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Publication numberUS20050205587 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/081,184
Publication dateSep 22, 2005
Filing dateMar 16, 2005
Priority dateFeb 18, 2003
Publication number081184, 11081184, US 2005/0205587 A1, US 2005/205587 A1, US 20050205587 A1, US 20050205587A1, US 2005205587 A1, US 2005205587A1, US-A1-20050205587, US-A1-2005205587, US2005/0205587A1, US2005/205587A1, US20050205587 A1, US20050205587A1, US2005205587 A1, US2005205587A1
InventorsIlan Sampson, Joshua Lieberman
Original AssigneePlaytex Products, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Cup assembly
US 20050205587 A1
Abstract
A cup for reducing or eliminating spillage or shake-out is provided. The cup has a cap and a spill and shake-out inhibiting element. The spill and shake-out inhibiting element is a dispensing tunnel, which provides for the formation of a pressure differential between the inside of the cup and the atmosphere when fluid begins to flow through the dispensing tunnel. The pressure differential, when it reaches a predetermined level, prevents further flow or movement of the fluid through the dispensing tunnel until additional suction is applied by the user. The diameter of the dispensing tunnel is small enough to effectively prevent air bubbles from flowing past the fluid in the dispensing tunnel. The cup is vented during dispensing of the liquid contained therein.
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Claims(22)
1. A valve for a cup having a cap and an inner volume, the valve comprising:
a passageway having first and second ends, said first end being open and in fluid communication with the inner volume of the cup, said second end being open and in fluid communication with atmosphere, wherein said passageway has a cross-sectional area that is small enough to substantially prevent air from flowing past fluid in said passageway when the cup is tilted or inverted, wherein said passageway has a length and a dispensing volume, wherein said length and said dispensing volume are large enough to substantially prevent spillage or shake-out of the fluid from the inner volume of the cup when the cup is tilted or inverted; and
a vent that alleviates build up of vacuum in the inner volume only when the fluid is being dispensed.
2. The valve of claim 1, wherein said vent comprises a vent opening, wherein said vent opening sealingly abuts the cap when the inner volume is at ambient pressure, and wherein said vent opening is separated from the cap when the inner volume is at negative pressure.
3. The valve of claim 2, wherein said vent has an annular wall that at least partially defines said vent opening.
4. The valve of claim 1, wherein said passageway is formed from a first channel having a first length that is open-faced, and wherein said first channel is sealed along said first length to form said passageway when the cap is connected to the cup.
5. The valve of claim 4, further comprising a second channel having a second length that is open-faced, and wherein said first and second channels have corresponding shapes thereby allowing sealing engagement to form said passageway.
6. The valve of claim 5, wherein at least one of said first and second channels is formed on the cap.
7. The valve of claim 4, wherein said first channel is formed on the cap.
8. The valve of claim 1, wherein said passageway is disposed in a first planar section having a first longitudinal axis, wherein the cap is disposed in a second planar section having a second longitudinal axis, and wherein said first and second longitudinal axes are substantially parallel.
9. A cup assembly comprising:
a cap having a first connecting structure;
a cup having an inner volume and a second connecting structure, said first and second connecting structures connecting said cap with said cup;
a valve having a passageway with first and second ends, said first end being open and in fluid communication with said inner volume of said cup, said second end being open and in fluid communication with atmosphere, wherein said passageway has a cross-sectional area that is small enough to substantially prevent air from flowing past fluid in said passageway when said cup is tilted or inverted; and
a vent that alleviates build up of vacuum in said inner volume only when the fluid is being dispensed.
10. The cup assembly of claim 9, wherein said passageway has a length and a dispensing volume, and wherein said length and said dispensing volume are large enough to substantially prevent spillage or shake-out of said fluid from said inner volume of said cup when said cup is tilted or inverted.
11. The cup assembly of claim 9, wherein said vent comprises a vent opening, wherein said vent opening sealingly abuts said cap when the inner volume is at ambient pressure, and wherein said vent opening is separated from said cap when the inner volume is at negative pressure.
12. The cup assembly of claim 11, wherein said vent has an annular wall that at least partially defines said vent opening.
13. The cup assembly of claim 9, wherein said passageway is formed from a first channel having a first length that is open-faced, and wherein said first channel is sealed along said first length to form said passageway when said cap is connected to said cup.
14. The cup assembly of claim 13, wherein said first channel is formed on said cap.
15. The cup assembly of claim 9, wherein said passageway is formed from first and second channels that each have a length that is open-faced, and wherein said first and second channels have corresponding shapes thereby allowing sealing engagement to form said passageway.
16. The cup assembly of claim 15, wherein at least one of said first and second channels is formed on said cap.
17. The cup assembly of claim 9, wherein said passageway is disposed in a first planar section having a first longitudinal axis, wherein said cap is disposed in a second planar section having a second longitudinal axis, and wherein said first and second longitudinal axes are substantially parallel.
18. The cup assembly of claim 9, wherein said cap has a spout in fluid communication with said second end of said passageway.
19. The cup assembly of claim 9, further comprising a disc having a first channel, wherein said passageway is at least partially formed from said first channel.
20. The cup assembly of claim 19, wherein said cap has a second channel, and wherein said first and second channels have substantially the same path and form lower and upper portions of said passageway.
21. The cup assembly of claim 9, further comprising a disc having a first channel, wherein said passageway is at least partially formed from said first channel, and wherein said vent is integrally formed with said disc.
22. The cup assembly of claim 9, further comprising a disc having a first channel, an annular wall and a vent opening, wherein said passageway is at least partially formed from said first channel, wherein said vent comprises said vent opening and said annular wall, wherein said annular wall at least partially defines said vent opening, wherein said annular wall sealingly abuts said cap when said inner volume is at ambient pressure thereby sealing said vent opening, and wherein said annular wall is separated from said cap when said inner volume is at negative pressure thereby venting said vent opening.
Description
RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority in copending U.S. Application Ser. No. 10/781,048, filed Feb. 18, 2004, which claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/448,184, filed Feb. 18, 2003, the disclosures of which are incorporated in their entirety herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to cup assemblies. More particularly, the present invention relates to a spill-proof and shake-out inhibiting cup-assembly.

