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Publication numberUS20070068948 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/522,625
Publication dateMar 29, 2007
Filing dateSep 18, 2006
Priority dateJul 29, 2004
Publication number11522625, 522625, US 2007/0068948 A1, US 2007/068948 A1, US 20070068948 A1, US 20070068948A1, US 2007068948 A1, US 2007068948A1, US-A1-20070068948, US-A1-2007068948, US2007/0068948A1, US2007/068948A1, US20070068948 A1, US20070068948A1, US2007068948 A1, US2007068948A1
InventorsDavid Friedman
Original AssigneeDavid Friedman
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Hand-held food immersing apparatus
US 20070068948 A1
Abstract
The present invention includes a hand-held food immersing apparatus to allow a user to immerse a food item in a container having liquid. The apparatus includes a handle portion adapted to facilitate the user's grip on the apparatus and a plurality of flexible, elongated, and outwardly curved members adapted to firmly grasp the food item between these curved members. The apparatus can be made from a single piece of material, such as plastic, polymer, resign, wood, or metal, with a resistance to deformation such that the apparatus provides pressure to retain the food item between the curved members. The curved members can be aligned symmetrically with respect to the main member. The curved members can have a bow shape and the distal ends of the members can be adapted to apply pressure to the food item and facilitate the alignment of food placed between them.
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Claims(20)
1. A hand-held food apparatus to allow a user to dip a food item in a container having liquid, the apparatus comprising:
a main substantially elongated member having a first proximal segment and a second distal segment;
said first segment further comprising a handle portion adapted to facilitate the user's grip on the apparatus; and
said second segment further comprising a plurality of flexible, elongated and outwardly curved members adapted to firmly grasp the food item between said curved members; said curved members being coupled to said second segment and projecting distally.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the length of said main member is adapted to prevent the user's hand from contacting the container or the liquid in the container.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said apparatus is made from a single piece of a material from the group of materials consisting of plastics, polymers, resins, wood, or metal.
4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the said material has a resistance to deformation and is adapted to provide pressure to retain the food item firmly in place between said plurality of curved members.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said main member is substantially axially aligned and said curved members are disposed symmetrically about said main member.
6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said curved members are substantially bow shaped.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said main member is substantially axially aligned and wherein said plurality of elongated and outwardly curved members consist of two curved members having a substantially bowed shape; said curved members being attached about said second segment near an end of said main member such that said curved members and said main member are longitudinally aligned and such that said curved members define a first gap between said curved members near said second segment and a larger, second gap at a point distal from said first gap.
8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said handle portion includes a substantially planar surface area adapted to be grasped by the user's hand.
9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a distal end of said plurality of curved member are shaped to facilitate the alignment of the food between said curved members and said curved members are adapted to apply pressure to the food item once placed between them.
10. A hand-held food apparatus to allow a user to dip a food item in a container having liquid, the apparatus comprising:
a main elongated member having a first proximal segment and a second distal segment;
said first segment further comprising a handle portion adapted to facilitate a user's grip on the apparatus, said first segment further comprising a substantially planar surface area;
said second segment further comprising at least two flexible, elongated and outwardly curved members adapted to firmly grasp the food item between said curved members, said curved members being disposed symmetrically about said main member and each said curved member having a first proximal end coupled to said second segment and a second distal end adapted to receive the food item; and wherein said curved members are adapted to apply pressure to the food item.
11. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein the length of said main member is adapted to prevent the user's hand from contacting the container or the liquid in the container.
12. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said apparatus is made from a single piece of a material from the group of materials consisting of plastics, polymers, resins, wood, or metal.
13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the said material has a resistance to deformation and is adapted to provide pressure to retain the food item firmly in place between said least two elongated curved members.
14. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein said main member is substantially axially aligned, and wherein said plurality of curved members consist of two curved members having a substantially bowed shape; said curved members being attached about said second segment near an end of said main member such that said curved members and said main member are longitudinally aligned and such that said curved members define a first gap between said curved members near said second segment and a larger, second gap at a point distal from said first gap.
15. A hand-held food apparatus to allow a user to dip a food item in a container having liquid, the apparatus comprising:
an elongated main member having a first segment and a second segment, said main member being adapted to prevent the user's hand from contacting the container of the liquid in the container;
said first segment further comprising a handle portion having a substantially planar surface area adapted to facilitate a user's grip on the apparatus;
said second segment further comprising two flexible, elongated and outwardly bowed members adapted to firmly grasp a food item there between; each said bowed members being disposed symmetrically about a distal end of said second segment of said main member, and wherein each said curved member includes a proximal end attached to said second segment and a distal end adapted to received the food item.
16. The apparatus of claim 15 wherein said hand-held food apparatus is made from a single piece of a material from the group of materials consisting of plastics, polymers, resins, wood, or metal.
17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the said material has a resistance to deformation and is adapted to provide pressure to retain the food item firmly in place between said two elongated bowed members.
18. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein said main member is substantially axially aligned, and wherein said two bowed members are attached about said distal end of said second segment such that said bowed members and said main member are longitudinally aligned and such that said bowed members define a first gap between said bowed members near said second segment and a larger, second gap at a point distal from said first gap.
19. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein said bowed members are disposed about said second segment and define a plane that is substantially co-planar with said first segment of said main member.
20. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein said bowed members are disposed about said second segment and define a plane that is substantially perpendicular to the plane defined by said first segment of said main member.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application is a continuation-in-part application of co-pending and co-owned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/959,838 filed Oct. 6, 2004 which is a continuation-in-part application of co-pending and co-owned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/901,805 filed Jul. 29, 2004. The present application also claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/718,110 filed Sep. 17, 2005. The entire disclosure of U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 10/959,838 and 10/901,805, and U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/718,110 are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a hand-held food immersing apparatus adapted to be used to immerse food into a beverage or dip food into other liquids or semi-solids.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Children and adults alike have been dipping cookies into a glass of milk for decades. Some cultures like to dip bread into a hot beverage such as coffee and milk. Others like immersing a hard cookie such as a biscotti into wine or coffee. Inevitably, the person dunking the cookie or bread into the beverage reaches a point where the piece is too small to dip without also dipping the person's finger tips into the beverage container. Other times, pieces of the cookie, bread or other food breaks off into the beverage. One solution to dipping the remnant piece into the glass or removing the broken cookie from the mug is to use a utensil such as a fork or spoon. The present invention provides an alternative solution which is fun for all.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

