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Publication numberUS20030136790 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/057,544
Publication dateJul 24, 2003
Filing dateJan 23, 2002
Priority dateJan 23, 2002
Also published asWO2003062082A1
Publication number057544, 10057544, US 2003/0136790 A1, US 2003/136790 A1, US 20030136790 A1, US 20030136790A1, US 2003136790 A1, US 2003136790A1, US-A1-20030136790, US-A1-2003136790, US2003/0136790A1, US2003/136790A1, US20030136790 A1, US20030136790A1, US2003136790 A1, US2003136790A1
InventorsCarolyn McNeeley, Leighann Sturgin
Original AssigneeMcneeley Carolyn M., Leighann Sturgin
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Food storage container with easy open feature
US 20030136790 A1
Abstract
A food storage container has a base with a bottom surface and a wall extending upward from a base perimeter of the bottom surface. The wall terminates at a top edge and defines an open top of the base. A rim extends at least partially around the base and extends radially outward from the upstanding wall. A lid is removably received over the open top of the base. The lid has a generally horizontal section with a lid perimeter that engages the top edge of the wall. An opening tab extends radially outward from part of the lid perimeter a sufficient distance to define an exposed tab segment adjacent a portion of the rim.
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Claims(25)
What is claimed is:
1. A food storage container comprising:
a base having a bottom surface and a wall extending upward from a base perimeter of the bottom surface, the wall terminating at a top edge and defining an open top;
a rim extending at least partially around the base and extending radially outward from the upstanding wall;
a lid removably received over the open top of the base, the lid having a generally horizontal surface with a lid perimeter engaged to the top edge of the wall; and
an opening tab extending radially outward from part of the lid perimeter a distance to define an exposed tab segment adjacent a portion of the rim.
2. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the wall is a curved wall that defines a generally circular open top to the base.
3. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the wall has interconnected wall sections that define in concert a generally rectangular open top to the base.
4. A food storage container according to claim 3, wherein the open top is substantially square.
5. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the rim is a continuous rim extending completely around the wall.
6. A food storage container according to claim 5, wherein the continuous rim has at least one radially inward cut out region that can align with the opening tab to provide clearance for the exposed tab segment.
7. A food storage container according to claim 6, wherein the continuous rim has a pair of radially inward cut out regions opposite one another.
8. A food storage container according to claim 6, wherein the continuous rim has a plurality of cut out regions spaced apart around the wall.
9. A food storage container according to claim 5, wherein the continuous rim has at least one pair of rim portions arranged opposite one another on the wall and that extend further from the wall than a reminder of the continuous rim, and which can be utilized as handles.
10. A food storage container according to claim 5, wherein the at least one pair of rim potions each also have a radially inward cut out region.
11. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the rim is at least one rim segment extending only partly around the wall.
12. A food storage container according to claim 11, wherein the at least one rim segment has a radially inward cut out region that can align with the opening tab to provide clearance for the exposed tab segment.
13. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the rim is a pair of rim segments arranged opposite one another on the wall, each rim segment extending only partly around the wall.
14. A food storage container according to claim 1, further comprising:
a lid attachment structure carried partly on the rim and partly on the lid for removably securing the lid to the base.
15. A food storage container according to claim 14, wherein the lid attachment structure comprises:
an attachment tab extending from the perimeter of the lid generally opposite the opening tab; and
an attachment portion of the rim adapted for removably coupling to the attachment tab.
16. A food storage container according to claim 15, wherein the lid attachment structure further comprises:
an opening formed in the attachment tab; and
a corresponding pin carried on the attachment portion of the rim, the pin being removably received in the opening.
17. A food storage container according to claim 15, wherein the lid attachment structure further comprises:
a hook formed in the attachment tab that hooks over the attachment portion of the rim.
18. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the exposed tab segment of the opening tab extends radially beyond a circumferentially juxtaposed portion of the rim.
19. A food storage container according to claim 18, wherein the juxtaposed rim portion is a radially inward cut out region of the rim.
20. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the exposed tab segment of the opening tab is disposed circumferentially adjacent a portion of the rim.
21. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the opening tab has an upwardly domed top surface defining a finger recess on an underside of the opening tab, and has a depending lip extending from a perimeter of the opening tab.
22. A food storage container according to claim 1, wherein the opening tab has a downwardly concave top surface defining a thumb recess on the top surface of the opening tab, and has a depending lip extending from a perimeter of the opening tab.
23. A method of installing and removing a lid of a food storage container, the method comprising the steps of:
providing a container base having a bottom panel and a base wall extending upward from a base perimeter of the bottom panel, the wall terminating at a top edge and defining an open top and having a rim flange extending at least partially around the base and extending radially outward from the wall;
removably installing a lid over the open top of the base, the lid having a top panel with a lid perimeter engaged to the top edge of the wall and having an opening tab extending radially outward from part of the lid perimeter a distance to define an exposed tab segment adjacent a portion of the rim flange;
gripping a portion of the rim flange; and
lifting the opening tab via the exposed tab segment upward to pry the lid from the base.
24. A method according to claim 23, further comprising the step of:
aligning the opening tab with a radially inward cut out region provided on the rim flange prior to the step of installing.
25. A method according to claim 24, further comprising the step of:
aligning the opening tab with a selected one of a plurality of the radially inward cut out regions.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The invention is generally related to food storage containers, and more particularly to a food storage container with an easy open feature for removing a lid.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Food storage containers are known that have a bowl or base that defines a food storage space therein. Many of these types of containers are also known to have a separate lid that can be secured over a top opening of the base to seal contents within the space of the container. In many circumstances, the lid secures to an upper or top edge of the base and can, in conjunction with the top edge of the base, create an air tight seal for the storage space.

