Title:
RIGID COLLAPSIBLE LINER FOR INSULATED CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A soft-sided cooler having a rigid liner configured to removably fit within said cooler, wherein said liner comprises panels of rigid material that are collapsible and foldable along seams of flexible material located between the rigid panels to maintain the waterproof condition of the liner and allow for folding, said liner further comprising a drain element for fluid communication with the exterior of the cooler.



Inventors:
Culp, Yiyun (Wichita, KS, US)
Gronau, Lisa A. (Newton, KS, US)
Vogel, Amy E. (Wichita, KS, US)
Perry Debrunner, Ashleigh (Wichita, KS, US)
Peterson, Michael W. (Park City, KS, US)
Gibson, David B. (Wichita, KS, US)
Holt, Justin W. (Wichita, KS, US)
Application Number:
14/004668
Publication Date:
06/25/2015
Filing Date:
03/07/2012
Assignee:
The Coleman Company (Wichita, KS, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/495.03, 220/6
International Classes:
B65D6/16; B65D81/38
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20080169298Temporary paint can rim coverJuly, 2008Rattmann
20020070220Package with tambour closureJune, 2002Kuehn et al.
20090014611Drink holding deviceJanuary, 2009Hampton
20090120947COMBINED BUCKET AND TOOL HOLDERMay, 2009Davis et al.
20110000923Method and Apparatus for Refilling a Container with a FluidJanuary, 2011Morales
20030201273Sleeve apparatus for a gaming coin bucketOctober, 2003Reid
20040045973Portable beverage containerMarch, 2004Stokes
20100050440UTENSIL AND METHOD FOR COLLECTING AND POURING POWDERS AND FLUIDSMarch, 2010Ben Natan
20130200091Woven-Knit Apparatus For Container Utensil CounterpartAugust, 2013Scott-womack



Primary Examiner:
CASTELLANO, STEPHEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
The Coleman Company (WICHITA, KS, US)
Claims:
1. An insulated cooler, comprising: at least one flexible side panel and a flexible bottom panel defining a cavity therein, said panels comprising an interior layer of fabric adjacent a first side of a layer of insulating fabric and an exterior layer of fabric adjacent a second side of the layer of insulating fabric; a flexible top panel hingedly connected to the at least one flexible side panel, said top panel configured to removably cover said cavity; a removable liner having rigid sides and flexible seams connecting said rigid sides; said liner configured to fit within said cavity and said liner further configured to be collapsible along said flexible seams from a first expanded configuration to a second folded configuration.

2. The cooler of claim 1, wherein said liner further comprises: a first side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends; a second side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends located opposite said first side panel; a first end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a first flexible seam to the first end of said first side panel and by a second flexible seam to the first end of said second side panel; a second end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a third flexible seam to the second end of said first side panel and by a fourth flexible seam to the second end of said second side panel; and a bottom panel connected by a flexible fifth seam to the bottom end of said first side panel and by a sixth flexible seam to the bottom end of said second side panel.

3. The cooler of claim 2, wherein said bottom panel comprises two pieces of rigid material connected to each other by a seventh flexible seam running from a central point of the first end panel to a central point of the second end panel; and wherein said first and second end panels each further comprise a center end seam extending from the top end to the bottom end and further comprise first and second angled seams extending from each corner intersection of end panel, side panel and bottom panel to a point located on said center end seam.

4. A container, comprising: a first rigid side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends; a second rigid side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends located opposite said first side panel; a first rigid end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a first flexible seam to the first end of said first rigid side panel and by a second flexible seam to the first end of said second rigid side panel; a second rigid end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a third flexible seam to the second end of said first rigid side panel and by a fourth flexible seam to the second end of said second rigid side panel; a rigid bottom panel connected by a flexible fifth seam to the bottom end of said first rigid side panel and by a sixth flexible seam to the bottom end of said second rigid side panel; said container collapsible along said flexible seams.

5. The container of claim 4, wherein said rigid bottom panel comprises two pieces of rigid material connected to each other by a seventh flexible seam running from a central point of the first end panel to a central point of the second end panel; and wherein said first and second end panels each further comprise a center end seam extending from the top end to the bottom end and further comprise first and second angled seams extending from each corner intersection of end panel, side panel and bottom panel to a point located on said center end seam.

