Patent application title: CONVENIENT FOOD CONTAINER
Terry Vovan (Upland, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AA47G1902FI
Class name: Receptacles table dish (e.g., plate, bowl, platter, etc.) with eating aid
Publication date: 2009-05-14
Patent application number: 20090120942
A food container includes a base (12) with a food-holding cavity (14) and
a lid (20) that closes the cavity, each formed of plastic sheeting. The
lid defines an eating utensil (32) such as a fork, by a breakaway line
that extends around the utensil and that can be easily broken to remove
the utensil. The base has radially inner and outer upstanding flanges
(64, 62) and an upwardly-opening base groove (66) between them that
receives a lid lip (72). At an initial opening section (60) that occupies
less than one-fifth of the container perimeter, a section (62A) of the
outer base flange is partially separated from the rest of the base by a
cut (80) extending along the base groove and by opposite breakable lines.
At that section, the inner base flange (64A) is of reduced width to
provide more room for a person to grasp the lid, and there is also a
smaller interference fit between the base inner flange with walls of the
1. A food container that includes a base that forms a food-holding cavity
and a lid, the base and lid each formed of plastic sheeting, wherein:said
lid defines an eating utensil in the same plastic sheeting that forms a
portion of the lid, and said lid defines a breakaway line that extends
around the utensil and that can be broken to remove the utensil from the
rest of the lid portion and thereby leave a hole in the plastic sheeting
of the lid.
2. The food container described in claim 1 wherein:said lid center portion includes said eating utensil, and includes a surrounding region that lies primarily in a horizontal plane, said utensil having projecting portions that extend vertically out of said plane.
3. The food container described in claim 1 wherein:said lid center portion defines an extension that is mountable on said eating utensil to lengthen it.
4. The food container described in claim 2 wherein:said eating utensil comprises a fork that includes a handle and a head that forms tines, said head having parts that project out of the plane of said surrounding region of said lid center portion.
5. The food container described in claim 4 wherein:said utensil projecting portions project downward below said horizontal plane, whereby to avoid interference with stacking of a plurality of said food containers.
6. The food container described in claim 3 wherein:said utensil projecting portions includes an upward projecting utensil part that projects above said horizontal plane, and said base has a downward projecting base support that lies around said upward projecting utensil portion when two identical food containers are stacked on one another.
7. The food container described in claim 1 including:a label that lies over said eating utensil and over an area surrounding the eating utensil.
8. The food container described in claim 1 wherein:said eating utensil has a handle with horizontally spaced opposite handle sides, and each of said handle sides has a vertically-projecting flange, whereby to strengthen each handle side to avoid breaking the handle when it is detached from said rest of said lid.
9. The food container described in claim 1 including:a covering (134) that is closeable over said base cavity, and where said lid is a storage lid (132) that is formed from sheet plastic and is stowable under said covering.
10. The food container described in claim 1 including:a covering (134), and where said lid is a storage lid (132) said covering and said storage lid being formed from a single deformed sheet of plastic and that are pivotally connected by a hinge (150), said eating utensil being formed in said storage lid.
11. A method for forming an eating utensil and storing it with a food container, comprising:forming the eating utensil in a piece of plastic sheeting with said plastic sheeting defining a breakaway line that extends around the utensil and that is breakable to remove the utensil from the rest of the piece of plastic sheeting, and mounting said piece of plastic sheeting on the container.
12. A plastic food container that has a vertical axis and that includes a base that forms a food-holding cavity and a lid that covers the base, wherein:said base has a top peripheral region that forms an upward projecting radially inner base flange, an upward projecting radially outward base flange, and an upwardly opening base groove between said base flanges;said lid has a downwardly opening lid groove that receives said radially inward base flange, and said lid has a peripheral lid lip that lies in said base groove;said lid lip is inaccessible except at an initial opening location where said outward base flange has a breakaway section that is breakable by hand to provide access to said lid lip so the lid lip can be grasped and lifted to open the container;said inner base flange has a predetermined average radial width and has a narrow section that has a smaller average radial width (Y) than said predetermined average width, said narrow section lying directly radially inward of said breakaway section.