[0003] One particular difficulty with such storage containers is in removing the lid from the base. To create an adequate seal with the base, the lid interlocks with the top edge of the base. Application of a substantial force is often required in order to release the lid. Applying sufficient force to break the seal in turn requires achieving an adequate grip on the lid to separate the lid from the base. Many food storage containers do not provide a specific opening feature to enhance the grip for removing the lid.

[0004] Many containers simply require an individual to hold the base exterior surface with one hand, to place the fingertips of the other hand under a small edge of the lid, and to peel or pry the lid from the base. The base often has a smooth, rounded exterior and can be difficult to hold with one hand. The base may also be too large to hold with one hand.

[0005] It is known to provide a lid having a tab extending from an edge of the lid. The tab can be gripped to assist in removing the lid. However, it is still difficult to hold the base while lifting the lid via the tab extension. U.S. Pat. No. 4,809,868 discloses a container with a more elaborate opening feature. The base has a flange extending from the base. The lid has a cam action release tab that, when pushed down, bears against the flange and lifts the lid from the container. The release tab and flange must be properly aligned to function. The parts can be more difficult and more expensive to mold or otherwise manufacture because of the complex nature of the opening feature parts. Also, the release tab disclosed in the Pomroy patent can be awkward to use because it requires pushing down on the tab in order to lift the lid.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0006] Exemplary food storage containers in accordance with the teachings of the present invention are described and explained in greater detail below with the aid of the drawing figures in which:

[0007]FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one example of a food storage container in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

[0008]FIG. 2 is a top view of the base of the container shown in FIG. 1.

[0009]FIG. 3 is a cross section of the base taken along line III-III as shown in FIG. 2.

[0010]FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the container shown in FIG. 1, with a part of the base shown in phantom view.

[0011]FIG. 5 is a front view of the container shown in FIG. 1.

[0012]FIG. 6 is a partial side cross section view taken along line VI-VI as shown in FIG. 5.

[0013]FIG. 7 is a top plan view of another example of a container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

[0014]FIG. 8 is a front view of the container shown in FIG. 6.

[0015]FIG. 9 is a partial side cross section view taken along line IX-IX as shown in FIG. 7.

[0016]FIG. 10 is a front perspective view of another example of a container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

[0017]FIG. 11 is a top plan view of the container shown in FIG. 10 and with a part of the base shown in phantom.

[0018]FIG. 12 is a side cross section view taken along line XII-XII of the container as shown in FIG. 11.

[0019]FIG. 13 is a top plan view of another example of a container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

[0020]FIG. 14 is a perspective back view of the container shown in FIG. 13.

[0021]FIG. 15 is a perspective back view of another example of a container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

[0022]FIG. 16 is a partial side cross section view taken along line XV-XV of the container as shown in FIG. 15.

[0023]FIG. 17 is a side view of an example of a lid attaching and aligning structure.

[0024]FIG. 18 is a top plan view of another example of a container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0025] The present invention is generally directed to a food storage container with an easy open and easy close feature. The above-noted problems with the prior art are improved upon or eliminated in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. A number of examples are disclosed and described herein in conjunction with the drawing figures.

[0026] Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 generally illustrates a container 30 having a base 32 and a lid 34. The lid 34 has a generally horizontally arranged top panel 35 with a lid perimeter 36 and an opening tab 38 extending radially outward from the lid. The base 32 generally has a rim flange 40 extending radially outward from the base. The opening tab 38 and rim flange 40 in each of the varied examples described below cooperate to provide an exposed tab segment of the opening tab 38. The exposed tab segment can be easily reached and pried upward while holding the rim flange 40 of the base to separate the lid 34 from the container 30.