6. The container of claim 5, wherein in said second configuration, said first and second ends collapse and fold inward.

7. The container of claim 5, wherein in said second configuration, said first and second ends collapse and fold outward.

8. The container of claim 5, wherein said first end panel and said second end panel each further comprise first and second rigid lower triangular panels connected to said first and second angled seams, respectively.

9. An insulated cooler, comprising: at least one flexible side panel and a flexible bottom panel defining a cavity therein, said panels comprising an interior layer of fabric adjacent a first side of a layer of insulating fabric and an exterior layer of fabric adjacent a second side of the layer of insulating fabric; a cover for said cavity; a removable liner having rigid sides and flexible seams connecting said rigid sides; said liner configured to fit within said cavity and said liner further configured to be collapsible along said flexible seams from a first expanded configuration to a second folded configuration.

10. An insulated cooler, comprising: at least one flexible side panel and a flexible bottom panel defining a cavity therein, said panels comprising an interior layer of fabric adjacent a first side of a layer of insulating fabric and an exterior layer of fabric adjacent a second side of the layer of insulating fabric; a cover for said cavity; a removable liner having rigid sides and flexible seams connecting said rigid sides; said liner configured to fit within said cavity and said liner further configured to be collapsible along said flexible seams from a first expanded configuration to a second folded configuration; and an integral drain element providing fluid communication between the interior of liner and the exterior of liner.

11. The cooler of claim 10, wherein said liner further comprises a lock mechanism to allow for selective movement between the first expanded configuration and the second folded configuration.

12. The cooler of claim 10, wherein at least one of the flexible panels comprises an aperture sized and aligned to cooperate with said integral drain element.

13. An insulated cooler, comprising: at least one flexible side panel and a flexible bottom panel defining a cavity therein, said panels comprising an interior layer of fabric adjacent a first side of a layer of insulating fabric and an exterior layer of fabric adjacent a second side of the layer of insulating fabric; a cover for said cavity; a removable liner having rigid sides and flexible seams connecting said rigid sides; said liner configured to fit within said cavity and said liner further configured to be collapsible along said flexible seams from a first expanded configuration to a second folded configuration; and an adjustable securing mechanism for securing said cooler to a wheeled cart.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/451,973, entitled “Rigid Collapsible Liner for Insulated Container,” filed Mar. 11, 2011 (Attorney Docket No. Orgpls-2-6386); and U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/537,736, entitled “Rigid Collapsible Liner for Insulated Container With Drain,” filed Sep. 22, 2011 (Attorney Docket No. Orgpls-2-6543), the entire disclosure of each is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Insulated containers, sometimes called “coolers” are quite popular, and are used in numerous activities. Large coolers are often used for picnics and other social gatherings, and individual users may utilize smaller coolers to keep a fewer number of items at a desired temperature.

Typically, the walls of contemporary coolers include hard outer and inner shells, and an insulating central layer. The central layer is usually a product having a high insulation value, or R value. While hard-sided coolers are useful and popular, they can be heavy and awkward to carry and, once the contents have been consumed, the empty hard-sided cooler can be inconvenient to transport and store. As such, the use of soft-sided coolers has become popular. Soft-sided coolers are known and may be formed from an insulating material, such as expanded polyethylene foam, that is surrounded by a flexible fabric, such as polyester, nylon or the like. Such coolers may be produced by covering one or more pieces of insulating material with a flexible material and stitching the pieces or portions of the pieces together so as to form a container. These containers are lighter in weight than hard sided coolers and can be folded up for ease of storage when not in use.

While soft-sided coolers have beneficial aspects, users still desire an insulated container which will retain ice and, more importantly, melted ice (e.g. water) without leaking through the container seams. As such, it is desirable for soft-sided insulated containers to have a water-tight liner which fits inside the container compartment. Users may also desire a certain level of protection for the contents they will put within the soft-sided cooler from damage which can be sustained by deformation of the soft-sided cooler such as by having heavy items place on top of the cooler, someone accidentally stepping on the cooler and the like. Hard liners which are made of molded plastic are known. While these liners are water-tight and can additionally provide desired structure to a soft-sided cooler, they are not easy to store when not in use and must be removed and stored separately from the soft-sided insulated container if the user wishes to fold up the soft-sided cooler. Hard liners have the additional benefit of being easy to clean.

