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Publication numberUS20060065655 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/957,296
Publication dateMar 30, 2006
Filing dateSep 30, 2004
Priority dateSep 30, 2004
Publication number10957296, 957296, US 2006/0065655 A1, US 2006/065655 A1, US 20060065655 A1, US 20060065655A1, US 2006065655 A1, US 2006065655A1, US-A1-20060065655, US-A1-2006065655, US2006/0065655A1, US2006/065655A1, US20060065655 A1, US20060065655A1, US2006065655 A1, US2006065655A1
InventorsCurtis Taylor
Original AssigneeTaylor Curtis P
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Collapsible insulated container
US 20060065655 A1
Abstract
A collapsible and insulated container for storing and transporting items contained therein. The container includes a lid assembly, having a lid member pivotally associated with a lid base, a bottom face, and a plurality of opposed and spaced apart side faces. Each side face includes an upper and a lower panel pivotally connected via a hinge upon which the panels pivot and fold about a horizontal axis when the container is in a collapsed state. The container is configured to selectably alternate between a collapsed state for storage and an expanded state for use and storage of items therein. The collapsibility of the container significantly facilitates retail of the container, as less shelf space is required to display the container.
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Claims(20)
1. A collapsible and insulated container for storing and transporting items contained therein, comprising:
a lid assembly for providing access to an interior cavity of the container;
a bottom face for engaging a surface upon which the container is placed; and
a plurality of opposed and spaced apart side faces,
wherein each side face comprises an upper and a lower panel, and wherein the panels are pivotally connected via a hinge upon which the panels pivot and fold about a horizontal axis when the container is in a collapsed state.
2. The container of claim 1 further comprising a plurality of opposed and spaced apart end faces, wherein each end face is pivotally connected to the lid assembly via a hinge upon which the end face pivots.
3. The container of claim 2, wherein an upper portion of the upper panel is pivotally connected to the lid assembly, and wherein a lower portion of the lower panel is pivotally connected to the bottom face.
4. The container of claim 1, wherein the lid assembly comprises a lid member and a lid base, wherein the lid is configured to selectably provide access to the interior cavity of the container, and wherein the lid member is pivotally connected to the lid base.
5. The container of claim 2, wherein the end face comprises a handle for transport of the container when in an uncollapsed state.
6. The container of claim 5, wherein the handle is a portion recessed into the end face.
7. The container of claim 1 further comprising a handle for transport of the container when in a collapsed state.
8. The container of claim 4, wherein the lid member comprises a top surface and an interior surface, and wherein the top surface comprises means adapted for retaining a liquid holding device.
9. The container of claim 4, wherein the lid member comprises a top surface and an interior surface, and wherein the interior surface comprises means adapted for securing items in proximity to the lid.
10. The container of claim 9, wherein the means adapted for securing items in proximity to the lid is a net member associated with the interior surface of the lid member.
11. The container of claim 1 further comprising at least one elastic strap adapted to extend around a perimeter of container in a collapsed state and retain the container in a collapsed state.
12. The container of claim 11, wherein the elastic strap comprises a proximal end and a distal end, and wherein the proximal end of the strap is affixed to the container.
13. The container of claim 12, further comprising a second elastic strap comprising a proximal end and a distal end, and wherein the proximal end of the second strap is affixed to the container.
14. The container of claim 13, wherein the distal end of the elastic strap and the distal end of the second elastic strap comprise means adapted for securing the distal ends together.
15. The container of claim 1 further comprising a water-impervious liner.
16. The container of claim 15, wherein the liner is selectably secured to the container, and wherein the liner is configured to collapse into a folded state storable in the container when in a collapsed state.
17. The container of claim 16, wherein the liner is constructed from vinyl.
18. The container of claim 1, wherein the container is produced by injection molding.
19. A container for storing and transporting items contained therein, comprising
a lid for providing access to an interior cavity of the container, wherein the lid comprises a top surface and a bottom surface;
a bottom face for engaging a surface upon which the container is placed;
a plurality of opposed and spaced apart side faces; and
a net member secured to the bottom surface of the lid for securably retaining at least one item in proximity to the lid.
20. The container of claim 19, wherein each side face comprises an upper and a lower panel, and wherein the panels are pivotally connected via a hinge upon which the panels pivot and fold about a horizontal axis for collapsing the container.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a collapsible container. More particularly, the present invention is directed to a collapsible insulated container having substantially rigid walls that horizontally pivot along hinges for collapsibility.

