US 20020145295 A1
A bottomless bag that provides a funnel-shaped receptacle designed to support the upper portion of a tapered container, such as a beverage cup or popcorn container, and allowing the bottom portion of the container to protrude through the open bottom of the bag. The bag design can include a compartment, located above the receptacle, to accommodate one or more additional items, such as a food item or other containers. The shape of the additional compartment, which is determined during manufacture, can take on a wide variety of shapes as required to accommodate the additional items or containers to be carried. A handle with handholds or fingerholds facilitates carrying the bottomless bag with one hand. The bag may also be draped over one's wrist or hooked on one's finger to free the hands to carry other items. The handles of multiple bags may be bunched together to allow one person to carry multiple bottomless bags.
1. A carrying device for articles that are substantially circular in cross-section and inwardly tapered from top to bottom, comprising:
a. A funnel-shaped receptacle having top and bottom apertures of predetermined size and spaced apart sufficiently to conform with and grip the upper-mid region of the selected article; and
b. Means for carrying said receptacle so that the center of gravity of said receptacle and said article are below said carrying means.
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10. A bag for carrying a drinking cup or similarly shaped container that is substantially circular in cross-section and inwardly tapered from top to bottom, comprising:
a. A funnel-shaped receptacle having top and bottom apertures of predetermined size and spaced apart sufficiently to conform with and grip the upper-mid region of the selected container; and
b. A handle portion attached to said top aperture of said receptacle and located above said receptacle so that said receptacle and said container hang below said handle when carried.
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 Referring now in detail to the drawings, a bottomless bag, generally indicated by the reference numeral 10 described therein. The bottomless bag 10 can be fabricated from any of a variety of flexible materials. The preferred construction uses flexible thermoplastic films that may be extrusion-blown from any suitable resins or otherwise produced in a manner well known by those with ordinary skill in the art of making bags for carrying commodities or other products. This preference however, is not intended to limit the types of materials that may be used. Further, fabrication of the bottomless bag 10 is not limited to one technique and can use the most advantageous method including, but not limited to:
 construction on from a flattened, tubular extrusion of plastic film;
 bonding of two coincident layers of flexible material, that need not be identical;
 rolling a single flat sheet of material so that opposite edges overlap in such a way as to form a cone shape, and gluing, heat sealing, or otherwise securing the two edges to each other at the overlap;
 other conceivable methods with the general requirement that they are able to produce a funnel-shaped receptacle of controllable dimensions.
FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of the preferred embodiment. FIG. 2 shows front and side views of the same embodiment. The general design of the bottomless bag 10 includes three basic sections—a body 26 with a funnel-shaped receptacle 24 to hold a beverage cup or similarly shaped cylindrical container that is inwardly tapered from top to bottom, an upper compartment 30 for an additional item or container F, and a handle section 34.
 The bottomless bag 10 is comprised of front 38 and back 40 panels of generally the same size and shape overlaying one another. The front 38 and back 40 panels are integrally joined at the sides adjacent to the receptacle 24 and upper compartment 30 by taper seals 22, neck seals 52, and side seals 32, respectively. The bottom 20 of the bag, and the top and side portions of the handle section 34 are open.
 The taper seals 22 extend from the open bottom 20 upward and outward fusing the front 38 and back 40 panels of the bag together to create a funnel-shaped receptacle 24 for a beverage container C or similarly shaped object. The taper created by the seals 22 is specifically designed to create a receptacle 24 whose taper matches that of the intended cup or object C. The length of the taper seals 22 is designed so that the receptacle 24 walls grip approximately the top one-third to two-thirds of the container C. The remaining portion of the container C protrudes through the open bottom 20 of the bottomless bag 10.
 The neck 28 provides an appropriate expansion in the bag's diameter at the top of the receptacle 24 to accommodate a lid L or closure on the container C, thus preventing interference with or inadvertent loosening of the lid L. The neck seal 52 determines the contour of the neck 28 and defines the transition from the body 26 to the upper compartment 30. The neck 28 is not required in some alternate embodiments, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4.
 Upper compartment side seals 32 extend from the neck seals 52 upward and outward along the outside edges of the bottomless bag 10 to form an upper compartment 30 located above the container C and lid L. The contour of these compartment side seals 32 can be varied during manufacture to create different compartment sizes and shapes as required to accommodate specific additional items or containers.
 The handle 34 is located above the upper compartment and is generally open along the top 35 of the bottomless bag 10 and along its sides between the top 35 and the uppermost extent of the upper compartment 30 to allow convenient use. Aligned handholds 36 are created by removing portions of the front 38 and back 40 panels adjacent to the open top end 35 of the bag 10. The handholds 36 in the preferred embodiment are rectangular in shape, but can take various other shapes, such as circular, ovate, etc. for aesthetic and functional reasons.
