BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates generally to disposable lids for hot beverage cups and, more particularly, to a disposable lid with a condiment port allowing a user to add condiments to a beverage in the cup without removing the lid and without increasing the risk of liquid spillage.
2. Description of Related Art
Many lids have been proposed for disposable cups such as those used at fast food restaurants. The cups are to a great extent standardized and are of an inverted frustoconical shape. The lids generally contain a channel that fits over the top rim of the cup and provides a spill-proof seal as well as a horizontal cover that extends over the opening of the cup. Such lids are typically made of vacuum molded plastic and ideally can be nested for easy transportation and storage prior to use.
Many variations to the lids are known to those in the field. In some cases there is a side wall that raises the horizontal cover above the height of the cup's rim. In other cases there are slits to push a straw through the cover or bubbles in the cover that can be depressed to signify the contents of the beverage. A common variation is the presence of a drinking port that enables the user to drink a hot beverage without having to remove the lid from the cup. This prevents any spilling of the beverage even after consumption has begun, and is especially beneficial in an unstable situation such as while walking, driving or riding in a moving vehicle.
Condiments are sometimes added to a beverage after the beverage has been purchased and the lid put on. This is especially true with hot beverages such as coffee, where cream and sugar are often added by the consumer after its purchase. Having to remove the lid in order to add the condiments minimizes some of the benefits of the drink-through lid design. However, none of the prior lids allows a user to conveniently add condiments to the beverage without removing the lid.
Some prior lids, such as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,186,842, have two ports on opposite sides of the lid. One port is designed as a drink through port and the other as a relief valve to allow excess gas and steam to escape and to break the vacuum. This second port is not large enough to introduce condiments into the cup and cannot be opened independently of the drinking port. Therefore, the disclosed lid is ill equipped to solve the problem of adding condiments to a beverage without removing the lid.
Some other prior lids have a single port that is unsuitable for the introduction of condiments into the cup. For example, the lid disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,898,299, contains a well with a raised multisided structure in the middle that contains eye-shaped slits at the frangible corner edges of the raised structure. These slits provided openings for the beverage to pass through the lid but are not large enough to add condiments into the cup.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,065,880, discloses a drink-through lid comprising a raised canopy that can be deformed to create a vertical opening. This opening allows liquid through only when it has horizontal as opposed to vertical motion. Having the opening in a vertical plane, while being tremendously useful to prevent spilling, also makes it very difficult to add condiments through the port while the lid is on the cup.
Other previous lids, while providing a structure that allows any excess beverage to reenter the cup, cannot handle sufficient material for use in introducing condiments into the cup. U.S. Pat. No. 4,582,214 discloses a lid that contains a well around the flap in the lid that traps excess fluid close to the flap where it can slowly drain back into the cup through the small opening left by the closed slit. This is sufficient for a small amount of excess fluid but is impractical for larger quantities of condiments, viscous liquids or non-liquid condiments such as sugar.
Still other lids such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos.: 5,799,814; 3,927,794; 4,210,256; 4,441,623; and 4,359,170, involve the use of a flap that is either opened by applying pressure to the lid or that can be placed into a static open position by the user. While these patents have varying structures and do not place size restrictions on the size of the tab, they still are unsuited to condiment addition. If the flaps are made large enough to add condiments through the lid conveniently, then they are too large for allowing a user to easily drink out of the cup without creating an unnecessary risk of spilling the beverage.
Another lid, disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,398,843, comprises a raised structure that can be inverted and partially separated in order to provide a drinking port. This structure was alas designed to minimize spilling while opening and drinking out of a cup. If the structure is made large enough to add condiments into the cup, then it becomes so large as to negate any advantage in preventing the spillage of the beverage.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,245,752 discloses a drink-through lid that allows the addition of condiments to the beverage through the drinking port. However it does not allow the addition in such a manner as to minimize the chance that the condiments will be spilled. While the valve in the mouthpiece is disclosed as being capable of opening sufficiently to introduce condiments into the cup, it is primarily adapted to facilitate drinking out of the cup without spilling. As a result, the user is required to add condiments through a spout-like protrusion, with any condiment that is not perfectly aimed landing on the lid of the cup and making a mess.
In summary, the prior art lids still effectively require the user to remove the lid in order to conveniently add condiments to the beverage prior to its consumption. Having to remove and replace these lids, especially while in a moving car or similarly less stable situation, greatly increases the probability of spilling the beverage, with associated risk of personal injury. A drink-through lid is therefore needed that can allow a user to add condiments easily to the beverage without having to remove the lid from the cup and without increasing the risk of spilling the beverage in the process. More specifically, a disposable drink-through cup lid is needed that has a second port optimized for the introduction of condiments into the cup through the lid and yet does not detract from the spill resistant quality of the drink through lid design.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention comprises a drink-through disposable cup lid that contains a condiment port optimized for the introduction of condiments into a beverage. The subject lid allows the user to conveniently add condiments without removing the lid, which helps prevent spillage of the beverage. The condiment port is on the opposite side of the lid from the drinking port. The drinking port can be of any conventional design.
When it is not in use, the condiment port is substantially blocked by a resilient cap that is unitarily formed as part of the cover. The cap can be selectively deformed by the user to create an opening sufficient to allow the introduction of condiments into the cup. The cap is biased to return to its original closed position when the deforming pressure is removed. This can be accomplished by the shape of the cap, the use of stiffeners added between the edge of the cap and the remainder of the lid, or the use of a rounded joint where the cap meets the rest of the lid or other similarly effective methods.
In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, when the cap is deformed it forms a trough that is angled downwardly toward the condiment port. This allows the cap to act as a funnel into the condiment port and ensure that all the condiment that is added gets directed through the condiment port. This trough allows the condiment port to be smaller, which helps prevent spilling of the beverage while still allowing convenient addition of condiments without removing the cover.
Also, it is advantageous that the slit defining the condiment port is oriented in such a way so that when the cup is tipped to drink out of the drinking port, the distance between the surface of the beverage and the slit increases. This can be done by cutting the slit perpendicular to an imaginary line that runs through the center of the lid between the drinking port and the condiment port. This insures that the surface of the beverage never contacts the slit during the normal tipping of the cup that is associated with drinking the beverage out of the drinking port. Therefore, it is much less likely that the beverage will spill out of the condiment port during normal usage.
In accordance with the present invention, the subject lid is easily formable using a single piece of vacuum molded plastic as is common for disposable cup lids. Alternatively, the lids can be made of injection molded plastic, or styrofoam, according to procedures that are known in the art. In addition, lids containing the present invention can be easily manufactured so that they can be nested together for simplified transportation and storage prior to their use on cups.
Some of the advantages of using a lid that has the current invention are:
condiments can be conveniently added to a beverage without having to remove the lid;
the resilient cap substantially blocks the condiment port when not in use and thereby maintains the spill resistant character of the drink through lid design;
the condiment port can be easily opened with one finger leaving the other fingers and the remaining hand free to hold the cup and add condiments;
the resilient cap is biased to return to its original closed position, thereby making the condiment port self-closing;
the condiment port will snap shut if the cup is dropped while in use, thereby preventing the contents from spilling;
the deformed cap can funnel the condiments through the condiment port so that there is less of a chance of spilling the condiments when trying to add them to the beverage; and
when the condiment port is recessed, another full cup can be placed on the lid in order to make it easier to carry multiple full cups at the same time.