BRIEF DISCUSSION OF THE RELATED ART

Containers, especially insulated containers, are commonly employed for storing and/or transporting items therein. Common examples of containers include coolers, picnic-like coolers, perishable item containers, biologics containers; etc., and are configured to store and transport, for example, food items, especially perishable food items, biological sera (e.g., blood, etc.), perishable medical drugs, etc. Of particular relevance to the present invention, insulated containers are especially useful as picnic-like containers, also known simply as coolers, and are used to store and transport in a thermally insulated environment food items to a desired location, such as a beach, picnic location, etc. Conventional coolers are large, typically of sufficient size to accommodate a desired quantity of food items, and are constructed by blow molding techniques. Such coolers are fashioned as unitary structures having a lid member that is either detachable or is pivotally connected.

The large size of conventional containers, especially coolers, present significant complications to every element of their commercial chain. For example, manufacturers of containers ship the containers to retailers, who display the containers for sale to consumers. The large size of the containers necessitates significant amounts of packaging materials and large freight expenses associated with shipping correspondingly large items. Additionally, the containers require significant amounts of retail shelf space to be displayed. Given limited shelf space availability, retailer are often concerned with maximizing shelf usage and doing so in a way that maximizes shelf space to profitability ratios. Conventional containers, such as coolers, frustrate these ratios by demanding large amounts of shelf space for relatively low profits. Additionally, the ultimate users of the containers also suffer from the significant size thereof. When the containers are not in use, precious home space must be wasted to store the container. Additionally, many families travel by car for vacation and typically elect to bring a conventional container. Due to the space capacity constraints of typical family automobiles, the choice to bring a container, such as a cooler, requires a concomitant decision to eliminate other potentially desirable items.

Conventional containers, especially coolers, suffer from additional disadvantages. Containers are typically produced by blow molding techniques according to which the entire container apparatus is produced as a unitary construction. Due to procedural limitations of blow molding, the vertical faces of the container are angularly offset relative to a base support member. The angular offset nature of the faces produces an interior container cavity with a significant quantity of unusable space. For example, many items to be stored in a container are generally rectangular in cross-sectional configuration, such as a bottle of soda. When the bottle is placed in the container near a site of intersection between a vertical face and the base support member, a gap of space will result between the vertical wall of the bottle and the angularly offset face of the container. This gap is difficult to fill with typical items and frequently ends up not being filled, thereby significantly impairing the space usage efficiency.

Thus, there exists a need for a container, especially a cooler-like container, that can accommodate a large quantity of items therein and simultaneously be able to require a minimum amount of space for storage, especially retail display. There also exists a need for a container that maximizes space usage efficiency.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one example aspect, the present invention is directed to a collapsible and insulated container for storing and transporting items contained therein. The container includes a lid assembly for providing access to an interior cavity of the container; a bottom face for engaging a surface upon which the container is placed; and a plurality of opposed and spaced apart side faces. Each side face includes an upper and a lower panel. The panels are pivotally connected via a hinge upon which the panels pivot and fold about a horizontal axis when the container is in a collapsed state.

In accordance with another aspect, the container also includes a plurality of opposed and spaced apart end faces. Each end face is pivotally connected to the lid assembly via a hinge upon which the end face pivots when the container is collapsed.

In accordance with another aspect, the lid assembly includes a lid member and a lid base. The lid member is configured to selectably provide access to the interior cavity of the container. The lid member suitably is pivotally connected to the lid base. Additionally, an upper portion of the upper panel is suitably pivotally connected to the lid assembly and a lower portion of the lower panel is pivotally connected to the bottom face.

In accordance with another aspect, the end faces of the container include a handle, particularly a recessed handle, for facilitating the transport of the container when not collapsed. The container suitably also includes an additional handle configured to facilitate the transport of the container when in a collapsed state.

In accordance with yet another aspect, the lid member includes means adapted for securing items in proximity to the lid. The means for securing the items preferably is a net secured to a lower surface of the lid member.

In accordance with another aspect, the container includes a water impervious liner. The liner may be selectably secured to the container is preferably is configured to collapse into a folded state storable in the container when in a collapsed state.

In accordance with another aspect, the container includes at least one elastic strap adapted to extend around a perimeter of the container and to retain the container in a collapsed state.

In accordance with another aspect, the container is produced by injection molding techniques.