 Removal tabs 42 are formed from small flaps of the front 38 and back 40 panels created when the taper seals 22 are applied to the body 26 of the bag. In the preferred embodiment, they are triangular in shape and are bounded by the bottom 20 of the bag, the outside edges of the front 38 and back 40 panels, and the taper seals 22. Other removal tab 42 shapes can be created by adjusting the width of the front 38 and back 40 panel material and removing unwanted material, for example by die cutting. FIG. 9 shows an example of an alternate removal tab 42 design.
 Alternate embodiments of the bottomless bag 10 are shown in FIGS. 3 through 9.
FIGS. 3 and 4 do not provide an enclosed upper compartment or removal tabs. In place of a neck seal, a neck down 44 transitions the body 26 directly to the handle section 34, which extends immediately from the taper seals 22 that form the funnel-shaped receptacle 24. The handhold 36 is a small circular design intended for use with one or more fingers. Though not enclosed, the front 38 and back 40 panels can entrap an additional item, holding it in place as the handholds 36 are drawn together.
FIG. 5 also does not provide an enclosed upper compartment or removal tabs. Neck seals 52 provide more complete enclosure of the container C and lid L, after which a neck down 44 provides a transition to the handle section 34. The handhold 36 is a small circular design intended for use with one or more fingers. The front 38 and back 40 panels can entrap an additional item as the handholds 36 are drawn together.
FIG. 6 shows a fully enclosed upper compartment with an alternate handle section 34 in which the width of the handle 34 is narrower at the top 35 of the bag than at its base at the top of the upper compartment 30.
FIGS. 7 and 8 show a bottomless bag 10 made from a flattened, tubular plastic film. The taper seals 22 form the funnel-shaped receptacle 24. The upper compartment 30 is created within the tubular section of the plastic film, eliminating the need for side seals. In FIG. 7, the tubular section is just large enough to accommodate the container C and lid L. FIG. 8 provides a larger upper compartment 30. The handle 34 of FIG. 7 tapers inwardly above the upper compartment, making it narrower at the top and opening the sides of the handle section 34 to facilitate use. FIGS. 7 and 8 show rectangular handholds 36 and include removal tabs 42.
 FIGS. 9 shows a bottomless bag 10 with an enlarged upper compartment 30. The Neck 28 and Neck Seals 52 create a transition from the tapered receptacle 24 to create a “box” bottom 46 that enables the upper compartment to accommodate a large additional container.
FIG. 10 provides a perspective view of FIG. 9.
 Operation of Invention
 In operation, a tapered container, such as a beverage cup with lid, is placed into the bottomless bag through the opening at the top and lowered into the funnel-shaped receptacle. Additional items, if any, are inserted through the open top and placed into the upper compartment above the tapered container. As the handholds or fingerholds are drawn together, they enclose the additional item and secure it in place. Removal tabs provide a grasping point for removing the bag.
 The bottomless bag is carried by placing one or more fingers through the handholds and lifting. Since the center of gravity of the items carried is below the handle, the items will naturally tend to locate themselves directly under the handle, remaining in an upright position.
 The fingerholds of several bottomless bags can be bunched together to carry more than one bag simultaneously. The combined load of all bottomless bags will center itself under the handle whether an odd or even number of bags are held.
 With a sufficiently large handhold, the bottomless bag design also allows the user to slide their hand through the handhold, resting the handle on their wrist, thus freeing the hand to carry another item, such as a briefcase, or packages. Alternately, the user can hook the handle over one finger, sliding it to the base of the finger and again essentially freeing the hand to carry other items.
 Conclusions, Ramifications and Scope of Invention
 Thus the reader will see that the bottomless bag of the invention provides a convenient and secure means of transporting tapered containers, such as beverage cups, and food items with one hand or while holding other items. It is simple and economical to manufacture, using common materials and methods, and requires minimal storage space. Further it offers an inexpensive solution to fast-food restaurants, concessionaires, etc. through its single-unit design, yet can also satisfy the need to carry multiple beverage cups at one time.
 While the above description contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as an exemplification of one preferred embodiment thereof. Many other variations are possible. For example, handholds can be enlarged to allow one's entire hand to pass through, allowing the bottomless bag to be carried on the wrist; the front and back panels can have different characteristics, such as different colors, different materials, etc.; the front and/or back panels can carry advertisements or include coupons; the front and back panels can be made of transparent materials, allowing the contents with the concessionaire's or a franchisee's logo or name to show plainly; the size of the receptacle design can vary greatly, becoming large enough to carry a popcorn container, for example.
 Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not by the embodiments illustrated, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.
FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the present invention.
 FIGS. 2(A & B) shows front and side views of the preferred embodiment of the present
 FIGS. 3-9 (A & B) show alternate embodiments of the invention.
FIG. 10 shows a perspective view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 9.
 List of reference Numerals
 The described invention presents an open-bottomed, or bottomless, bag made of flexible material and forming a funnel-shaped receptacle for a tapered container with an adjacent compartment above for a food container or food item.