[0027] FIGS. 2-6 illustrate various details of the disclosed container 30 constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The lid 34 has depending skirt 42 depending from the lid perimeter 36 of the top panel 35. The opening tab 38 in this example extends radially outward from the skirt 42. The skirt 42 terminates at a bottom edge 44 that faces the rim flange 40 when installed on the base 32. The base 32 has a generally horizontally arranged bottom panel 50. The bottom panel can include various structural features such as a downwardly depending rib (not shown) on which the base can rest. The bottom panel 50 can also include various surface contours as desired, such as strengthening ribs (not shown), although it is generally horizontally arranged.

[0028] The bottom panel 50 has a base perimeter 52. A continuous and generally cylindrical side wall 54 extends around and upward from the base perimeter 52. The side wall 54 terminates at a top edge 56 that defines an open top 58 of the base. The open top 58 provides access to an interior food storage space 59 of the base 32. In the present example, the wall 54 is a circular cylindrical wall and defines round or circular container shape. Other container shapes and configurations, such as rectangular or square, are certainly within the scope and spirit of the present invention (see FIG. 17, for example).

[0029] As is known to those having ordinary skill in the art, the container 30 including the base 32 and lid 34 can be injection molded, thermo-formed, or otherwise manufactured from suitable thermoplastic materials. It is often desirable for this type of container to be dishwasher safe, microwave safe, flexible, and the like. The present application presents no limitation as to the particular materials required to fabricate any component of the container 30.

[0030] The rim flange 40 in this disclosed example is an annular flange that extends completely around and radially outward from the wall 54. The rim flange 40 is spaced near but below the top edge 56 of the wall. A majority of the rim flange in this example extends a first distance D1 from the wall 54. The rim flange 40 has a first rim segment 60 that extends a second distance D2 from the wall 54 that is further outward than the distance D1.

[0031] The first rim segment 60 in this disclosed example provides a number of features of the container 30. First, the first rim segment 60 can function as one of a pair of opposed handles for lifting and carrying the base and the container. The rim flange 40 can therefore include an optional second rim segment 62 (shown in phantom in FIG. 2) that also extends a third distance D3 from the wall 54 that is further outward than the distance D1. The distances D1 and D3 can be the same or can be different, as desired. Also, the first rim segment 60 can have a radially inward first cutout region 64 at its outer edge. The first cutout region 64 can assist, along with the opening tab 38 of the lid 34, in removing and attaching the lid to the base 32. Referring to FIGS. 4-6, the first cutout region 64 of the first rim segment 60 is aligned with the opening tab 38 when the lid 34 is installed. The combination of the depth of the cut out region 64 and the length of the opening tab 38 presents an exposed tab segment 66 of the opening tab 38. In general, the exposed segment 66 provides easy access for a user to reach the opening tab 38 and to lift the lid from the base utilizing the tab.

[0032] In this example, the cut out region 64 exposes the tab segment 66. When installing the lid 34, the opening tab should be aligned with the first cut out region 64 of the first tab segment 60 to optimize removal of the lid. The portions of the first rim segment 60 that are adjacent to, but not overlapped by, the opening tab 38 extend the further distance D2 from the wall 54. Thus, these portions of the rim segment 60 provide a larger surface area than the rest of the rim flange 40 and assist in removal of the lid. A user can grip the rim segment 60 on either side of the opening tab 38, or can place a thumb or heel of one hand on this exposed part of the rim segment. At the same time, the user can lift the opening tab 38 with the other hand. The combined opening tab and rim segment structure permits a user to easily apply sufficient force and pry the lid from the base. In this example, by providing a rim segment 60 on either side of the opening tab 38, the feature is equally well suited for both right and left handed users. The rim flange 40 and rim segment 60 also provide for a stable, sure grip on the base when removing the lid. In this example, the length and width of the opening tab 38, the length and width of the rim flange 40, and the depth and width of the cut out regions 64 and 66 combine to provide an adequate size exposed tab segment 66 and exposed parts of the rim segment 60.

[0033] In another example, as exemplified in FIG. 13, an elongate opening tab 68 can be provided that extends beyond any portion of the rim flange of a base to provide the exposed tab segment 66. In such an example, the lid need not be aligned and can be installed in any orientation relative to the base, if desired. FIG. 13 also illustrates an alternative rim flange and an alternative lid alignment and attaching structure that are described below.