2. Description of the Related Art

Cup assemblies designed to reduce or eliminate leakage or spillage are known. Such cup assemblies often employ valves or flow control elements that attempt to prevent unwanted dispensing of fluid held within the cup. Typically, such cup assemblies require hard or increased suction to be applied to the valve or flow control element for the fluid to pass through to the user, which is often due to the use of a blockage or obstruction disposed in the flow path or passageway.

An example of such a cup assembly and valve or flow control mechanism is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,422,415 to Manganiello. The Manganiello device includes a cup having an open end and a cap adapted to seal the open end. The cap has a drinking spout and a mating surface, with the mating surface being in fluid communication with the spout. The device also has a valving element that has a stack. The stack is sized and configured to engage the mating surface and thereby place the stack in fluid communication with the spout. The stack has a top portion with a concave valve face in the top portion that curves inwardly towards the stack.

An alternative type of flow control element is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,915,250 to Hayes. The Hayes device includes a container and a lid. The lid has a tubular chamber formed in the lid. The tubular-chamber is a single circular or helical loop that is disposed along an outer area of the lid.

In operation, when the Hayes container is tilted between an upright vertical position and a horizontal position, i.e., rotation of up to 90, any fluid that seeks to exit the container through the tubular chamber would be required to flow through a path along the circumference of the lid. The circumferential path would require the fluid to flow above the level of the fluid in the container, which it may not be able to do. Thus, the Hayes device intends that the fluid be prevented from exiting through the tubular chamber because the fluid cannot rise above the level of the fluid in the container. As an example, when the Hayes container is tilted or rotated to the horizontal, i.e., rotated 90, the fluid in the tubular chamber would be required to flow up to the highest point of the lid (along the circumference), which we will call the apex of the tubular chamber. The fluid in the container is below the apex or highest point of the lid and thus fluid flow above the level of fluid in the container, past the apex of the tubular chamber, is intended to be prevented.

However, the Hayes device suffers from the drawback of leakage or spillage when the container is tilted past the horizontal, i.e., when the cup is turned between 90 and 270. In such an orientation, which we will call upside-down or inverted for simplicity, the fluid in the container will cover the bottom side of the lid if there is enough fluid in the container. At a 180 orientation, i.e., completely upside-down or inverted, the fluid in the container is clearly covering the entire bottom side of the lid. With the fluid covering the bottom side of the lid, the path provided by the tubular chamber no longer requires any exiting fluid to flow above the level of liquid inside the container. At such an orientation of the container, i.e., upside-down or inverted, fluid can freely flow through the tubular chamber under the force of gravity and will spill or leak out of the container.

Additionally, the Hayes device can suffer from the drawback of spillage when the container is shaken. When being shaken, portions of the fluid in the tubular chamber near the apex of the tubular chamber can move past the apex due to the shaking motion. This portion of the fluid will then flow through the remainder of the tubular chamber and out of the container.

Many of the contemporary spill-proof cup assemblies suffer from the drawback of failing to eliminate significant or continuous spillage or shake-out of the fluid inside of the cup. Moreover, the contemporary devices do not facilitate drinking because increased suction is necessary to allow flow due to the use of a blockage structure in the flow path. The contemporary devices also do not facilitate cleaning of the flow control elements because they are difficult to access and have a small size that makes thoroughly cleaning difficult.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a cup assembly that reduces or eliminates significant or continuous spillage or shake-out.

It is another object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly that reduces or eliminates significant or continuous spillage or shake-out for any orientation of the cup assembly.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly that reduces or eliminates significant or continuous spillage or shake-out when the cup assembly is shaken or dropped.

It is still another object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly that facilitates the cleaning of the cup assembly including the cleaning of a spill and shake-out inhibiting element of the cup assembly.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly that facilitates the manufacturing of the spill and shake-out inhibiting element of the cup assembly.

It is yet a further object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly that does not require a spout.

It is still a further object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly which inhibits spillage and shake-out without the use of blockages in the flow path.

It is another further object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly which reduces or limits the turbulence through the flow path, such as, for example, by constructing the flow path without sharp corners.

It is yet another further object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly in which the spill and shake-out inhibiting facilities can be confined to a portion of the cap, such as, for example, preferably half of the cap.

It is still another further object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly that facilitates assembly of the components of the cup assembly.

It is yet still another object of the present invention to provide such a cup assembly that facilitates dispensing via venting of the cup assembly.

These and other objects and advantages of the present invention are provided by a cup assembly that requires a negative pressure, i.e., a suction force, to be applied to an aperture in the cup assembly in order to dispense fluid out of the assembly. Preferably, the cup assembly requires a small negative pressure or suction force to dispense fluid from the assembly. The cup assembly has a cup, a cap adapted to be removably connected to the cup, and a spill and shake-out inhibiting element positioned in the cup and/or cap. The spill and shake-out inhibiting element forms a dispensing tunnel or channel with the cap, which provides for the formation of a partial vacuum inside the cup resulting in a pressure differential between the inside of the cup and the atmosphere when fluid begins to flow along the dispensing tunnel. The partial vacuum or pressure differential prevents further flow of the fluid along the dispensing tunnel to prevent or limit spillage or shake-out.