In accordance with another aspect, the present invention is directed to a container for storing and transporting items contained therein. The container includes a lid for providing access to an interior cavity of the container, wherein the lid comprises a top surface and a bottom surface; a bottom face for engaging a surface upon which the container is placed; a plurality of opposed and spaced apart side faces; and a net member secured to the bottom surface of the lid for securably retaining at least one item in proximity to the lid. Each side face suitably comprises an upper and a lower panel, and wherein the panels are pivotally connected via a hinge upon which the panels pivot and fold about a horizontal axis for collapsing the container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features and a more thorough understanding of the present invention may be achieved by referring to the following description and claims, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of an example collapsible insulated container according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a rear perspective view of the container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of the container of FIG. 1, wherein a lid is pivoted partially open providing access to an interior cavity;

FIG. 4 is a side view of the container of FIG. 1 in a partially collapsed configuration;

FIG. 5 is a side view of the container of FIG. 4 in a substantially collapsed configuration;

FIG. 6 is a side view of the container of FIG. 5 in a fully collapsed configuration;

FIG. 7 is a partially top perspective view of the container of FIG. 6 in a fully collapsed and secured configuration;

FIG. 8 is a partially bottom perspective view of the container of FIG. 7 in a fully collapsed and secured configuration;

FIG. 9 is a partially top perspective view of the container of FIG. 3 having a liner; and

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the liner of FIG. 9.

DETAILED DISCUSSION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

Disclosed according to the present invention is a collapsible container, particularly a collapsible insulated container, such as a general cooler, a collapsible picnic-like cooler for food items, a biologics transport container, etc. The container is useful for storing and/or transporting a variety of items, such as food items, especially perishable food items, biologics, especially blood, temperature-sensitive drugs, etc., and other items, especially temperature-sensitive items. The container is configured to be collapsible and thereby alternate between a closed, collapsed state for storage and transport, and an open, expanded state for use as a container for items, especially perishable items. Preferably, substantially rigid materials are used to construct the structural framework of the container, which framework includes a plurality of longitudinally-running hinges for collapsing the container along one or more horizontal axes. As will be more fully described below, the collapsibility of the container imparts significant advantages for all members of the chain of commerce of the container, especially manufacturers, retailers and ultimate end-users.

The container of the present invention comprises a core structural framework and a plurality of accessory features, each of which is variously combinable with the core structural framework in a plurality of configurations, as will be more fully discussed below. In general, the core structural framework is squarely, preferably rectangularly, prismatic in overall shape and includes a lid assembly, a bottom face, and a plurality of side faces. The core structural framework defines the operable unit of the container and additionally defines therein an interior cavity for storing desired items.

With reference to FIGS. 1-3, illustrated are several views of an example preferred embodiment of a collapsible insulated container 100 according to the present invention. The container 100 includes the lid assembly 102, the bottom face 104, and a plurality of vertical side faces. The vertical side faces are generally arranged in pairs of opposed, spaced apart walls and define therebetween the interior cavity 140 (FIG. 3) for storage of items.

The lid assembly 102 functions to permit access to the interior cavity 140 and to selectably close the interior cavity 140. In general, the lid assembly 102 includes a lid base 112 and a lid member 110. The lid base 112 is generally an open rectangular member and provides a substrate for attachment and pivoting of several container 100 components, as will be described below. According to a preferred embodiment, the lid 110 is hingedly connected to the lid base 112 such that the lid 110 is pivotably from the lid base 112 along a continuum of positions, ranging from a fully open state, in which full access to the interior cavity 140 is possible, and a fully closed state, in which the lid 110 is securely abutting the lid base 112, thereby closing the interior cavity 140 and securing the contents therein. The lid 110 and the lid base 112 are provided with a plurality of hinge elements 136, 138 (FIG. 2) for enabling the pivotability of the lid 110.

As previously described, the lid 110 functions to pivotably provide access to the interior cavity 140 and to close the interior cavity 140. The lid 110 preferably includes at least one feature for securing the lid 110 in a closed state. According to a preferred embodiment, the lid 110 includes at least one locking member 118 that is pivotable from the lid 110 into locking engagement with one or more lock engaging member 120 fashioned into the lid base 112. The locking member 118 suitably is a snap lock-like locking member configured to lockingly engage the lock engagement member 120 in a snap-like manner. Accordingly, the locking member 118 suitably includes on a surface facing the lid base 112 a projecting flange-like protrusion adapted to engage and be engaged by a complementary engagement surface on the lock engaging member 120. The locking member 118 may additionally include on an exterior surface features that increase friction between a user's hand and the locking member 118, such as raised surface features, applied adhesive, etc. Such exterior surface features are especially useful under normal operating conditions, as users of the container are likely to have water on their hands, thereby reducing their hands' ability to engage the locking member 118. It is to be appreciated that a variety of other features for securing the lid 110 are contemplated and may include, but not be limited to, hook and loop fasteners (e.g., Velcro™), lock and key-like securing devices, or other suitable locking means.