 The present invention relates to bags or carriers, specifically a bag for carrying or transporting common tapered containers, such as fast-food beverage containers, and additional items.
 A variety of devices have been created for transporting beverage cups and food items from fast-food or carry-out restaurants, coffee houses, and concession areas such as those in stadiums, movie theaters, and airports. The intent of these devices is to provide a convenient means of carrying one or more beverage containers, or cups, along with food items in a way that prevents spilling the contents during transport.
 Several general designs developed for this purpose include trays, bags, and carriers with apertures for the beverage containers.
 Tray designs, such as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,348,218 to Haire, et al. (1994), are constructed of semi-rigid material with a base panel that supports the weight of the carried items. The cups are placed in receptacles at the corners of the tray, and side panels contain food items carried in the center of the tray. These trays are typically carried with two hands, or balanced on one hand from below.
 Variations of the tray design include U.S. Pat. No. 5,524,814 to Davis (1996), which provides a handle that is attached to the center portion of the tray and located above the central food compartment. In U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,743,389 to Cutler et al. (1998) and 4,397,393 to Pergande et al. (1983), side panels extend vertically to the handle to partially or fully enclose the food and beverage compartment.
 Bag-type designs, as shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,850,911 to Pakzad (1998) and 4,832,188 to Christie (1989), are constructed of flexible materials. Receptacles help keep the cups upright, with the bottom or base panel of the bag supporting the weight of the cups. Side panels fully enclose the food and beverage compartment, which is located either between or above the beverage cups, and a carrying handle is located near the top of the bag.
 Aperture-type carriers are designed to carry common, disposable beverage cups that are tapered inwardly from top to bottom. The carriers provide a horizontal support panel constructed from semi-rigid materials with apertures, or openings, for the cups. The openings are smaller in size than the largest diameter of the tapered cup so that cups placed into the openings are held by the support panel. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,833,056 to Goldman (1998), 5,803,264 to Gersten et al. (1998), 5,609,379 to Harrelson (1997) and 5,738,217 to Hunter (1998) show variations of this type of carrier.
 These previous designs all suffer from one or more of the following basic deficiencies:
 1. Trays are unstable, especially when carried with one hand, since the center of gravity of the items carried is above the support point. Normally, they must be carried with two hands, which makes it very difficult to carry anything else at the same time.
 2. Larger cups can topple out of tray receptacles that are not deep enough since the center of gravity of the cup is above the restraining point provided by the receptacle. This limits the range of cup sizes the carrier can accommodate. To counteract this, the receptacles must be made deeper, which in turn makes the carrier larger. The larger carrier is more difficult to handle, requires more storage space and is more expensive.
 3. Multi-cup carriers are, by design, large and bulky, making it difficult to carry anything else at the same time (e.g. a shopping bag or a briefcase).
 4. Carriers designed for multiple cups array the receptacles around a central handle. Carrying an odd number of cups creates an unbalanced load that tilts the carrier to one side, making it more difficult to carry and increasing susceptibility to spilling.
 5. Some designs are fairly complex, requiring assembly, setup, gluing and/or multiple manufacturing steps. These all add cost to the carrier and commonly involve a trade-off between ease of assembly and compact storage at the point of use. Often, the time required to assemble the carrier can be prohibitive in a fast-food environment. Also, incorrect assembly can compromise the carrier's effectiveness.
 6. Multi-cup designs waste space and money when all of the receptacles are not filled, and increase the amount of material entering the waste stream.
 7. Aperture-type carriers require a separate, additional compartment for food items. This can increase cost, requires assembly at point of use, and increases inventory requirements.
 Objects and Advantages
 Accordingly, several objects and advantages of this invention are:
 a) To provide a carrier with support points above the center of gravity of the cup or similarly shaped container, so that gravity naturally keeps the cup in an upright position at all times;
 b) to accommodate a wide range of container sizes (e.g. Small, Medium and Large drink containers, or Small, Medium and Large popcorn containers);
 c) that can be easily carried using one hand, or even one finger;
 d) that is designed for a single meal unit (i.e. one beverage cup, or cup and food item), making it small and compact.
 e) That allows multiple units to be carried at the same time by bunching the handles together, with the multiple units naturally centering themselves under the handle to keep the cups upright and the load balanced;
 f) that can even allow other items to be carried at the same time in the same hand holding the carrier;
 g) that can be manufactured in a simple, single-step process using techniques in widespread use, does not require additional reinforcement, and requires no pre-assembly before use;
 h) that minimizes wasted material, cost and space through its single-unit design;
 i) that can provide an integral compartment for additional items or containers, and whose design is flexible and readily modified to accommodate a variety of container shapes and sizes;
 Further advantages of the bottomless bag carrier include:
 j) it can be manufactured from any of a variety of common, inexpensive flexible materials (plastic films, paper, etc.);
 k) it provides handles that, when drawn together, wrap around the contents to hold it securely in place.
 Further objects and advantages of this invention will become apparent from consideration of the drawings and ensuing description.