The pressure differential results because the displacement of fluid out of the cup causes air in the cup to expand, which reduces the pressure in the cup. When the sub-pressure in the cup equals the pressure of the fluid-head furthest along the tunnel, the further ingress of the fluid into the dispensing tunnel ceases. The cross-sectional area or diameter of the dispensing tunnel is small enough to effectively limit or prevent air bubbles from flowing past the fluid in the dispensing tunnel, even when shaken, so that the pressure differential is maintained. The volume of the dispensing channel is large enough that the fluid front does not exceed a predetermined distance away from the outlet of the dispensing tunnel at any degree of fill of the cup so that spillage or shake-out is essentially prevented even when the cup assembly is shaken.

Preferably, the spill and shake-out inhibiting element is a removable structure, and more preferably a removable disc or other shape. The disc preferably has a channel formed in an upper surface thereof, which forms the dispensing tunnel when the channel is abutted against the lower surface of the cap. Preferably, all of the banks of the channel sealingly engage with the lower surface of the cap or lid. The channel sealing area can be confined to only a portion of the cap area, such as, for example, half of the cap. The removable disc can have a diameter that allows for an interference fit with the sidewall of the cap or lid. Preferably, the dispensing channel is formed without sharp corners.

In one aspect, a valve for a cup having a cap and an inner volume is provided. The valve comprises a passageway and a vent. The passageway has first and second ends. The first end is open and in fluid communication with the inner volume of the cup. The second end is open and in fluid communication with atmosphere. The passageway has a cross-sectional area that is small enough to substantially prevent air from flowing past fluid in the passageway when the cup is tilted or inverted. The passageway has a length and a dispensing volume that are large enough to substantially prevent spillage or shake-out of the fluid from the inner volume of the cup when the cup is tilted or inverted. The vent alleviates build up of vacuum in the inner volume only when the fluid is being dispensed.

In another aspect, a cup assembly is provided that comprises a cap, a cup, a valve and a vent. The cap has a first connecting structure. The cup has an inner volume and a second connecting structure. The first and second connecting structures connect the cap with the cup. The valve has a passageway with first and second ends. The first end is open and in fluid communication with the inner volume of the cup. The second end is open and in fluid communication with atmosphere. The passageway has a cross-sectional area that is small enough to substantially prevent air from flowing past fluid in the passageway when the cup is tilted or inverted. The vent alleviates build up of vacuum in the inner volume only when the fluid is being dispensed.

The vent can comprise a vent opening that sealingly abuts the cap when the inner volume is at ambient pressure. The vent opening may be separated from the cap when the inner volume is at negative pressure. The vent can have an annular wall that at least partially defines the vent opening. The passageway may be formed from a first channel having a first length that is open-faced, and the first channel can be sealed along the first length to form the passageway when the cap is connected to the cup.

The valve may further comprise a second channel having a second length that is open-faced. The first and second channels can have corresponding shapes thereby allowing sealing engagement to form the passageway. The at least one of the first and second channels can be formed on the cap. The first channel may be formed on the cap. The passageway can be disposed in a first planar section having a first longitudinal axis. The cap can be disposed in a second planar section having a second longitudinal axis. The first and second longitudinal axes may be substantially parallel.

The passageway can be formed from first and second channels that each have a length that is open-faced, and the first and second channels may have corresponding shapes thereby allowing sealing engagement to form the passageway. The cap may have a spout in fluid communication with the second end of the passageway. The cup assembly can further comprise a disc having a first channel, wherein the passageway is at least partially formed from said first channel. The cap may have a second channel, and the first and second channels can have substantially the same path and form lower and upper portions of the passageway. The cup assembly may further comprise a disc having a first channel, wherein the passageway is at least partially formed from the first channel, and the vent is integrally formed with the disc.

The cup assembly can further comprise a disc having a first channel, an annular wall and a vent opening. The passageway can be at least partially formed from the first channel. The vent may comprise the vent opening and the annular wall. The annular wall can at least partially define the vent opening. The annular wall can sealingly abut the cap when the inner volume is at ambient pressure thereby sealing the vent opening. The annular wall can be separated from the cap when the inner volume is at negative pressure thereby venting the vent opening.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other and further objects, advantages and features of the present invention will be understood by reference to the following:

FIG. 1 is a plan view of a cup assembly of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a plan view of the cup assembly of FIG. 1 with the cap shown in phantom;

FIG. 3 is a top perspective view of the cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the cap of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a bottom perspective view of the cap of FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a top perspective view of a spill and shake-out inhibiting element or disc of the cup assembly of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a top view of the disc of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a bottom perspective view of the disc of FIG. 6 assembled with the cap of FIG. 3;

FIG. 9 is a top perspective view of a top portion of the cup assembly of FIG. 1 with the cap shown in phantom;

FIG. 10 is a top perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a spill and shake-out inhibiting element or disc of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of the disc of FIG. 10 taken along line 11-11 of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of the disc of FIG. 10 taken along line 12-12 of FIG. 10;

FIG. 13 is a top perspective view of a cap that is usable with the disc of FIG. 10;

FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view of the cap of FIG. 13 taken along line 14-14 of FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view of the cap of FIG. 13 taken along line 15-15 of FIG. 13;

FIG. 16 is a bottom view of the cap of FIG. 13;

FIG. 17 is a cross-sectional view of the disc of FIG. 10 connected to the cap of FIG. 13 in a non-vented state;

FIG. 18 is a cross-sectional view of an alternative vent mechanism for the disc of FIG. 10;

FIG. 19 is a cross-sectional view of another alternative vent mechanism for the disc of FIG. 10;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of an insulated cup of the present invention that is usable with the disc of FIG. 10 showing the outer portion of the insulated cup in phantom;

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of the cup body of FIG. 20 without the cap;

FIG. 22 is a plan view of the insulated cup of FIG. 20;

FIG. 23 is a top view of the cap of FIG. 20;

