partially collapsed container 100 is a stack of four receptacle side panels 120 and a chute back panel 131. Then, two opposite corners of the partially collapsed container 100 may be rotated in opposite directions while forcing the corners toward each other. The container 100 will first twist and then will rotate to form three overlying circular loops situated adjacently as shown in FIG. 3D. The collapsed container 100 may be further secured with an elastic strap 170, which may be coupled to the receptacle 110. When the elastic strap 170 is removed from the collapsed container 100, the frame members of the receptacle side panels 120 will bias the container 100 into an expanded state.

FIG. 4 shows a second embodiment 200 of a collapsible container according to the present invention, in an unfolded configuration. Like the first embodiment 100, this embodiment 200 generally comprises a receptacle 210 and may further include a handle 212. The receptacle 210 includes a closed bottom 214, an open top 216, and plurality of framed receptacle side panels 220. The closed bottom 214 is preferably provided by a back panel 218. If desired, the receptacle back panel 218 may have a construction at least similar, if not identical, to that of the framed receptacle side panels 220. Furthermore, as shown in FIG. 5, this embodiment 200 includes at least one receptacle side panel 220a that is partially detachable from adjacent receptacle side panels 220b, 220d, so as to form a chute 230. The receptacle side panels 220 and back panel 218 are coupled or able to be coupled to form a substantially parallelepiped container having an open top 216, such as that shown in FIG. 6. Also like the first embodiment 100, the framed panels 220 may be those that are generally known in the art, which are disclosed, for example, in the incorporated patent, U.S. Pat. No. 5,971,188.

This embodiment 200, while maintaining many of the features of the first embodiment 100, further includes at least one partially detachable receptacle side panel 220a. Thus, rather than having a separate chute portion being coupled to the receptacle, the partially detachable receptacle side panel 220 may operate as a chute 230. The partially detached receptacle side panel 220 may then serve as a chute back panel 231. The embodiment 200 may further include chute side panels 232, which indirectly couple the partially detachable receptacle side panel 220 to other receptacle side panels, each chute side panel 232 extending between the back panel 231 and a framed receptacle side panel 220 of the receptacle 210.

With reference also to FIG. 7, the partial detachment of a receptacle side panel 220a may be permitted by the use of a releasable coupling means 240, such as a conventional toggle clasp including a loop 242, a toggle 244, and a toggle strap 246. As depicted, the toggle strap 246 couples the toggle 244 to an upper corner of a receptacle side panel 220d. When inserted into the loop 242 that is coupled to an adjacent receptacle side panel 220a, the toggle 244 maintains the panels 220a, 220d in a coupled configuration.

While only a single side 220a of the embodiment 200 may be partially detachable, it is preferable to allow partial detachment of the top side of all panels 220 to enable the container 200 to lie in a planar configuration, as shown in FIG. 4. An advantage to this arrangement is that it allows a user to place a container 200 in such configuration upon the ground and to transfer debris onto the bottom panel 218 from 360 degrees, thereby eliminating the need to move the container 200 during the debris collection process. When a sufficient amount of debris has been collected, the receptacle side panels 220 may be folded up and towards each other and coupled together. As shown in FIG. 8, a user 301 has placed a container 200 upon the ground 300, transferred debris 303 into the container 200, and clasped the receptacle side panels 220a-220d together. When it is desirable to transport the container 200 to another location, the user 301 simply grasps the handle 212 and pulls the container 200 along the ground 300.

FIGS. 9A through 9D show a method of collapsing a container 200 according to the present invention. While a user may employ a method similar to the method discussed with reference to FIGS. 3A-3D, the method in FIGS. 9A-9D is useful where the receptacle bottom panel 218 contains a frame similar to those used in the receptacle side panels 220. A preferred embodiment 200 includes four receptacle side panels 220, each receptacle side panel 220 being indirectly coupled, such as by way of a chute side panel 232 on each side, to two other receptacle side panels 220. In a method of collapsing a container 200 according to the present invention, the receptacle side panels 220 are first partially detached from each other, and the container 200 is laid in a planar configuration, as can be seen in FIG. 4. Returning to FIG. 9A, a first receptacle side panel 220a may be folded onto the receptacle bottom panel 218. A second receptacle side panel 220c may then be folded atop the first receptacle side panel 220a, as can be seen in FIG. 9B. FIG. 9C shows a third receptacle side panel 220b, along with a pair of chute side panels 232, being folded atop the second receptacle side panel 220c. The fourth receptacle side panel 220d is then folded atop the third receptacle side panel 220b, along with a second pair of chute side panels 232. The resulting stack of panels includes a bottom panel 218, four receptacle side panels 220 and four chute side panels 232. If chute side panels 232 are not employed, the resulting stack would simply include the bottom panel 218 and four receptacle side panels 220. The container 200 may be stored in this configuration, or the container 200 may be coiled and secured in a similar fashion to the first embodiment 100, as shown and described with reference to FIG. 3D.

The foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Furthermore, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described. While the preferred embodiment has been described, the details may be changed without departing from the invention, which is defined by the claims.