13. The food container described in claim 12 wherein:said lid groove forms an upwardly-facing shoulder and said inner base flange forms a downward facing shoulder, with said base flange having a smaller width than said lid groove to enable said base shoulder to be moved out of alignment with said lid shoulder.
14. The food container described in claim 12 wherein:said breakaway section of said outward base flange has a pair of radially-extending flattened portions with primarily radial break lines therein, and walls of said base groove form a primarily circumferential cut that connects said radial break lines, said circumferential cut lying closer to said base inner flange than said base outer flange.
15. A food container that includes a base forming a food-holding cavity and a lid that lies over said base and closes it, wherein:said base has a top peripheral region that forms radially inward and radially outward base flanges that each has radially inner and outer flange walls and a connecting top and said base forms a base groove that lies between said base flanges and has a groove bottom wall;said lid has a lid flange with radially inner and outer flange walls and a top, and that forms a downward opening lid groove that receives said base inward flange, said lid having a lip at a radially outer edge of said lid, said lip lying in said base groove;the inner and outer flange walls of said outer base flange have upper ends spaced apart by an average first spacing that results in an interference fit of said outer base flange in said lid upward groove, except at an initial opening location where upper ends of said inner and outer flange walls of said outer flange are spaced apart by a second spacing (Y) that is less than said first spacing.
16. The food container described in claim 15 wherein:at said initial opening location a limited part of said base outer flange and of said base groove bottom wall forms a breakaway section that can be easily hand breakable, to provide access to said lid lip.
17. The food container described in claim 16 wherein:said breakaway section has a circumferentially-extending cut and at least one primarily radially-extending line that extends primarily radially from and end of said cut to a radially outer edge of said base;said lid flange covers said cut, to resist accidental breaking of said breakaway section.
18. The food container described in claim 16 wherein:said lip of said lid that lies in said base groove, and said lip has a corrugation (122) that forms upstanding ribs (122).
19. A food container that includes a base forming a food-holding cavity and a lid that lies over said base and closes it, wherein:said base has a top peripheral region that forms radially inward and radially outward base flanges that each has radially inner and outer flange walls and a connecting top and said base forms a base groove that lies between said base flanges and has a groove bottom wall;said lid has a lid flange with radially inner and outer flange walls and a top, and that forms a downward opening lid groove that receives said base inward flange, said lid having a lip at a radially outer edge of said lid, said lip lying in said base groove;said lid lip having an outer lid edge that lies adjacent to a radially inner wall of said base outer flange, and said lip having corrugations that form upstanding ribs to stiffen said lip against upward flexing of its outer lip edge.
20. The food container described in claim 19 wherein:said corrugations form upstanding ribs that are angled from both radial and circumferential directions.
21. The food container described in claim 19 wherein:said lid flange outer wall and said outward base flange are spaced apart by a radial distance (W) of no more than 10 mm and said lip has a radial width (X) of no more than 10 mm, whereby the lid lip is difficult to grasp.
This is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/075,549 filed Mar. 12, 2008, which claims priority from U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/002,672 filed Nov. 10, 2007. Applicant also claims priority from U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/098,583 filed Sep. 19, 2008.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
When a person buys ready-to-eat food, the store often provides at least one eating utensil such as a fork. The container that holds the food can be provided with an eating utensil that was attached to the container at the factory that supplies the container. The food containers are often sold wholesale at a low price such as several cents per container, and the cost of producing a utensil and the cost of mounting the utensil on the container, can increase the wholesale price appreciably. A way to significantly lower the cost for a utensil and installing it would be of value.