FIG. 24 is a bottom view of the cap of FIG. 20; and

FIG. 25 is a cross-sectional view of the insulated cup of FIG. 20.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to the drawings and, in particular, FIGS. 1 through 6, there is shown a first embodiment of a cup assembly of the present invention generally represented by reference numeral 10. Cup assembly 10 has a cup or container 100, a cap or lid 200 that can be removably connected or secured to the cup, and a disc 300.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, cup 100 has a generally cylindrical shape defining an inner volume 110, but alternative shapes such as conical, hourglass, or even amorphic can also be used. Cup 100 has a top portion 120 having a rim 125 and an outer surface 130. Outer surface 130 has a fastening or connecting structure 140 disposed thereon. Preferably, fastening structure 140 has threads, although alternative fastening structures are contemplated. Rim 125 defines an open end 150 of cup 100, which provides access to the inner volume.

Referring to FIGS. 3 through 5, cap 200 has a top wall 210 with an upper surface 230 and a lower surface 250. Cap 200 also has a circumferential sidewall 270 extending downwardly from, and surrounding, top wall 210. Top wall 210 can be curved or flat, and has an opening 215 disposed through it. Top wall 210 has an elevated drinking rim or lip 211 near the circumference of the cap. Preferably, top wall 210 is recessed with respect to circumferential sidewall 270 to form rim or lip 211. The present invention also contemplates recessing only a portion of top wall 210 so as to form lip 211 only along a portion of cap 200.

Opening 215 is disposed along the periphery or circumference of the cap 200, and is preferably located on the ridge of drinking rim 211. Cup assembly 10 can have a substantially flat upper surface without a drinking rim and can also have other configurations, such as, for example, a drinking spout. Likewise, opening 215 can be disposed in alternative positions along top wall 210, such as, for example, in proximity to the center of the top wall.

Sidewall 270 has an inner surface 275 with a connecting or fastening structure 280 disposed thereon. Preferably, fastening structure 280 has threads that are engageable with threads 140 of cup 100. The transition into opening 215 is preferably rounded.

Lower surface 250 of cap 200 preferably has a slight curvature and is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of cup 100 when cap 200 is engaged with the cup. Lower surface 250 has a sealing bead or channel 240 and orientation features 260. Sealing bead 240 is preferably a rigid structure. Orientation features 260 are two projections that are disposed remotely from each other. Preferably, orientation features 260 extend from lower surface 250 parallel to the longitudinal axis of cup 100. More preferably, orientation features 260 are two cross-shaped projections. However, alternative shapes can also be used for orientation features 260, such as, for example, cylindrical projections.

The rigid sealing bead 240 has a serpentine path that is designed to mate with a flexible sealing bead 315 on top surface 310 of disc 300. When the flexible sealing bead 315 on the top surface 310 of disc 300 is sealingly engaged with the lower surface 250 of cap 200, the rigid sealing bead 240 further improves the seal around, and adjacent to, channel 320 in disc 300.

Referring to FIGS. 6 through 9, disc 300 is a circular-shaped disc that has a diameter slightly smaller than the inner diameter of the threads 280 on sidewall 270 of FIG. 5. Preferably, disc 300 is made from a flexible material that is over-molded onto a rigid material, such as, for example, TPE, rubber or silicone, over-molded onto a rigid plastic material. Securing features 370 on the outer circumference of disc 300 are protrusions made of the flexible material that have a slight interference fit with the threads 280 when the disc 300 is assembled to the cap 200. This interference fit retains the disc 300 in cap 200 when the cap is inverted for assembly with the cup 100.

Disc 300 has an upper surface 310, an orifice 350 and orientation features 360. Upper surface 310 has a channel 320 formed therein. A flexible sealing bead 315 is formed on upper surface 310 that is adjacent to, and surrounds, channel 320. Preferably, the flexible sealing bead 315 is formed along all of the banks of channel 320. The flexibility of sealing bead 315 provides for a sealing engagement of channel 320 to lower surface 250 of cap 200. Channel 320 has an inlet 325 and an outlet 330. Channel 320 has a substantially semi-circular or U-shaped cross-section. However, other open-faced cross-sectional shapes can be used for channel 320. The transition from inlet 325 into orifice 350 is preferably rounded.

The inlet 325 of channel 320 has orifice 350 disposed therethrough. Orifice 350 is disposed all the way through disc 300. When disc 300 is engaged with cap 200 and the cap is engaged with cup 100, orifice 350 is in fluid communication with the inner volume of the cup and, thus, channel 320 is in fluid communication with the inner volume. The outlet 330 of channel 320 is a closed end. When the disc 300 is sealingly engaged with the cap 200, the outlet 330 aligns with the opening 215 in the cap. Preferably, the inlet 325 is disposed near the outer circumference of disc 300 to reduce the residual liquid in the cup assembly 10 when the user is finished drinking.

Channel 320 preferably has a serpentine-like path or shape. More preferably, channel 320 is substantially disposed on one-half or less than one-half of the area of disc 300. However, alternative paths and shapes can be used for channel 320, such as, for example, a spiral shape that is substantially disposed in the center portion of upper surface 310. The paths used for channel 320 preferably do not have sharp corners. Avoiding sharp corners within channel 320 reduces or limits the turbulence created along the flow path through channel 320.

Orientation recesses 360 are cavities or recesses formed in upper surface 310. Preferably, orientation recesses 360 are two cylindrical recesses disposed remotely from each other that have a diameter and depth that allow for engagement with orientation features 260 (cross-shaped projections) formed in lower surface 250 of cap 200 shown in FIG. 5. Alternative shapes and sizes can also be used for orientation recesses 360 which correspond to, and allow for engagement with, the shape and size of orientation features 260.