The lid 110 and lid base 112 preferably also include structural features that increase the frictional engagement therebetween to further maintain the lid 110 in a closed state relative to the lid base 112. For example, and with reference to FIG. 3, the lid 110 suitably includes an inwardly recessed portion that is configured to position into and be secured by a complementary shape in the lid base 112. In more detail, the lid 110 includes a top surface and a bottom surface, wherein the bottom surface abuts the lid base 112 when in a closed state. The bottom surface of the lid 110 preferably includes a downwardly projecting member 144 that is configured to occupy a reduced perimeter, relative to the perimeter of the overall lid 110. The member 144 may be present in a discontinuous manner, or may be present in a continuous manner defining a closed rectangular-like member on the bottom surface of the lid 110. The reduced perimeter of the member 144 defines a bottom surface of the member 144, an outwardly-facing side surface of the member 144 and a portion of the bottom surface of the lid 110 that extends exteriorly around the member 144, the plane of which portion is generally perpendicular to the side surface of the member 144.

The lid base 112 preferably contains structure complementary to the member 144 for securely retaining the member 144 and, correspondingly, the lid 110. With further reference to FIG. 3, the lid base 112 includes a shoulder-like portion 142 that is configured to fittingly engage the member 144. The lid base 112 includes an exterior surface and an inner surface. The shoulder 142 is provided as an inwardly projecting portion along the inner surface of the lid base 112 and is downwardly offset relative to a top of the lid base 112. The downwardly offset nature of the shoulder 142 defines an upper surface of the shoulder 142 and a portion of the inner surface of the lid base 112 positioned above the shoulder 142 and generally perpendicular thereto. Accordingly, when the lid 110 is pivoted into a closed state against the lid base 112, the member 144 of the lid 110 is securely engaged with the shoulder 142 of the lid base 112. In more detail, the bottom surface of the member 144 lies against the upper surface of the shoulder 142 and the outwardly-facing side surface of the member 144 lies against the portion of the inner surface of the lid base 112 positioned above the shoulder 142. Additionally, one or more of the outwardly-facing side surface of the member 144 and the portion of the inner surface of the lid base 112 positioned above the shoulder 142 may suitably include additional surface features to increase the frictional engagement therebetween. For example, the surface features may include complementary raised portions that increase the frictional fit. By way of additional example, the surface features may include generally flexible flange-like members, such as fashioned from rubber-like materials, that increase the frictional fit and impart a generally water-tight seal to the lid 110 and lid base 112. Such water-tight seal may be advantageous in connection with the container's 100 use as a cooler, especially a picnic-like cooler in which meltable ice is likely to be placed.

The lid 110 preferably includes additional features for enhancing its use as a cooler, especially a picnic-like cooler. With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, an upper surface of the lid 110 suitably includes one or more grooved members 114 that may be fashioned as temporary storage receptacles. For example, grooved member 114 may include one or more generally circular, downwardly recessed cut out portions 116 configured to temporarily secure a cup or other drinking glass. With reference to the container's 100 exemplary use as a picnic-like cooler, the lid 110 may function as a table-like member, with the cut out portions 116 further enhancing the expansive functionality of the lid 110.

The lid 110 may suitably be also include a net-like member 146 secured to an inner surface of the lid 110. The net 146 suitably provides an interior cavity 140 partitioning function by enabling certain items to be stored between the net 146 and the inner surface of the lid 110 and still be maintained in the interior cavity 140. The net 146 is especially advantageous in connection with the container's 100 use as a picnic-like cooler, as certain water-sensitive items, such as bread, lunchmeat, etc., can be stored in the net and be out of contact with ice in the interior cavity 140. The net 146 provides an additional advantage over conventionally used rigid trays, as the net 146 can accommodate and not interfere with the collapsibility of the container 100.

In connection with the container's 100 use as an insulated container, the lid 110 suitably includes insulative features that enhance the lid's 110 ability to contribute to the maintenance of a cooled environment in the interior cavity 140. For example, the lid 110 suitably includes insulating material, such as, for example, foam, secured thereto. The insulating material may be provided as integral to and contained within the lid 110 or may be provided as a separate member secured to an inner surface of the lid 110. Although foam is a preferred insulating material, other known insulating materials, such as, for example, liquid ice, glycerol, etc., may be used. It is to be understood that the foregoing discussion of insulative features is applicable to further discussions of insulative features as contained herein.