Some containers with food already in them, are opened by breaking a shielding part of the base to provide access to a lid lip that is grasped to open the lid. The breaking of the part is evident, and serves to discourage breaking in, while also assuring a buyer that the container has not been broken into by someone who wants to "just take a tiny taste of the food." Even when the shielding part is broken, it can be difficult for a person to grasp the lid, and container constructions that facilitated grasping the lid after breaking the shielding part would be of value.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, a food container is provided that can include an eating utensil at little or no cost, and that has a tamper evident portion that still allows easy opening of the container. The container includes a base and a lid that covers the base, with both formed of sheet plastic, as by providing at least one separate sleet for the base and one for the lid or by providing a single sheet with a hinge portion that connects the base and lid. A sheet formed by the lid or a separate sheet pivotally connected to the lid, defines at least one eating utensil. The eating utensil is defined by a breakaway line formed in the sheet that extends around the utensil and that can be easily broken to remove the utensil from the rest of the sheet. When the utensil is formed in the lid, a label can lie over the utensil to block a hole in the lid left when the utensil is removed. The utensil can be formed in a flat lid central portion, and the utensil preferably includes a portion that extends out of the plane of the central portion.
The base has inner and outer upward flanges that form a base groove between them. The lid forms an upward lid flange that receives the base inner flange, and the lid forms a lid lip that lies in the base groove. It is very difficult for a person to grasp the lid lip to open the container, except at an initial opening region. At the initial opening region, a part of the base outer flange and base groove walls can be broken away to provide better access to the lid lip, by reducing the radial width of the base inner flange so the part that can be broken away extends further radially inward along the underside of the lip lid. Also, the interference fit between the inner base flange and the lid flange is reduced at the initial opening region.
The novel features of the invention are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The invention will be best understood from the following description when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is an exploded isometric view of a food container of the invention, without a label over the lid.
FIG. 2 is an isometric view of the container of FIG. 1 with the lid closed on the base.
FIG. 2A is an enlarged view of area A-A of FIG. 2.
FIG. 3 is a plan view of the container of FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 is a sectional view taken on line B-B of FIG. 3, but with a label on the lid.
FIG. 4A is a sectional view of initial opening area D-D of FIG. 4.
FIG. 4B is a sectional view of a majority of the perimeters of the base and lid as shown in area E-E of FIG. 4.
FIG. 4C is a sectional view of area F-F of FIG. 4.
FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken on line C-C of FIG. 3.
FIG. 5A is an enlarged view of area G-G of FIG. 5.
FIG. 6 is a top view similar to that of FIG. 3, but showing a spoon as the utensil instead of a fork.
FIG. 7 is a top view similar to that of FIG. 6, but showing both a fork and a spoon as utensils, and also showing an extension.
FIG. 7A shows the extension of FIG. 7 removed from the lid, and shows it mounted on a fork that is shown in phantom lines.
FIG. 8 is a left side elevation view of the container of FIG. 3, which includes the initial opening section.
FIG. 9 is a bottom view of the container of FIG. 3.
FIG. 10 is a plan view of the lip of the lid of a container of another embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 11 is a sectional view taken on line 11-11 of FIG. 10.
FIG. 12 is an isometric view of an open food container of another embodiment of the invention wherein an eating utensil is formed on an auxiliary sheet that is pivotally connected to the lid.
FIG. 13 is a plan view of a portion of the container of FIG. 12.
FIG. 14 is a plan view of a food container of another embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 15 is a sectional view taken on line H-H of FIG. 14.
FIG. 15A is an enlarged view of area J-J of FIG. 15.
FIG. 15B is an enlarged view of area K-K of FIG. 15.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 1 shows a food container 10 that includes a base 12 that forms a cavity 14 that holds food, and that includes a lid 20 that covers the base. The base and lid have peripheral portions 22, 24 that latch against one another to securely hold the lid down against the base. The base and lid are each preferably formed of a sheet of plastic that has been thermally deformed, although the base and lid could be formed of a single piece of sheet plastic that also forms a hinge between them.
The lid has a center portion 30 in which an eating utensil 32 such as a fork, has been formed during thermal forming of the lid. FIG. 2 shows that the fork preferably is three dimensional, in that the head 34 of the fork with tines 35 is bent out of the plane of the top of the fork handle 36 and therefore out of the plane in which most of the lid center portion 30 lies. The projection is preferably downward to avoid interference with stacking of containers on one another. However, FIG. 4 shows that the utensil can have an upward projecting utensil part 32U, and with the base having a downward projecting base support 26 that lies around the upward projecting utensil part. Then, when identical containers are stacked, there is no interference.