Referring to FIG. 8, a sealing bead 345 is located on the lower surface 305 of disc 300 along the circumference of the disc. Preferably, the sealing bead 345 is rigid or substantially rigid. When the cup 100 is assembled to the cap 200, the sealing bead 345 sealingly engages with the rim 125 of cup 100. This engagement contains the inner volume 110 of the cup 100, restricting flow of any liquid or air into or out of the inner volume to pass through the orifice 350 of channel 320 in the top surface 310 of disc 300. Alternatively, a flexible sealing rim can be disposed on the lower surface 305 of disc 300 along the circumference of the disc to provide for a sealing engagement.

The following description is when disc 300 is assembled with cap 200 such that lower surface 250 of the cap is sealingly engaged with the flexible sealing bead 315 on upper surface 310 of the disc. When assembled, orientation recesses 360 on upper surface 310 of disc 300 engage with orientation features 260 on lower surface 250 of cap 200. The engagement of the orientation features 260 and orientation recesses 360 ensure the alignment of the outlet 330 of disc 300 with opening 215 in cap 200 and the rigid sealing bead 240 of cap 200 with the flexible sealing bead 315 of disc 300. Preferably, flexible sealing bead 315 compresses against lower surface 250 of cap 200 and overlays rigid sealing bead 240 of cap 200.

Disc 300 preferably has a gripping or position member 307. In the embodiment of FIG. 8, gripping member 307 is a finger grip disposed in the center portion of bottom surface 305 so that a user can more easily position, engage or remove disc 300 with cap 200. The size and shape of finger grip 307 can be varied to facilitate gripping by the user.

Referring to FIG. 9, disc 300 is shown sealingly engaged with cap 200, with the cap shown in phantom. The sealing engagement of flexible sealing bead 315 with lower surface 250 of cup 200 forms a dispensing passageway, tunnel or channel 400, which is the spill and shake-out inhibiting element of the present invention. When cap 200 is engaged with cup 100, dispensing tunnel 400 provides for fluid communication between inner volume 110 of the cup and the user's mouth or the atmosphere. In this embodiment, dispensing tunnel 400 is formed as a two-piece structure whereby the separate upper and lower pieces (channel 320 and lower surface 250) are brought together to form an enclosed tunnel. However, the present invention contemplates alternative ways being used to form dispensing tunnel 400.

Referring to FIG. 2, dispensing tunnel or passageway 400 is located in, disposed in, or confined to, a first planar section 1000, which is represented by the broken lines in FIG. 2. First planar section 1000 has a first longitudinal axis 1010. The cap 200 is located in, disposed in, or confined to, a second planar section 1020, which is represented by the broken lines in FIG. 2. Second planar section 1020 has a second longitudinal axis 1030. The first and second longitudinal axes 1010, 1030 are preferably substantially parallel to each other.

Referring to FIGS. 1 through 9, the spill and shake-out inhibiting features of cup assembly 10 will now be described. Cup assembly 10 requires that a small negative pressure, i.e., a small suction force, be applied to dispensing tunnel 400 in order to dispense fluid out of inner volume 110 through the dispensing tunnel and out through opening 215. The negative pressure or suction force is supplied by the user.

In operation, when cup assembly 10 is tilted or pivoted from an upright vertical position, fluid from the inner volume 110 enters dispensing tunnel 400 through orifice 350. As the fluid flows through dispensing tunnel 400, a partial vacuum develops in the inner 110 volume of cup 100 due to the outflow of fluid from the otherwise sealed cup. The partial vacuum results because the displacement of fluid out of the inner volume 110 causes air in the inner volume to expand, which reduces the pressure in the inner volume. When the sub-pressure in the inner volume equals the pressure of the fluid-head furthest along the dispensing tunnel 400, the ingress of the fluid into the dispensing tunnel ceases. The partial vacuum that develops in the inner volume 110 prevents the fluid from continuing to flow through dispensing tunnel 400.

The cross-sectional area or diameter of dispensing tunnel 400 should be small enough to effectively limit or prevent air bubbles from flowing past the fluid in the dispensing tunnel, even when the cup is shaken. If the cross-sectional area or diameter of dispensing tunnel 400 is too large, then air bubbles will be able to flow past the fluid in the dispensing tunnel (especially if the cup is shaken) and enter the inner volume 110 which would reduce the partial vacuum created in the inner volume and allow additional liquid to flow through the dispensing tunnel and eventually out of the opening 215 in cap 200.

In the present invention, the pressure differential is maintained between the inner volume of cup 100 and the atmosphere by use of an appropriate diameter or cross-sectional area of dispensing tunnel 400 (effectively limiting flow of air bubbles through the dispensing tunnel), which prevents further flow of fluid through the dispensing tunnel. The volume of dispensing tunnel 400 should be large enough so that when the cup is tilted or inverted, the fluid flows partially through the dispensing tunnel but does not reach outlet 330 (of the dispensing tunnel) and opening 215 (of cap 200) and, thus, the fluid is prevented from spilling out of cup 100. Preferably, the volume of dispensing tunnel 400 is large enough so that, with any degree of fill in the cup, the fluid front does not exceed a predetermined distance away from the outlet 330 and opening 215 so that spillage or shake-out is prevented in the event of inverting, shaking or dropping of cup assembly 10.

By way of example only, dispensing tunnel 400 can have a cross-sectional area of about 7 mm2 and a length of about 23 cm for a dispensing tunnel volume of about 1.6 cm3. The cross-sectional area of dispensing tunnel 400 of about 7 mm2 effectively limits air bubbles from flowing past the fluid in the dispensing tunnel and entering the inner volume 110. Thus, the pressure differential between the inner volume and the atmosphere is maintained. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that other combinations of cross-sectional areas and lengths of dispensing tunnel 400 can be utilized so that with any degree of fill in the cup, the fluid front does not exceed a predetermined distance away from outlet 330 and opening 215, such that spillage is effectively prevented even when the cup is shaken, i.e., shake-out.