Soft liners are known which include sewn-in liners typically made of flexible poly vinyl chloride or polyethylene vinyl acetate. While these liners do fold up for easy storage, the seams are not water-tight and the liners do not provide much structure to the soft-sided cooler. The absence of a water-tight liner restricts a user to utilization of freezable ice substitutes instead of actual ice to avoid leakage through the seams.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The following presents a simplified summary of some embodiments of the invention in order to provide a basic understanding of the invention. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention. It is not intended to identify key/critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention. Its sole purpose is to present some embodiments of the invention in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description of some embodiments that are presented later.

In accordance with an embodiment, a soft-sided insulated container is provided that comprises a collapsible and water-tight liner having rigid walls, more specifically, comprising at least one flexible side panel and a flexible bottom panel defining a cavity therein, said panels comprising an interior layer of fabric adjacent a first side of a layer of insulating fabric and an exterior layer of fabric adjacent a second side of the layer of insulating fabric; a flexible top panel hingedly connected to the at least one flexible side panel, said top panel configured to removably cover said cavity; a removable liner having rigid sides and flexible seams connecting said rigid sides; said liner configured to fit within said cavity and said liner further configured to be collapsible along said flexible seams from a first expanded configuration to a second folded configuration; and wherein said liner further comprises a first side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends, a second side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends located opposite said first side panel; a first end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a first flexible seam to the first end of said first side panel and by a second flexible seam to the first end of said second side panel; a second end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a third flexible seam to the second end of said first side panel and by a fourth flexible seam to the second end of said second side panel; a bottom panel connected by a flexible fifth seam to the bottom end of said first side panel and by a sixth flexible seam to the bottom end of said second side panel; wherein said bottom panel comprises two pieces of rigid material connected to each other by a seventh flexible seam running from a central point of the first end panel to a central point of the second end panel; and wherein said first and second end panels each further comprise a center end seam extending from the top end to the bottom end and further comprise first and second angles seams extending from each corner intersection of enc panel, side panel and bottom panel to a point located on said center end seam.

In accordance with an embodiment, a container is provided having a first side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends; a second side panel having first and second ends and top and bottom ends located opposite said first side panel; a first end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a first flexible seam to the first end of said first side panel and by a second flexible seam to the first end of said second side panel; a second end panel having a top end and a bottom end and connected by a third flexible seam to the second end of said first side panel and by a fourth flexible seam to the second end of said second side panel; a bottom panel connected by a flexible fifth seam to the bottom end of said first side panel and by a sixth flexible seam to the bottom end of said second side panel; said container collapsible along said flexible seams; wherein said bottom panel comprises two pieces of rigid material connected to each other by a seventh flexible seam running from a central point of panel; and wherein said first and second end panels each further comprise a center end seam extending from the top end to the bottom end and further comprise first and second angled seams extending from each corner intersection of end panel, side panel and bottom panel to a point located on said center end seam; wherein in said second configuration, said first and second ends collapse and fold either inward or outward.

In accordance with an embodiment, a soft-sided insulated container is provided that comprises a collapsible and water-tight liner having rigid walls, more specifically, comprising at least one flexible side panel and a flexible bottom panel defining a cavity therein, said panels comprising an interior layer of fabric adjacent a first side of a layer of insulating fabric and an exterior layer of fabric adjacent a second side of the layer of insulating fabric; a flexible top panel preferably hingedly connected to the at least one flexible side panel, said top panel configured to removably cover said cavity; a removable liner having rigid sides and flexible seams connecting said rigid sides; said liner configured to fit within said cavity and said liner further configured to be collapsible along said flexible seams from a first expanded configuration to a second folded configuration; and wherein said liner further comprises a selectively closable drain element providing for fluid communication between the interior of the liner and the exterior of the soft cooler; further comprising a foldable and separate wheeled cart for transporting the soft, the cart having wheels, a retractable handle and being foldable or compactable for storage, the soft cooler being releasably securable to the wheeled cart.