The fork handle 36 (FIG. 2A) has ribs 38, 39 that stiffen the handle. The fork periphery is separated from the rest, or surrounding portion of the lid center portion 30 by cuts, or breakaway lines 44 that extend around a majority of the fork but that leave connecting parts 46 that must be broken to remove the fork. The ribs 39 at opposite sides of the fork help stiffen the fork to prevent damage to it during breaking of the connecting parts. A paper label 50 (FIG. 4) preferably lies over the fork and areas of the lid surrounding the fork, to provide a seal over the cuts in the lid center portion that form the fork and for sanitation.
FIG. 7 shows a fork and knife 52, 53 that can be broken out of a lid 54. The figure also shows an extension 55 that can be broken out of the lid. FIG. 7A shows that the extension 55 is formed with sides 56 that grasp opposite sides of the fork. The extension is useful where the small diameter of the lid 54 results in a fork that is too short for easy handling.
The food containers are disposable and are sold wholesale in large quantities at low prices. The forming of one or more utensils in the lid while forming the entire lid as by thermal deforming of a plastic sheet, avoids the need to separately produce utensils and separately mount them on the container.
FIG. 1 shows that the peripheral portion 24 of the lid is uniform around the axis 52 of the container. The term "radial" refers to directions toward and away from the axis. The peripheral portion 22 of the base is uniform except at an initial opening region, or tamper-evident region 60. The base peripheral portion 22 has upstanding outer and inner base flanges 62, 64 and forms a base upward-opening groove 66 between the upstanding flanges with a groove bottom wall 67. The lid peripheral portion 24 has an upward flange 68 that forms a downward-opening groove 70 that receives the base inner flange 64 when the lid is closed. When the lid is closed, a lid lip 72 lies in the base upward-opening groove 66 and cannot be grasped by a person because the base outer flange 62 is in the way. It is very difficult for a person to initially open the lid, without first breaking at least one end of an outer base flange portion 62A of the initial opening region 60 to move the flange portion out of the way so the lid lip 72 can be grasped to lift the lid.
FIG. 4B shows the closed container along almost all of its periphery (around more than 3/4ths, or 270% of the periphery) except at the initial opening region. The base flanges 62, 64 each has primarily vertical inner and outer flange walls, with the base outer flange 62 having flange walls 100,102 joined by a top 103 and the base inner flange 64 having flange walls 104, 106 joined by a top 107. The lid flange 68 also has flange walls 110, 112. The lid flange walls 110,112 converge in a downward direction D, and the corresponding base flange walls 104, 106 converge in a downward direction and engage the lid flange walls. As a result, it requires a firm upward force on the lid, while the base is held down, to open the container. However, at the initial opening region 60 shown in FIG. 4A, the base inner flange walls 104, 106 are closer together at their upper ends than in FIG. 4B, so the inner flange at 64A has a smaller width Y and so there is less interference fit with the lid flange walls 110, 112, which facilitates initial opening of the lid.
FIG. 3 shows that at the initial opening, or tamper-evident, region 60, the section 62A of the base outer flange 62 is partially separated from the rest of the base by a circumferential cut 80 and by radial lines 82, 84 of perforations or scoring that can be easily broken by hand (i.e. most people can break it). The rest of the base outer flange cannot be torn or broken by hand. The outer flange is flattened (to a height less than half that of the rest of the flange) at the lines 82, 84. The cut 80 has opposite ends at 80A, 80B, and the breakable lines 82, 84 extend primarily radially out from the cut ends. The lid lip 72 covers the cut 80, including its opposite ends 80A, 80B, to reduce the possibility that the section 62A will be inadvertently broken.