Portions of the fluid flow principles upon which the spill and shake-out inhibiting element of the present invention, i.e., dispensing tunnel 400, are based, are also described in PCT Application PCT/GB00/03055 to Samson, which was published on Feb. 22, 2001, and which is hereby incorporated in its entirety by reference.

The fluid flow is stopped in dispensing tunnel 400 as a function of the partial vacuum created in the inner volume or pressure differential between the inner volume and the atmosphere. Thus, fluid flow is not dependent on the orientation of cup 100, cap 200, disc 300 or dispensing tunnel 400. Cup assembly 10 effectively eliminates spillage or shake-out for any orientation of the cup assembly. Additionally, dispensing tunnel 400 effectively eliminates spillage or shake-out even when the cup assembly 10 is shaken or dropped due to the predetermined distance away from opening 215 where the fluid is stopped.

Disc 300 is preferably separable from cap 200, which facilitates the cleaning of the disc. Moreover, dispensing tunnel 400 is preferably formed by the sealing engagement of disc 300 and cap 200 so that when disassembled, dispensing tunnel 400 is easily accessible for cleaning, i.e., channel 320 has an open top. The two-piece design of dispensing tunnel 400 facilitates the manufacturing of disc 300 since the disc only needs a channel 320 formed in upper surface 310 with a flexible sealing bead 315 along all banks of the channel. Cup assembly 10 also does not require a spout to provide a sealing surface for the channel 320 in disc 300.

Cap 200 can also be transparent, semi-transparent or transparent over a portion of the cap. The transparency or semi-transparency of cap 200 would allow a user to see the flow of liquid through dispensing tunnel 400.

While cap 200 has a drinking rim 211, alternative embodiments can have a spout instead. In such an alternative cap, disc 300, for example, having channel 320, can be adapted to abut against lower surface 250 of the cap, and the spout would be in fluid communication with outlet 330 of the channel. Such an alternative embodiment would provide fluid communication between cup 100, dispensing tunnel 400, the spout and the user's mouth.

Additionally, while the present invention includes a cap 200 and a disc 300 having a channel 320 such that sealing engagement of the disc with lower surface 250 of the cap forms dispensing tunnel 400, i.e., the spill and shake-out inhibiting element, alternative embodiments of cup assembly 10 can have dispensing tunnel 400 formed in other ways. Preferably, dispensing tunnel 400 is disposed below the upper surface of cap 200. Examples of such alternative ways of forming dispensing tunnel 400 include, but are not limited to, channel 320 formed in lower surface 250 of cap 200 and a disc 300 having a flat upper surface 310 whereby cap 200 and disc 300 engage to form dispensing tunnel 400; corresponding channels 320 formed in both upper surface 310 of disc 300 and lower surface 250 of cap 200 whereby the corresponding channels mate to form dispensing tunnel 400; a dispensing tunnel 400 formed in cap 200; a dispensing tunnel 400 formed in disc 300; or a tubular dispensing tunnel 400 with an inlet in fluid communication with the inner volume of cup 100 and an outlet connected to opening 215. Where two separate parts are mated to form dispensing tunnel 400, a flexible or elastomeric surface can be used for one of the parts to provide for proper sealing of the dispensing tunnel.

The present invention provides a spill and shake-out inhibiting element, i.e., dispensing tunnel 400, that does not require a blockage or obstruction in the flow path and thus simplifies manufacturing, as well as use. Dispensing tunnel 400 preferably has a rounded flow path without sharp corners, which would induce turbulence during suction. Some contemporary devices attempt to control the flow during suction by using sharp-cornered turns along the flow path, which induce turbulence but fail to prevent spillage during shaking. The present invention inhibits spillage or shake-out even during shaking. Additionally, the present invention allows for positioning of dispensing tunnel 400 along any portion of cap 200, as opposed to some of the contemporary devices, which are limited to specific flow paths along the outer circumference of the cap.

Additionally, the cup assembly 10 can provide for venting of the vacuum developed in the inner volume 110 of cup 100 during application of suction by the user. The vent mechanism or method preferably provides venting at or above a predetermined negative pressure which corresponds to the vacuum developed during use, but does not vent below the predetermined negative pressure which corresponds to the negative pressure in the inner volume that is sufficient to prevent spilling or shake-out when the cup assembly is not in use but has been tilted or inverted. Alternative venting mechanisms and methods can also be employed, as well as not venting the inner volume of cup 100. Such alternative methods and mechanisms preferably vent the inner volume 110 of cup 100 when suction is being applied due to drinking but do not, or substantially do not, vent the inner volume of the cup when the cup has been tilted or inverted and a negative pressure arises in the inner volume due to dispensing tunnel or passageway 400. Preferably, the venting mechanism is integral with the disc 300. Although, the present invention contemplates the use of a separate vent valve that vents the inner cup while allowing the cup assembly to remain spill-proof and shake-out inhibiting.

Referring to FIGS. 10 through 17, a second cup assembly of the present invention is shown having a cup (not shown) and a cap 5200. The cup assembly has a preferred embodiment of a spill and shake-out inhibiting element or disc generally represented by reference numeral 5300. The cup can be similar to cup 100 described above or can be an alternative cup, and is selectively connectable to the cap 5200 and disc 5300.

Disc 5300 is similar to disc 300 described above and has similar features such as a gripping member 5307; an upper surface 5310 with a channel 5320 formed therein and a flexible sealing bead 5315 surrounding the channel; a channel inlet 5325; a channel outlet 5330; an orifice 5350 disposed through the channel inlet; and orientation features 5360. Disc 5300 has an upwardly curved or concave shape, which can be seen more clearly in FIGS. 11 and 12. Disc 5300 has a vent 5500 disposed through the disc. The vent 5500 has an upstanding or annular wall 5550 extending from upper surface 5310 of the disc.