[0034] The opening tab 38 can be designed to provide features to enhance a user's grip on the tab, to add to the user's comfort level, and/or to assist in applying an upward force to the tab. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the opening tab 38 has an upwardly domed top 70 that defines a concave underside or finger recess 72 beneath the opening tab 38. A downwardly depending rib 74 depends from the perimeter of the opening tab 38. The rib 74 can be designed to provide structural rigidity to the opening tab 38, and can extend around the entire perimeter of the bottom edge 44 of the lid skirt 42, if desired, for additional lid strength. The depending skirt 74 can also provide, if made large enough, a positive ledge against which a consumer's fingers can rest in order to assist in prying the lid 96 from the base 94. The rib 74 can also be formed to create a smooth, rounded edge to the opening tab to provide a comfort bead on the tab perimeter, if desired. The finger recess 72 provides a more ergonomic surface for grasping the opening tab 38.

[0035] Referring now to FIGS. 7-9, another example of a container 80 is illustrated and constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The container 80 has a base 82 and lid 84. The base 82 has an upwardly recessed bottom panel 86, a base perimeter 88, and a side wall 90 extending around and upward from the base perimeter. The base 82 has a top edge 92 that again defines an open top 94 into a food storage space 95 of the base. The base 82 is very similar in construction to the base 32, but illustrates that characteristics of the base can vary considerably and yet fall within the scope of the present invention. Similarly, in this disclosed example, the lid 84 again has a generally horizontal top panel 98 with a lid perimeter 99, a skirt 100, a bottom edge 101, and an opening tab 102.

[0036] As shown in FIGS. 7-9, the opening tab 102 in this example includes a tab top surface 104 and a tab skirt 106 depending from a perimeter of the tab top surface. In this example, an upper side 108 of the tab top surface 104 is concave downward. However, the top surface 104 is elevated above the bottom edge 101 by the height of the tab skirt 106. Thus, the tab top surface 104 and skirt 106 form a finger recess 110 beneath the opening tab, but with a convex surface. The base 82 again has a rim flange 112 with a cut out region 114 that is preferably aligned with the opening tab 102 to form an exposed tab segment 116. A consumer can place one or more fingers beneath the exposed segment 116 of the opening tab 102 with their finger tips bearing against the skirt 106. The palm heel or thumb can rest in the concave upper side 108 of the tab. The skirt 106 and upper side 108 assist in gripping the tab 102.

[0037] In this example, the lid top panel 98 also has an optional thumb recess 118 disposed radially inward from the opening tab 102, but circumferentially aligned with the opening tab. When prying the lid 126 from the base 124, a user can alternatively place a thumb in the thumb recess 118 and one or more fingers beneath the opening tab 102 within the finger recess 110 to lift the tab.

[0038] Referring now to FIGS. 10-12, another example of a container 120 is shown and constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The container 120 has an alternative opening structure utilizing circumferentially adjacent elements. The container 120 has a base 122 and a lid 124. The base 122 in this example again has a bottom panel 126, a base perimeter 128, a side wall 130, a top edge 132, an open top 134, and a food storage space 136. The base 122 in this example has another different circular configuration again exemplifying that the configuration of the containers disclosed herein can vary considerably and yet fall within the scope of the present invention. The base 122 also has a radially outwardly extending rim segment 138 that extends a greater distance radially outward from the wall 130 relative to a remaining portion of a rim flange 140.

[0039] The lid 124 has a top panel 142, a lid perimeter, an annular skirt 146 depending from the perimeter, and a bottom edge 148. An opening tab 150 extends radially outward from the skirt 146. In this example, when proper rotational alignment between the lid 124 and the base 122 is achieved as shown in FIGS. 10 and 11, the opening tab 150 and the rim segment 138 are positioned adjacent and only partly overlapping one another. Thus, at least part of the opening tab 150 is an exposed segment 152 that is circumferentially adjacent the rim segment 138 of the base. To pry open the lid 124, a user simply places a thumb or palm on a top surface of the rim segment 138 and one or more fingers beneath the exposed segment 152 of the opening tab 150. The lid can simply be pried from the base. If desired, a thumb recess similar to the recess 116 of a prior example can be provided in the top panel to assist in removing the lid. Also, the opening tab 150 can be formed similar to the prior described tabs 38 or 102, if desired.

[0040] As with the prior examples, proper alignment between the lid 124 and the base 122 is preferable to enhance lid removal. The container 120 in this example discloses a lid alignment and attachment structure that can be utilized to achieve proper rotational alignment. The structure includes an attaching segment 154 that extends radially outward from the base wall 130 opposite the rim segment 138. The attaching segment 154 has an opening 156 formed therethrough. The lid 134 has an attachment tab 158 that extends radially outward from the lid skirt 146 and carries a downwardly depending attachment pin 160 that is removably received in the opening 156. This structure assures that the lid and base are properly aligned when the lid is installed. The structure also insures that the lid is not lost and remains removably attached to the base until complete removal is desired or necessary.

