US 20030121932 A1
A dispenser for flat articles comprises a container holding the flat articles and a driving means on the container operated by a user for engaging and dispensing the article. The apparatus allows the user to dispense with the typical manipulations required to obtain access to a wrapped article such as chewing gum and the like. The preferred driving means includes a roller that can frictionally engage a flat article and be rotated by the user to dispense the article through a slot in the container.
1. Apparatus comprising a container for holding in stacked sequence a plurality of strips of a consumable article, said container having a slot therein through which a strip may exit the container, driving means for engaging a topmost one of the sequence and propelling it out of said container through said slot.
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FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate at 10 a first embodiment of a container in accordance with the invention. Container 12 of molded plastic or like materials well known to those in the art is fabricated so as to receive a plurality of consumable articles in the form of strips, one of which is illustrated at 14. A roller 16, preferably made of rubber, is received on axle 18, the axle 18 being suitably mounted for rotation at each side of container 12 so as to be rotatable within the container 12. Thumbwheel 20 is attached at one end of axle 18 so that rotation of the thumbwheel 20 by a user's finger or thumb will cause the rotation of roller 16, which, as illustrated, is pressing upon strip 14 and in frictional engagement with it, to thereby propel the strip 14 outwardly through slot 22. Thus the strip 14 can be readily engaged by the user's fingers or mouth so as to avoid having to deal with unwrapping or otherwise manipulating the strip before consuming or otherwise using the strip.
FIGS. 2A and 2B are respective top and side views of another embodiment of the invention. As seen in these Figures container 40 receives thumbwheel 42 that protrudes through top portion 44 of container 40. FIG. 2C is an end section illustrating a preferred method for mounting the thumbwheel 42. As seen in FIG. 2C, top portion 44 includes molded ears or flaps 46 a and 46 b having holes therein for receiving axle 48 on which thumbwheel 42 is affixed. With this arrangement top portion 44 of container 40 acts as a leaf-spring such that pressure on thumbwheel 42 will cause it to move downward into engagement with the top one 50 of the stack of strips shown at 52. It will also be understood that rotation of the thumbwheel in a clockwise direction (as seen in FIG. 2B) by a thumb or other digit will propel the strip 50 from the container through slot 54. So in using this apparatus, one depresses thumbwheel 42 through the space indicated at 56 into frictional engagement with the topmost strip 50 while simultaneously rotating thumbwheel 42 to propel strip 50 through slot 54.
FIG. 3 is a side view in section illustrating yet another embodiment of the invention. As seen in FIG. 3, container 60 has a closable angle-arm 62 hinged for example as shown at 64. Axle 66, also shown in FIG. 4, having pinion 68 mounted thereon, is rotatably received in container 60 in a suitable manner that may be similar to that shown in FIG. 1. FIG. 5 illustrates a pair of rollers 70 a and 70 b, preferably made of rubber, which are received on axle 66 and engage as seen in FIG. 3 with a consumable strip 72.
 In accordance with the invention, rack 74 is hingeably mounted on angle-arm 62 so that the teeth on rack 74 mesh with teeth on pinion 68. It thus will be appreciated that the action of moving the hinged angle-arm 62 downwardly toward the consumable strip 72 will rotate pinion 68 to thereby cause the rotation of rollers 70 a and 70 b to propel the consumable strip from the container 60 through slot 76.
 A preferred hinge arrangement of the angle arm is shown in FIG. 6. As illustrated, angle-arm 62, preferably of molded plastic, includes spur 78 that serves as a counter-force to the downward movement of angle-arm 62. When not in use, angle-arm 62 may be secured in closed position on container 60 by any suitable means well known in the art.
FIGS. 1A and 1B are a sectional side and top view respectively of a container in accordance with the invention;
FIGS. 2A and 2B are a respective sectional top view and side view of a second embodiment of the container in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 2C is a section through the container illustrating a preferred mounting arrangement for the thumbwheel shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B;
FIG. 3 is a side view of yet another embodiment of the container in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 4 illustrates the axle having a pinion thereon;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the rubber rollers through which the axle is to be inserted; and
FIG. 6 shows the angle arm with the hinged rack thereon.
 The present invention relates to apparatus for dispensing articles and more particularly to a device for dispensing strips of consumables such as Listerine Stripes or the like which might otherwise require unwrapping to enable access to the consumable prior to its use.
 In many instances, chewing gums and candies and the like are individually wrapped in order to keep the pieces separated prior to consumption and then the pieces are enclosed in yet another container that serves both as a protective cover and a holder for a plurality of such pieces. While this has worked well for the intended protective functions, the user has always had to confront the tedious manipulations required to obtain access to the wrapped piece.
 It has been found that such disadvantages can be overcome by providing a dispensing apparatus in accordance with the invention. In accordance with the invention, such a dispensing apparatus comprises a container for holding in stacked sequence a plurality of strips of a consumable, said container having a slot therein through which a consumable may exit the container, and driving means for engaging a topmost one of the sequence and propelling it out of said container through said slot. The driving means includes a roller mounted on an axle that can be rotated by the user.
 This invention was first disclosed in Disclosure Document No. 492752 filed Apr. 24, 2001 and specifically incorporated by reference herein.