Cap 5200 is similar to cap 200 described above and has similar features such as a top wall 5210 with an upper surface 5230 and a lower surface 5250; a lip 5211 with an opening 5215 disposed therethrough; and a sidewall 5270 having inner threads 5280. The lower surface 5250 of the cap 5200 has features that can be operably connected to the features of the upper surface 5310 of disc 5300 such as a sealing bead or channel 5240 that mates with or engages flexible sealing bead 5315 of channel 5320 of the disc; orientation projections or features 5260 that are connected with orientation recesses 5360; and the opening 5215 in the cap which aligns with the outlet 5330 of the disc.

The spill-proof and shake-out inhibiting operation of the cup assembly of FIGS. 10 through 17 is similar to the operation for the cup assembly 10 described above. When the cup, cap 5200 and disc 5300 are connected, a dispensing passageway, tunnel or channel 5400 is formed that provides for fluid communication between the inner volume of the cup and the user's mouth or the atmosphere at opening 5215 of the cap 5200. A small negative pressure or small suction force must be applied to dispensing tunnel 5400 in order to dispense fluid out of the inner volume through the dispensing tunnel and out through the opening 5215.

When the cup assembly is tilted or otherwise pivoted from an upright vertical position, the partial vacuum that develops in the inner volume of the cup prevents the fluid from continuing to flow through the dispensing tunnel 5400. The cross-sectional area of dispensing tunnel 5400 is small enough to effectively limit or prevent air bubbles from flowing past the fluid in the dispensing tunnel, even when the cup is shaken. The volume of dispensing tunnel 5400 is large enough so that when the cup is tilted or inverted, the fluid flows partially through the dispensing tunnel but does not reach the opening 5215 of the cap 5200.

The venting operation of disc 5300 operates as follows. The slight curvature or concave shape of the disc 5300 in the direction towards the bottom surface 5250 of the cap 5200 provides for a sealing engagement of the distal end of annular wall 5550 of the vent 5500 with the bottom surface of the cap, as shown in FIG. 17. This non-vented state of FIG. 17 occurs where the inner volume of the cup is at ambient or near ambient pressure conditions. If the cup assembly is tilted or shaken, the annular wall 5550 remains in sealing engagement with the bottom surface 5250 of the cap 5200 so as to prevent any spillage through the vent 5500.

However, when a user applies a small suction force at opening 5215 and the liquid begins to dispense through dispensing tunnel 5400, the decrease in pressure or partial vacuum that develops in the inner volume causes the disc 5300 to flex or otherwise move away from the bottom surface 5250 of the cap 5200. This movement or flexure causes the annular wall 5550 of the vent 5500 to move away from its sealing engagement with the lower surface 5250 of the cap 5200 in the direction of arrow 5600, and allows the inner volume of the cup to be vented via air that flows through a vent opening 5650 in the cap 5200. When in the non-vented state and the annular wall 5550 is sealingly engaged with the lower surface 5250 of the cap 5200, the vent opening 5650 is fluidly isolated from the inner volume of the cup by the disc 5300. In this exemplary embodiment, the vent opening 5250 is positioned diametrically opposed from the opening 5215 on the upper surface 5230 of the cap 5200. However, the present invention contemplates other positionings for the vent opening 5650, such as, for example, along the lip 5211. Alternatively or additionally, the vent 5500 can obtain air during a vented state which flows between the cap and the cup along the threads 5280, as shown by arrow 5700. Thus, alternative embodiments can include a vent 5500 that does not have a vent opening on the cap 5200.

Disc 5300 is flexible or resilient enough to allow vent 5500 to be actuated when an appropriate amount of vacuum develops in the inner volume which negatively effects the ability of a user to dispense the liquid through dispensing tunnel 5400. Additionally, the lower surface 5250 of the cap 5200 can have an annular bead or other sealing structure to facilitate sealing of the annular wall 5550 with the lower surface. Vent 5500 provides for selective venting of the inner volume of the cup during drinking, while ensuring that the cup assembly remains spill-proof and shake-out inhibiting.

Referring to FIG. 18, an alternative embodiment of the vent mechanism for disc 5300 is shown and generally referred to by reference numeral 6500. Vent 6500 is a membrane valve having a stack or annular wall 6550 with a membrane 6575 and a slit or other resealable aperture or apertures 6580 therethrough. The vent 6500 can be disposed directly under the vent opening 5650 and the stack 6550 can sealingly abut the lower surface 5250 of the cap so that the opening is fluidly isolated from the inner volume except through the membrane valve. In this alternative embodiment, the flexibility of the disc 5300 is less significant since the disc 5300 does not need to move in order to actuate the venting. The build up of vacuum in the inner volume will open the resealable aperture to allow air to enter in the direction of arrow 6600, but the valve will re-seal once the vacuum in the inner volume dissipates to a predetermined level. The vacuum actuation level of the membrane valve is chosen so as not to interfere with the spill-proof and shake-out inhibiting operation of the dispensing tunnel 5400 but to allow for venting only above a predetermined vacuum level.

Referring to FIG. 19, another alternative embodiment of the vent mechanism for disc 5300 is shown and generally referred to by reference numeral 7500. Vent 7500 is a duck-bill valve having a stack or annular wall 7550. The vent 7500 can be disposed directly under the vent opening 5650 and the stack 7550 can sealingly abut the lower surface 5250 of the cap so that the opening is fluidly isolated from the inner volume except through the duck-bill valve. In this alternative embodiment, the flexibility of the disc 5300 is again less significant since the disc 5300 does not need to move in order to actuate the venting. The build up of vacuum in the inner volume will open the duck-bill valve to allow air to enter in the direction of arrow 7600, but the valve which will re-seal once the vacuum in the inner volume dissipates to a predetermined level. The vacuum actuation level of the duck-bill valve is chosen so as not to interfere with the spill-proof and shake-out inhibiting operation of the dispensing tunnel 5400 but to allow for venting only above a predetermined vacuum level.