The container 100 also includes a bottom face 104 that functions as the bottom of the container 100. A bottom surface of the bottom face 104 rests upon a surface, such as grass, sand, concrete, etc., upon which the container 100 is placed. Accordingly, the bottom face 104 is preferably a highly durable component, able to withstand repeated engagement with rough surfaces. Additionally, the bottom face 104 suitably includes insulative features, such as foam positioned on an interior surface of the bottom face 104, for enhancing the container's insulative capacity. As will be more fully described below, the bottom face 104 additionally provides a substrate against which various side faces are hingedly engaged.

The container 100 additionally includes a plurality of vertical side faces that define the vertical components of the container 100. The side faces generally include a pair of opposed, vertically spaced apart end faces 106 a, 106 b, and a pair of opposed, vertically spaced apart side faces 108 a, 108 b.

The opposed, vertically spaced apart end faces 106 a, 106 b define the end faces of the end sides of the container 100, and are preferably provided as identical, mirror-image-like, components. Additionally, the end faces 106 a, 106 b are preferably reduced in size relative to the side faces 108 a, 108 b, such that the side faces 108 a, 108 b define the longer sides of the generally rectangular shape of the container 100 and the end faces 106 a, 106 b define the shorter sides of the container 100.

According to a preferred embodiment, the end faces 106 a, 106 b are hingedly secured to the lid base 112. With reference to FIGS. 4 and 5, the end faces 106 a, 106 b are defined by an upper portion and a lower portion, wherein the upper portion is generally adjacent to the lid base 112 and the lower portion is generally adjacent to the bottom face 104. The upper portion of the end face 106 a, 106 b is engaged with the lid base 112 through hinge-like members 154 a, 154 b. The hinged engagement of the end faces 106 a, 106 b with the lid base 112 enables the end faces 106 a, 106 b to be pivoted inward toward the lid base 112 in a position wherein an inner surface of the end faces 106 a, 106 b lies in generally abutting, preferably parallel, relationship to a horizontal axis of the lid base 112. As will be more fully described below, the pivoting of the end faces 106 a, 106 b facilitates the collapsibility of the container 100 and further contributes structural support for maintaining the container 100 in an upright configuration. Additionally, the lower portion of the end faces 106 a, 106 b contains means for securably engaging the bottom face 104.

In an additionally preferred embodiment, the end faces 106 a, 106 b feature a handle 128 for receiving a user's hand during transport of the container 100. With reference to FIGS. 1-3, the handles 128 are positioned on an exterior surface of each of the end faces 106 a, 106 b and are preferably positioned near the upper portions of the end faces 106 a, 106 b so as to increase stability of the container 100 during transport. The handles 128 may be provided as any known handle, such as, for example, a pivotably attached member, a rigidly affixed extension, etc. In a preferred embodiment, the handles 128 are provided as members recessed into the end faces 106 a, 106 b. As illustrated in FIGS. 1-3, the preferred recessed handle 128 is configured so as to define a slot in the exterior surface of the end faces 106 a, 106 b into which the user can position the user's hands for transport.

The end faces 106 a, 106 b may additionally include insulative material positioned on an interior surface thereof. For example, the end faces 106 a, 106 b suitably include foam insulation secured to the interior surface for contributing to the insulative capacity of the container 100.

The container 100 also includes a pair of opposed, vertically spaced apart side faces 108 a, 108 b that define a front vertical surface and a back vertical surface of the container 100. According to a preferred embodiment, and with reference to FIGS. 1-3, the side faces 108 a, 108 b include an upper panel 132 a, 132 b and a lower panel 130 a, 130 b. The upper panel 132 a, 132 b essentially defines an upper half of the side face 108 a, 108 b and the lower panel 130 a, 130 b essentially defines a lower half of the side face 108 a, 108 b. The upper panel 132 a, 132 b is pivotally connected to the lower panel 130 a, 130 b via a hinge 134 a, 134 b upon which the panels 132 a, 132 b, 130 a, 130 b pivot and fold about a horizontal axis when the container 100 is collapsed. In a further preferred embodiment, the hinge 134 a, 134 b preferably extends along substantially the entire longitudinal length of the site of interaction of the upper panel 132 a, 132 b and the lower panel 130 a, 130 b. The hinge 134 a, 134 b provides a pivot point along which the side faces 108 a, 108 b are inwardly foldable for collapsing of the container 100.