FIG. 4A shows that at the initial opening region 60 where the cut 80 lies, that when the flange section 62A is removed (at one or both of its ends) up to the cut 80 the lid lip 72 can be grasped to lift the lid. It is desirable that the radial width W of a top of the space 86 between wall 102 of the base outer flange and the lid flange wall 110 be small to prevent a person from inserting a finger into the space to grasp the lip 72 of the lid. However, once the outer flange section 62A has been removed, the radial length X of the lid lip 72 should be long enough to be grasped to lift the lid. Applicant accommodates these two requirements by angling the walls 102, 110 to diverge downward to make it difficult to insert a finger into the space, and by placing the cut 80 so it lies no further outward than the top 94 of the lid flange outer wall 110. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4A, applicant also narrows the base inner flange at the top at 103A so the lid groove 70 can be more easily lifted off the base inner flange 64A. The circumferential cut at 80B provides more room for a person's finger to lie under the lid lip 72 to grasp the lip. At the top of inner flange portion 64A the distance Y between outer sides of flange walls 104, 106 is smaller than around most of the container.
FIGS. 14 and 15 show another food container 160 which has an initial opening region 162 shown in FIG. 15A and a trapping region 164 in FIG. 15B. It can be seen in FIG. 15A that the base inner flange 166 and lid flange 170 are similar to the base inner flange 64A and lid flange 68 of FIG. 4A. However, in FIG. 15A the base inner flange 166 has a downward facing shoulder 172 that abuts a lid upward facing shoulder 174. When an outer flange section 176 is broken off to cut 80, a person can grasp a lid lip 180 and shift the flange 170 to open the container.
FIGS. 10 and 11 illustrate a lip 72D of the lid 20D of another container. Instead of providing a flat lip, applicant forms the lip with a corrugation pattern 120 that results in ridges 122. The ridges stiffen the lip. In a container of the construction shown in FIG. 4A that applicant has constructed and tested, the lip radial lengths Y and W were each about 5 mm. Many people find it difficult to grasp a lid of less than 10 mm radial length, such as only 5 mm (about 1/5th inch), of the container applicant constructed that extends beyond the circumferential cut 80 at the initial opening region. By providing the ribs resulting from corrugations, applicant roughens the lid lip to make it easier to grasp between the thumb and index fingers. Also, the corrugations stiffen the lip to make it more difficult for a person to insert the tip of a scissors or knife against the outer edge 124 of the lip to curl it and lift it. The corrugations preferably result in ribs that are angled from both the radial direction P and the circumferential direction C. In a container of the construction illustrated that applicant has constructed, the sheet plastic has a thickness of 0.028 inch (0.7 mm) and the total thickness at the corrugations was 0.045 inch (11.5 mm), or at least 50% greater.
FIG. 1 shows an eating utensil 32 formed in a lid 68 that closes on a base 12. FIGS. 12-13 show an eating utensil 130 formed in a storage lid 132 that is pivotally connected to a covering lid 134 that closes on a base 136. The storage lid pivots about axis 140 until it lies on top of the covering lid 134 and snaps into a covering lid recess 142. Projecting parts of the utensil 130 lie in the recess 142 of the covering lid. Then, the covering lid 134 with the storage lid in it, can be closed onto the base 136.
The base or base element 136 and lids or lid elements 134, 132 are all preferably formed of a single sheet of plastic, with hinges at 150, 152 for economical forming and handling. Each element can be separated from the others by tearing along a hinge.
Thus, the invention provides a convenient plastic food container that can be constructed at low cost. One or more eating utensils are provided and mounted on the container at little additional cost by forming the utensil(s) in a sheet such as a lid, which is easily mounted on the rest of the container. This is done by thermoforming a lid and leaving breakaway lines that define the outsides of the utensils. The utensil(s) are preferably three dimensional by having utensil portions project out of the plane of a surrounding lid portion. A paper label covers the utensil. An initial opening region of the container includes an outer flange portion that is easily breakable to provide access to a lid lip that is grasped to lift the lid. The base inner flange is narrowed along the initial opening region to facilitate grasping the lid lip and initially pulling it up off the base inner flange. Although a round container is shown, the container can have a variety of shapes. If a container includes a tray lying between the base and lid, the utensils can be formed in such a tray.
Although particular embodiments of the invention have been described and illustrated herein, it is recognized that modifications and variations may readily occur to those skilled in the art, and consequently, it is intended that the claims be interpreted to cover such modifications and equivalents.
Patent applications by Terry Vovan, Upland, CA US
Patent applications in class With eating aid
Patent applications in all subclasses With eating aid