The vent mechanisms 5500, 6500 and 750 described above are advantageous since they are connected to the disc 5300 which reduces the number of parts, as well as the manufacturing costs. However, the present invention also contemplates the use a separate vent mechanism, such as, for example, a membrane valve or a duck-bill valve that is connected to the cap 5200 separately from the disc 5300. This can include, but is not limited to, a separate stack membrane valve that is connected to a holding surface formed on the cap.

Referring to FIGS. 20 through 24, a preferred embodiment of an insulated cup assembly of the present invention is shown and generally referred to by reference numeral 8000. The cup assembly 8000 has a cup 8100, a cap 8200 connectable with the cup, and a spill and shake-out inhibiting element or disc (not shown). The spill and shake-out inhibiting element or disc can be similar to the disc 5300 described above or can be an alternative disc that provides for spill-proof and shake-out inhibiting operation as described herein, and which is selectively connectable to the cap 8200. The operation of the spill and shake-out inhibiting element or disc is as described above and will not be repeated.

Cup 8100 has a generally cylindrical shape defining an inner volume 8110, but alternative shapes can be used, such as, for example, hourglass, conical, angled or even amorphic. Cup 8100 has a top portion 8120, an outer portion 8160 and an inner portion 8180. As described herein, top, outer and inner portions 8120, 8160 and 8180 are connectable to form the insulated cup 8100 having an insulated space 8175 between the outer and inner portions. In the preferred embodiment, the top and inner portions 8120 and 8180 are integrally formed, and the outer portion 8160 is connectable with the top portion and preferably permanently connected therewith. However, the present invention contemplates other connecting structures and schemes, such as, for example, the top and inner portions 8120 and 8180 being selectively connectable with the outer portion 8160.

Top portion 8120 has a rim 8125 and an outer surface 8130. Outer surface 8130 has a fastening or connecting structure 8140 disposed thereon for securing the top portion to the cap 8200. Preferably, fastening structure 8140 has threads, although alternative fastening structures are contemplated. Rim 8125 defines an open end 8150 of cup 8100, which provides access to the inner volume 8110.

Top portion 8120 has a downwardly depending collar 8135 with an inner surface 8136. The inner surface 8136 of the collar 8135 is connected to an outer surface 8162 of the outer portion 8160. The outer portion 8160 has a neck 8165 of reduced diameter to provide for a substantially smooth or contiguous outer surface between the outer portion and the top portion 8126. In an alternative embodiment (not shown), the connection between top portion 8120 and outer portion 8160 is a removable connection, such as, for example, threads.

Cap 8200 has a top wall 8210 with an upper surface 8230 and a lower surface 8250. Cap 8200 also has a circumferential sidewall 8270 extending downwardly from, and surrounding, top wall 8210. Top wall 8210 has an elevated drinking rim or lip 8211 near the circumference of the cap and an opening 8215 disposed through the rim. Top wall 8210 is recessed with respect to the circumferential sidewall 8270 to form the rim or lip 8211.

Sidewall 8270 has an inner surface 8275 with a connecting or fastening structure 8280 disposed thereon. Preferably, fastening structure 8280 has threads that are engageable with the threads 8140 of top portion 8120 of the cup 8100. The lip 8211 preferably has a uniform height, except where the opening 8215 is positioned. At the opening a raised lip 8212 is preferably provided. This provides for an indicator to the user for drinking, as well as facilitating drinking by providing a more graspable or engageable surface for the user's mouth.

Lower surface 8250 of cap 8200 is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of cup 8100 when cap 8200 is engaged with the cup. Lower surface 8250 has a sealing bead or channel 8240 and orientation features 8260. Sealing bead 8240 is preferably a rigid structure. Orientation features 8260 are two projections that are disposed remotely from each other. Preferably, orientation features 8260 extend from lower surface 8250 parallel to the longitudinal axis of cup 8100. More preferably, orientation features 8260 are two cross-shaped projections. However, alternative shapes can also be used for orientation features 8260, such as, for example, cylindrical projections.

The rigid sealing bead 8240 has a serpentine path that is designed to mate with the flexible sealing bead 5315 on top surface 5310 of disc 5300. When the flexible sealing bead 5315 on the top surface 5310 of disc 5300 is sealingly engaged with the lower surface 8250 of cap 8200, the rigid sealing bead 8240 further improves the seal around, and adjacent to, channel 5320 in disc 5300. The cap 8200 also has a vent opening 8650 which functions in conjunction with the disc 5300 similar to the way that vent opening 5650 of cap 5200 functions.

The present invention having been thus described with particular reference to the preferred forms thereof, it will be obvious that various changes and modifications may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.

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Referenced by
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Classifications
U.S. Classification220/711, 220/719, 220/713, 220/731
International ClassificationA47G19/22
Cooperative ClassificationA47G19/2272
European ClassificationA47G19/22B12G
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Sep 5, 2013ASAssignment
Owner name: EVEREADY BATTERY COMPANY, INC., MISSOURI
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:PLAYTEX PRODUCTS, LLC;PLAYTEX PRODUCTS, INC.;REEL/FRAME:031143/0838
Effective date: 20130905
Jun 6, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: PLAYTEX PRODUCTS, INC., CONNECTICUT
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:SAMSON, ILAN;LIEBERMAN, JOSHUA;REEL/FRAME:016663/0569;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050422 TO 20050505