According to a preferred embodiment, the side faces 108 a, 108 b are also hingedly connected to the lid base 112 and the bottom face 104. As best shown in FIG. 4, the upper panels 132 a, 132 b are pivotally connected to a bottom portion of the lid base 112 through a hinge 150 a, 150 b. The hinge 150 a, 150 b accommodates the inward pivoting of the side faces 108 a, 108 b and enables the panels 130 a, 130 b, 132 a, 132 b to fold on each other. Additionally, the lower panels 130 a, 130 b are pivotally connected to an upper portion of the bottom face 104 through a hinge 152 a, 152 b. The hinge 152 a, 152 b accommodates the inward pivoting of the side faces 108 a, 108 b as well, as will be more fully discussed below.

The side faces 108 a, 108 b may additionally include on an interior surface an insulative material, such as foam affixed to the interior surface, for contributing to the insulative capacity of the container 100. In a preferred embodiment, an interior surface of each of the panels 130 a, 130 b, 132 a, 132 b is provided with an insulative material. Providing each panel 130 a, 130 b, 132 a, 132 b with a separate unit of insulative material simplifies the collapsing mechanism of the container 100 without interfering with, for example, the pivoting of hinge 134 a, 134 b.

In connection with the preferred exemplary embodiment of the container's 100 use as a picnic-like cooler, the container 100 additionally includes a liner 162 (FIGS. 9 and 10). The liner 162 is preferably a water-retaining member configured to impart a leak-proof characteristic on the container 100. Given the typical application of positioning meltable ice in the interior cavity 140, the liner 162 ensures that the container 100 will securably retain water or other liquids and will not leak the same. The liner 162 is preferably constructed from vinyl or other similar flexible material. Additionally, the liner 162 is preferably constructed from a washable material.

According to an embodiment, the liner 162 is securably retained in the interior cavity 140 of the container 100. With reference to FIG. 9, the liner 162 is configured so as to be complementary in shape to the interior cavity 140 and to substantially cover the entire interior surface of the interior cavity, while maintaining an open top for access therein. The liner 162 suitably includes fold lines 172 for folding of the liner 162 as the container 100 is collapsed.

According to an alternate, preferred embodiment, the liner 162 is detachably associated with the container 100 such that it can be inserted into and removed from the container 100. The liner 162 is provided with one or more handles 166 for facilitating the insertion and removal of the liner 162. The handles 166 are preferably configured as thin, flexible protrusions from a lower portion of the liner 162 that can be abuttingly pushed against the liner 162, so as to minimize the amount of interior space consumed by the handles 166. Additionally, a top portion of the liner 162 includes a flange-like protrusion 164 that is configured to rest upon the upper surface of the shoulder 142 of the lid base 112. The flange 164 is preferably a substantially rigid material that securably retains the liner 162 in an upright configuration in the interior cavity 140. In collapsible operation, the liner 162 is removable from the container 100, is foldable along its fold lines 172 and subsequently storable in the collapsed container 100, preferably between the lid 110 and the lid base 112, as will be more fully discussed below.

The liner 162 suitably also includes a securable opening for draining of the liquid, e.g., water, contents therein. With reference to FIG. 10, the securable opening is preferably provided as a pop-out valve 168 configured to be pushed into the liner cavity for storage and popped out for drainage. The valve 168 is preferably securable with a cap-like member 170 for alternating the valve 168 between an open and closed state. Additionally, and with reference to FIG. 4, the container 100 includes an aperture 148 through which the valve 168 may be extended and retracted. In a preferred embodiment, the aperture 148 is provided as an opening integral with a vertical portion of the bottom face 104.

According to an additional alternate embodiment, the liner 162 suitably is an inflatable liner. Accordingly, the inflatable liner embodiment suitably also includes an air valve for inflating and deflating the liner. An inflatable liner may be advantageous for the transport of delicate items, as the air contained in the inflated liner provides a cushioning support. Additionally, air operates as a natural insulator and, as such, can contribute to the insulative capacity of the container 100.

With reference to FIGS. 1, 2, 7 and 8, the container suitably also includes one or more straps for extending around the collapsed container 100 and securing it in a collapsed state. According to a preferred embodiment, the straps are provided as elastic straps 122, such as elastic straps available under the tradename “Bungee Cords.” The elastic straps 122 are configured to expand around the collapsed container 100 and elastically retract upon their length of secure the container 100 in a collapsed state.