Other features of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings, in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side perspective view of a liner in accordance with an embodiment, in the expanded configuration;

FIG. 2 is a side perspective view of a cooler having the liner of FIG. 1 partially inserted therein;

FIG. 3 is a side perspective view of a liner in accordance with an embodiment, in the expanded configuration;

FIG. 4 is a side perspective view of a liner in accordance with an embodiment, in the expanded configuration;

FIG. 5 is a top view of a flat pattern die cut of the liner of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a side perspective view of the liner of FIG. 1 in a partially collapsed configuration;

FIG. 7 is a side perspective view of the liner of FIG. 1 in an alternate partially collapse configuration;

FIG. 8 is a side perspective view of a liner in accordance with an embodiment, in the expanded configuration;

FIG. 9 is a side perspective view of a liner in accordance with an embodiment, in the expanded configuration;

FIG. 10 is a side perspective view of a cooler releasably secured to a wheeled cart;

FIG. 11 is a back perspective view of the cooler of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12a-c is a front perspective view of a wheeled cart;

FIG. 13a-c is a front view of a the collapsible cooler of FIG. 10, shown in various states of collapsibility between the fully expanded and fully collapsed configurations;

FIG. 14 is a top perspective view of the liner of FIG. 9, showing the drain in exploded view′ and

FIG. 15 is a front perspective view of the liner of FIG. 10.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In the following description, various embodiments of the present invention will be described. For purposes of explanation, specific configurations and details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the embodiments. However, it will also be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without the specific details. Furthermore, well-known features may be omitted or simplified in order not to obscure the embodiment being described.

Referring now to the drawings, in which like reference numerals represent like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 2 shows a container 10 in accordance with an embodiment. The container 10 includes front panel 12, back panel 14, first end panel 16, second end panel 18, bottom panel 20 and mouth 22 which define an interior compartment 24. Cooler 10 also preferably comprises top panel 26 which serves as a lid for the container 10.

Each of the panels 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 26 preferably includes a piece of insulating material, such as expanded polyethylene foam, enclosed in a flexible fabric, such as vinyl, polyester, nylon or similar fabric. In this manner, the container 10 is deemed a soft-sided cooler.

Container 10 may comprise exterior and interior pockets (not shown) as well as carrying handle 30 which may be attached at various locations. For purposes of illustration only, handle 30 is depicted as a side handle, but can be of other constructions known and used in the industry. Additionally, although a rectangular shaped container is shown in the figures, it is within the scope of the present invention for container 10 to have other shapes such as cubic, oval, elliptical, cylindrical and the like.

The top panel 26, bottom panel 20, and back panel 14 are connected together along their edges to form a box-like shape. In particular, the top panel 26 may have an elongated rectangular shape and may be connected along an edge to three consecutive edges of the back panel 14. Top panel 26 may comprises a zipper or other closure mechanism 28 for connecting the three consecutive edges fop top panel 34a-c to the three consecutive upper periphery edges of compartment 36a-c. In the alternative, top panel 26 may comprise a zipper or other closure mechanism 28 for securing the top panel 26 to one or more of the front or side panels to securely retain items located inside the cavity formed within container 10.

As shown in FIG. 2, liner 38 is constructed to fit within interior compartment 24 of insulated container 10. Liner 38 is preferably the same general shape as container 10 and slightly smaller in dimension to ensure a secure fit of liner 38 within compartment 24. It is also within the scope of the present invention, however, for liner 38 to be a different shape than container 10, provided liner 38 still fits within the compartment 24.

Liner 38 is adapted for insertion and removal from compartment 24. As shown in FIG. 1, liner 38 comprises front panel 40, back panel 42, first end panel 44, second end panel 46, bottom panel 48 and an open top 50 forming a cavity 52 within the liner.

Panels 40, 42, 44, 46, 48 of liner are made of rigid plastic and are connected to each other at seams Sx located at corners and mid-points of panels to allow for the collapse and folding of liner along seam lines. First and second end panels 44, 46 of liner may be collapsed inwardly as shown in FIG. 6 or outwardly as shown in FIG. 7.

In a first embodiment, shown in FIG. 1, seams S1-15 comprise living hinges made of the same material as liner panels 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, but of a smaller thickness.

In another embodiment, shown in FIG. 3, seams S1-15 are made of a second material different from that of liner panels 40, 42, 44, 46, 48. The second material is flexible and waterproof and is preferably thermoplastic rubber, thermoplastic polyurethane, silicone, or the like. It is also within the scope of the present invention for seams S1-15 to be of a wider thickness (as shown in FIG. 4) to allow for easier collapsibility of the liner 38.