[0041]FIGS. 13 and 14 illustrate another example of a container 170 constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. In this example, the container has a base 172 with a rim flange 174 that has a pair of opposed rim segments 176 and 178 that extend radially outward from the base a further distance than the remaining part of the rim flange 174. The container also has a lid 180 with an opening tab 68 as described above. The opening tab 68 can vary in construction as described above but must extend beyond the appropriate rim segment 76 to provide the exposed tab segment 66.

[0042] The example shown in FIGS. 13 and 14 illustrates another attaching structure as well. In this example, an attachment tab 182 in the form of a material web extends radial outward from a skirt or perimeter 184 of the lid. The web or tab 182 has a necked down region 186 and a wider end 188. The rim segment 178 has a notch 190 formed therein and adapted to interlock with the attachment tab 182. The notch 190 has a pair of opposed detent regions 192, one defmed behind each of a pair of similarly opposed fingers 194 extending toward one another. A detent entry width is defined between the pair of opposed fingers 194. The attachment tab 182 is bent such that the necked down portion 186 is snapped between the fingers 194 and seats in the detent regions 192. This attaching structure can be utilized on any of the containers disclosed herein to rotationally align the lid to the base, if desired.

[0043] Referring now to FIGS. 15 and 16, another alternative attaching structure is disclosed. In this example, a lid 200 has a flexible attaching tab 202 extending radially outward therefrom. The attaching tab has an opening 204 therein. A base 206 has a pin 208 that extends horizontally from a support 210. The tab 202 is bent and the pin 208 is removably snapped into the opening 204.

[0044]FIG. 17 is a modified example of the structure shown in FIG. 16. In this example, an attaching tab or tether 220 extends from a lid 222 and has an opening. A pin 224 depends downwardly from a rim flange 226 of a base 228. The tether 220 is bent completely under the rim flange 226 and the opening snaps onto the pin.

[0045] As noted above, the lid and base shape and configuration of the various containers disclosed herein can vary considerably and yet fall within the scope and spirit of the present invention. FIG. 18 illustrates another of many different examples. As shown in FIG. 19, a container 230 has a base 232 and a lid 234. As shown herein the lid 234 includes a lid perimeter 236 that is non-circular. Instead, the lid is divided into four segments or sides 236 a, 236 b, 236 c, and 236 d that are slightly curved and interconnected to one another at what are generally described herein as corners 240. The sides are curved but have a different curvature than the corners 240. As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the sides can be substantially linear or have different curvatures as those shown. Similarly, the corners 240 can include a softer or much sharper curvature. The lid 234 in this example is a four-sided structure generally resembling a square rectangle though with non-straight sides. Many other shapes a possible.

[0046] The base 242 (not shown entirely) generally has a continuous wall having four wall segments that match the contour of the lid segments or sides 236 a-d. Again, the wall sections can be of different length rendering a different rectangular or other shape as desired and can be linear, or curved differently than the wall sections 214 shown in FIG. 20.

[0047] The base 242 shown in FIG. 18 has a rim flange 244 with a cutout region 246 disposed generally at each of the corners of the container. The lid 234 includes an opening tab 248 extending radially outward from one of the corners 240 of the lid perimeter 236. The lid in this example can be oriented such that the opening tab 248 is juxtaposed with any one of the cutout regions 246. A user simply grasps with one hand a portion of the rim flange 244 adjacent the opening tab 248, grasps an exposed segment 250 of the tab, and pries the lid from the base.

[0048] Although certain food storage containers have been disclosed and described herein in accordance with the teachings of the present invention, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the invention fairly falling within the scope of the appended claims, either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6807768 *Mar 20, 2003Oct 26, 2004Bell Laboratories, Inc.Bait station with screw-off child-resistant lid
Classifications
U.S. Classification220/793, 220/4.24, 220/805
International ClassificationB65D43/02, B65D43/10, B65D43/16, B65D1/26
Cooperative ClassificationB65D1/26, B65D2543/00101, B65D43/0222, B65D2543/00851, B65D43/164, B65D2543/00296, B65D2543/00842, B65D2543/00092
European ClassificationB65D43/02S5E, B65D43/16C1, B65D1/26
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 4, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: RUBBERMAID INCORPORATED, OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:MCNEELEY, CAROLYN M.;STURGIN, LEIGHANN;REEL/FRAME:012947/0468
Effective date: 20020515