According to a preferred embodiment, the elastic straps 122 are integrally associated with the container 100. According to a more preferred embodiment, the elastic straps 122 are provided as pairs of straps, wherein a proximal end of each strap is secured to a portion of the container 100 and wherein the distal ends of the straps are extendable around the container 100 and subsequently fixable to each other through a locking mechanism 158 (FIG. 8). In more detail, the proximal end of each strap 122 is suitably secured to a portion of the groove 114 on the lid 110 and the straps 122 are configurably positioned so as to extend away from each other. With reference to FIGS. 7 and 8, the straps 122 are extendable away from their proximal ends around the container 100 and subsequently lockable to each other through the locking mechanism 158 along the bottom face 104 of the container 100. In a preferred embodiment, the locking mechanism 158 is provided as a two part construction, with one of each part securably fashioned to the distal end of the strap 122, and wherein the parts are securably and releasable enageable with each other. The bottom face 104 may additionally include along its bottom surface grooved portions 156 along which the straps 122 pass and which secures the straps 122 from lateral movement. It is to be appreciated that straps 122 need not be integrally provided with the container and may be present as detachable cords, as known to a skilled artisan.

In addition to securing the container 100 in a closed state, the straps 122 may provide additional functions as well. For example, the straps 122 may be extended around an item, such as a beach towel, a foldable chair, etc., and thereby secure the item to the container 100. Such feature may be advantageous, especially in connection with the container's 100 exemplary use as a picnic-like cooler, as the additionally affixed item is easily transportable along with the container 100.

According to another preferred embodiment, the container 100 includes a briefcase-like handle 124 (FIGS. 1, 7, and 8) for facilitating the transport of the container 100 when in a collapsed state. The handle 124 may be provided in any of a plurality of configurations, such as, for example, a protruding member, a recessed slot-like member (similar to the handle 128 of the end faces 106 a, 106 b), etc. According to a preferred embodiment, the handle 124 is provided as a strap of material that is extendable from and collapsible along a pair of pins 126 in a sliding manner. The handle 124 can be collapsed along the pins 126 when not in use and can be pulled away from the pins 126 to expose the strap for carrying purposes. The handle 124 can be affixed to or integrated with any suitable component of the container 100. In a preferred embodiment, the handle 124 is secured to the lid base 112, as best shown in FIG. 1. In reference to packaging for retail of the container 100, the handle 124 is preferably exposed through the packaging for enabling simple transport of the container 100 from the retail site to the user's desired location.

The container 100 of the present invention can be constructed from any known and appropriate material and by any known and appropriate technique. According to a preferred embodiment, the container 100 is constructed by injection molding, wherein each component of the container 100 (e.g., lid 110, lid base 112, side faces 108 a, 108 b, end faces 106 a, 106 b, bottom face 104, etc.) is separately molded and subsequently assembled for use. Injection molding offers significant benefits, especially relative to conventional blow molding. For example, as previously mentioned, each component of the container 100 can be separately molded, an aspect that lends a degree of flexibility to component design. In particular, the end faces 106 a, 106 b can be injection molded to include the recessed handle 128, a feature difficult to attain by blow molding. By way of additional example, injection molding can be used to produce a container having faces that meet at substantially right angles, a feature also difficult to attain by blow molding. With regard to the present invention, the end faces 106 a, 106 b are positioned relative to the bottom face 104 and the lid assembly 102 in a substantially right angle relationship, with similar relationships attained with the positioning of the side faces 108 a, 108 b relative to the same structures. The creation of right angles significantly expands and maximizes the usability of the interior cavity of the container 100. For example, a container produced by blow molding results in the vertical walls being angularly offset relative to their base. Typical products placed in a container, such as bottles, are usually generally rectangular in shape. Accordingly, when the products are positioned in the interior, a significant gap exists between the product and the walls, due to the angular offset, which gap is typically unfillable, thereby reducing the utilization of interior space. The container 100 of the present invention contains right angled-relationships, and thereby eliminates such unusable gaps and thereby maximizes utilization of the interior cavity 140. Additionally, the container 100 as made by injection molding is structurally much stronger than a container made by blow molding.