While various configurations of panels and seams are possible, a preferred pattern (shown in FIG. 1) includes two large rectangular panels (front panel 40 and back panel 42) located opposite each other and forming the sides of the receptacle. The bottom portion 48 comprises 2 rectangular panels 48a, 48b hingedly attached to each other along a center line seam S1. The exterior edge of each bottom panel 48a, 48b is hingedly attached to the lower edge of the front panel 40 and back panel 42, respectively, along seams S2 and S3. Two triangular shaped panels 44a, 44b connect to a first end of bottom panels 48a, 48b and two triangular shaped panels 46a, 46b connect to second end of bottom panels 48a, 48b along seams S4 and S5, respectively, located along a first side of the triangular shaped panels. Panels 44a, 44b are hingedly connected to each other along a portion of seam S6, and panels 46a, 46b are hingedly connected to each other along a portion of seam S7. As shown in FIG. 1, the hypotenuses of the panels 44a, 44b, 46a, 46b are hingedly attached to two upper quadrilateral panels 44c, 44d and 46c, 46d to complete first end panel 44 and first end panel 46 along flexible seams S8, S9, S10 and S11. Upper quadrilateral panels 44c and 44d are similarly connected to each other along a portion of flexible seam S6 located along the shorted side edge and upper quadrilateral panels 46c and 46d are connected to each other along a portion of flexible seam S7 in a similar manner. The longer side edges of 44c, 44d, 46c and 46c are connected to the respective edges of front panel 40 and back panel 42 by seams S12, S13, S14, and S15.

As noted above, seams Sx preferably comprise living hinges made of the same material as liner panels, but of a smaller thickness. Seams may also, however, be made of a second material different from that of liner panels. The second material is flexible and waterproof and is preferably thermoplastic rubber, thermoplastic polyurethane, silicone, or the like. It is also within the scope of the present invention for seams to be of a wider thickness to allow for easier collapsibility of the liner 38.

As shown in FIGS. 10-13, cart 50 may be provided for ease of transport of container 10 and its contents. Cart 50 is preferably of a construction generally known in the industry for use with luggage, bags and various containers. Cart 50 comprises at least 2 wheels 52 which may be connected along an axis which passes through frame 54. Frame 54 is preferably foldable along at least one axis point to enable compact storage when not in use. As shown in FIG. 12a-c, lower frame portion 56 supports container 10 along the horizontal plane and may be rotated around a hinge or axis point for vertical-plane storage of frame 54 when not in use. Cart 50 also preferably comprises a retractable handle 58 for use in transport of container 10 and its contents. Container 10 comprises a releasable securing mechanism 60 for secure yet selectively releasable retention onto cart 50. As shown in FIG. 11, the preferred securing mechanism 60 comprises a set of adjustable webbing straps having buckles. It is also within the scope of this invention to utilize straps having hook and loop mechanisms or other securing means known and used in the industry.

As shown in FIG. 9 and FIGS. 14 and 15, liner 38 comprises an integral drain element 70 which provides fluid communication between the interior of liner and the exterior of liner. Drain element 70 allows for melted ice, spilled liquids and other materials to be easily removed from the interior of liner 38 without the need for lift and tipping the entire liner or container, thus avoiding spilling the contents thereof. As shown in FIG. 10, aperture 72 is located on a corresponding panel of container 10 to properly align with drain element 70 located on liner 38. The alignment thereof allows for fluid communication between the interior of liner and the exterior of container 10. Aperture 72 is sized and shaped to accommodate drain spout 74. Although drain element 70 and aperture 72 are shown located on the front panel of liner and container, they can easily be located on the back panel, either end panel or on the bottom panel, provided both are in proper alignment with each other. As shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, drain element 70 is of standard construction, but preferably comprises removable cover 76 to allow for selective access to drain and for selective elimination of fluids from the interior of liner. Cover 76 is releasably secured to drain spout 74, preferably through the use of a threaded member, but other means known in the industry are within the scope of the present invention. It is also within the scope of the present invention for spout 74 to comprise a liquid dispenser known in the industry.

As also shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, liner 38 may comprise a sliding lock mechanism 80 to assist it retaining liner in its fully expanded configuration when in use and prevent unintentionally folding or collapse of the side walls of liner 38. The top side of liner 39 may comprise a detent to retain sliding lock in place and require the exertion of a set amount of force to “unlock” the sliding lock and enable the liner to fold or collapse when desired.