The manner of collapsing the container 100 will now be discussed. As shown in FIGS. 1-3, the container 100 is in an open, usable state wherein the interior cavity 140 is defined by the upright, vertical side and end faces. In this state, the container 100 is usable for the storage and/or transport of items placed in the interior cavity 140. When the container 100 is not being used, it may be desirable to collapse the container 100 into a collapsed state for reducing the amount of space necessary to store or retail the container 100. Accordingly, with reference to FIG. 4, to collapse the container 100, a user first pivots the end faces 106 a, 106 b inward toward the lid base 112. The end faces 106 a, 106 b are pivoted along their respective hinges 154 a, 154 b until the end faces 106 a, 106 b are positioned generally parallel to the bottom face 104, and further wherein an interior surface of the end faces 106 a, 106 b is in close proximity to the lid base 112 and a bottom surface of the lid 110. Additionally, the end panels 106 a, 106 b are preferably fashioned of a size relative to the size of the overall container 100 such that the end faces 106 a, 106 b are positionable next to each other in a non-overalapping relationship. Once the end faces 106 a, 106 b have been inwardly pivoted, the side faces 108 a, 108 b can be subsequently collapsed. Prior to the pivoting of the end faces 106 a, 106 b, the end faces 106 a, 106 b provided support for maintaining the side faces 108 a, 108 b in an upright, unfolded position. Accordingly, to collapse the side faces 108 a, 108 b, the hinges 134 a, 134 b connecting the upper panels 132 a, 132 b to the lower panels 130 a, 130 b, are pushed inward toward the interior cavity 140. As the hinges 134 a, 134 b begin to pivot, the remaining side face 108 a, 108 b hinges, namely hinges 150 a, 150 b connecting the upper panels 132 a, 132 b to the lid base 112 and hinges 152 a, 152 b connecting the lower panels 130 a, 130 b to the bottom face 104, also begin to pivot to accommodate the inward pivoting of the panels 130 a, 130 b, 132 a, 132 b. FIG. 4 illustrates the end faces 106 a, 106 b in a fully pivoted state and the side faces 108 a, 108 b in a partially pivoted state. FIG. 5 illustrates the side faces 108 a, 108 b in a more fully pivoted state. The side faces 108 a, 108 b are pivoted until they are fully collapsed, i.e., an exterior surface of the upper panel 132 a, 132 b lies next to in a generally parallel relationship an exterior surface of the lower panel 130 a, 130 b. When the exterior surfaces are so situated, the container 100 is in a fully collapsed state, as shown in FIGS. 6-8. When the container 100 is collapsed, it can be secured with the straps 122 to maintain it in a closed state. With regard to a preferred embodiment, the distal end of each strap 122 is pull around the container 100 until the distal ends meet, whereat the locks 158 of the straps 122 are engaged.

As previously mentioned, the container 100 may include a liner 162. Accordingly, during collapsing of the container 100, the liner 162 is removed via its handles 166 from the interior cavity 140 before the end faces 106 a, 106 b are inwardly pivoted. Once the liner 162 is removed, the container 100 is collapsed as previously described. Once the container 100 is collapsed, the liner 162 can be folded and subsequently positioned between the lid 110 and the lid base 112 for storage. Thereafter, the straps 122 are used to secure the collapsed container 100.

The collapsed container 100 is openable and extendable by generally following the above steps in reverse order. Thus, to expand the collapsed container 100, a user first unlocks the straps 122, removes the folded liner 162, if present, from the lid assembly 102, raises the lid assembly 102 away from the bottom face 104, facilitates the outwardly pivoting of the hinges 134 a, 134 b, and, when the side faces 108 a, 108 b are fully extended, downwardly pivots the end faces 106 a, 106 b into secure engagement with the bottom face 104, whereupon the container 100 is expanded for use. Once the container 100 is expanded, the liner 162 can be inserted into the interior cavity 140, as previously described.

Thus, the container 100 of the present invention presents significant advantages over conventionally known containers. Most importantly, the container 100 is collapsible, a benefit to all members of the commercial chain of the container 100. For example, a collapsible container is easier to manufacture, as disclosed herein, than a conventional container. Additionally, the collapsible container 100 assumes a significantly reduced size profile relative to an uncollapsed container, a feature that reduces the amount of material necessary for shipping the container 100 and the expense associated with shipping. Most significantly, however, the collapsible nature of the container 100 offers a unique advantage for retailing of the container 100. Given the premium of shelf space, the collapsible container 100 requires less shelf space to display than is required by a non-collapsible, conventional container. Thus, whereas a given amount of shelf space is required to display a conventional container, the same amount of space can be used to display several collapsible containers 100, thereby maximizing a retailer's shelf space utilization. Additionally, the collapsibility offers benefits to end users as well, as when the container 100 is not in use, it can be collapsed and stored in less space than is required for conventional containers. Furthermore, the container 100 as retailed and sold by a retail store is an advantage to a buyer, as the collapsed container 100 requires less shopping cart space to transport to a checkout station.

Although the invention has been described with regard to certain preferred example embodiments, it is to be understood that the present disclosure has been made by way of example only, and that improvements, changes and modifications in the details of construction and the combination and arrangement of parts may be resorted to without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Such improvements, changes and modifications within the skill of the art are intended to be covered by the scope of the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification220/6
International ClassificationB65D6/12
Cooperative ClassificationA45C11/20, A45C7/0036, B65D11/1826, A45C13/30, B65D81/3816
European ClassificationA45C7/00C3, B65D81/38B1, B65D11/18C2