FIG. 13a-c depicts the collapsibility of container 10 and liner 38 in connection with drain element 70 and further shows the functionality of drain element 70 as a retaining means for retaining the container 10 in its collapsed and folded configuration. In operation, all contents of the liner and container (with the exception of the liner itself) are removed and any remaining liquid is eliminated, preferably through drain element 70. The sliding lock mechanism 80 is slid to one corner of each liner top side 39 to allow the liner 30 to be collapsed. The container 10 is thereafter collapsed upon itself in a front/back matter (e.g. in a horizontal manner and not vertically) as shown in FIG. 13a. Cover 76 is removed from spout 74 to expose the end of the spout. Once the container 10 is mostly in its collapsed configuration, top panel 26 is folded over the front panel of container. Top panel 26 may comprise an additional lip 27, but such it not required. Lip 27, if present, or if lip 27 is not present, then the front edge of top panel 26 comprises an aperture 78 sized and shaped to accommodate drain spout 74. Aperture 78 is located over spout 74 and cover 76 is replaced onto spout 74, thereby securing container in a collapsed configuration. Of course, it is within the scope of the present invention for other securing means other than aperture 78 to operate to retain container in its collapsed configuration.

When folding and collapsing the liner 38 between the fully expanded and fully collapsed configurations, the first and second end panels 44, 46 may be folded inward as shown in FIG. 6 or outward as shown in FIG. 7 to allow the bottom panel 48 to collapse upward (or downward) and the front and back panels 40, 42 to move closer towards each other in relation to where they were in the expanded configuration.

A preferred method of manufacture comprises using a die-cut piece of rigid plastic material. The material is preferably cut in a single sheet of material in the pattern shown in FIG. 5. If a living hinge is to be utilized, the material located along seams S1-15 is cut thinner than the remaining panels. The sheet is then folded and assembled into the expanded liner 38 and the open seams are welded together to form the completed liner 38.

If the flexible hinge configuration is to be utilized, the individual panels are cut apart from the sheet and each panel is placed into a separate die wherein a second more flexible material is added to the rigid panels and allowed to cure such that the rigid panels are connected to each other along seams S to form expanded liner 38 in the desired configuration wherein the flexible material is located at each seam, thereby resulting in a flexible hinge. In the alternative, it is also within the scope of the present invention to utilize the flexible hinge configuration but to keep at least the end panel pieces as a single piece wherein tabs of material connect end panel pieces to each other. The tabs are made of the same material as end panels, but in a thinner construction. Tabs (not shown) assist in keeping end panel pieces in the proper location and orientation during the application and curing of the flexible material.

Container 10 may have additional features, many of which may be common to coolers. For example, container 10 may include additional features, such as pockets, carabineers, additional handles and the like. As another example, while the above description refers to soft-sided coolers, the above coolers may be made to have hard sides. Fasteners other than zippers may also be used. For instance, a hook and loop fastener may be used instead of a zipper. Moreover, the container 10 may include more than one zipper or other fasteners.

In an alternative embodiment shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, the container has the same general construction as described above utilizing flexible material at the seams. The seams, however, are wider in relation to the rigid material sections. Additionally, seams S6 and S7 extend only partially on end panels 44 and 46, extending only between end panels 44c and 44d and also between end panels 46c and 46d, as shown. In this embodiment, triangular end panel pieces 44a, 44b, 46a and 46b are not present. The area consumed by 44a, 44b, 46a, and 46b in FIGS. 1 and 5 is consumed by the flexible material in FIG. 8. As can be seen, seams S8, S9, S10, and S11 have been eliminated and seams S4 and S5 comprise more of a triangular shape and consume the spaces filled by 44a, 44b and 46a, 46b in FIGS. 1 and 5.

Other variations are within the spirit of the present invention. Thus, while the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative constructions, a certain illustrated embodiment thereof is shown in the drawings and has been described above in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific form or forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention, as defined in the appended claims. For example, container 10 can function as a collapsible liner for removable insertion in a soft-sided cooler, but container 10 can be utilized on its own as a stand-alone container or used in outer containers other than soft-sided coolers.

All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents, cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. The term “connected” is to be construed as partly or wholly contained within, attached to, or joined together, even if there is something intervening. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate embodiments of the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.