The following section of the written description describes some of the objects of the present invention, but the section is not exhaustive of all of the invention's objects.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a hand-held food immersing apparatus which allows food to be immersed in the beverage and then removed for consumption.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a hand-held food immersing apparatus which firmly holds a food item without cracking or breaking the food item.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a hand-held food immersing apparatus that allows the user to immerse a food item in a beverage, liquid, or semi-solid while preventing the user's hand from touching the beverage, liquid, or semi-solid or its container.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a hand-held food immersing apparatus which is attractive and fun to use.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a hand-held food immersing apparatus that is made of a single piece of non-toxic, dishwasher-safe material.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a hand-held food immersing apparatus that is safe to use.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a hand-held food immersing apparatus that is easy to clean.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a hand-held food immersing apparatus adapted to allow a user to dip a food item in a container having liquid. The apparatus has a substantially elongated member with a first segment that has a handle portion adapted to facilitate the user's grip on the apparatus and a second segment that has a plurality of flexible, elongated and outwardly curved members adapted to firmly grasp the food item. The length of the main member can be adapted to prevent the user's hand from contacting the container of the liquid in the container. The apparatus can be made of a single piece of material such as a plastic, polymer, resin, wood, or metal. This material may have a resistance to deformation and be adapted to provide pressure to retain the food item firmly in place between the curved members. The curved members can be substantially axially aligned and disposed symmetrically with respect to the main member. The curved members can be aligned longitudinally and such that they define a first gap near the second segment and a larger, second gap at a point distal from the first gap. The curved members can be substantially bow shaped. The curved members can be shaped to facilitate the alignment of food between the curved members and adapted to apply pressure to the food item once placed between them. The curved members can be disposed along a plane that is substantially co-planar or perpendicular to the plane defined by the main member.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The subject matter which is regarded as the invention is particularly pointed out and distinctly claimed in the claims at the conclusion of the specification. The foregoing, and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention are shown and described in the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments which should be viewed in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 diagrammatically illustrates a side view of a beverage container for immersing food;

FIG. 2 diagrammatically illustrates a top view of the container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3A diagrammatically illustrates a side view of one embodiment of the food hat fits within the beverage container;

FIG. 3B is a front view of the food holder illustrated in FIG. 3A;

FIG. 4A diagrammatically illustrates a side view of another embodiment of the beverage container of the present invention;

FIG. 4B diagrammatically illustrates a cut-away view of the container from the perspective of section line 4B′-4B″ in FIG. 4A;

FIGS. 5A & 5B diagrammatically illustrate a retrofit kit allowing the present invention to be used on a standard mug or cup;

FIG. 6 diagrammatically illustrates a partial cut-away view of another embodiment of the beverage container for immersing food;

FIG. 7A diagrammatically illustrates a side view of another embodiment of the beverage container of the present invention;

FIG. 7B diagrammatically illustrates a T-shaped channel and slide from the perspective of section line 7B′-7B″ in FIG. 7A;

FIG. 7C diagrammatically illustrates a U-shaped channel and slide from the perspective of section line 7B′-7B″ in FIG. 7A;

FIG. 7D diagrammatically illustrates a key and slot from the perspective of section line 7B′-7B″ in FIG. 7A;

FIG. 8 diagrammatically illustrates another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9A diagrammatically illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of a food immersing apparatus adapted to be retrofit onto an open beverage container;

FIG. 9B diagrammatically illustrates one embodiment of the present invention with a lid member;

FIG. 9C diagrammatically illustrates another embodiment of the present invention with another type of lid member;

FIG. 10 diagrammatically illustrates another embodiment of the retrofit food immersing apparatus;

FIG. 11 diagrammatically illustrates a cut-away view of another embodiment of the food immersing device immersed within a beverage container;

FIG. 12 illustrates a hand-held food apparatus to allow a person to dip food in a container with liquid;

FIG. 13 diagrammatically illustrates a side view of the apparatus in FIG. 12 with a cookie held by the apparatus;

FIG. 14 illustrates a perspective view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 12;

FIG. 15 illustrates an alternative embodiment of the hand-held apparatus with a cracker held between its curved members;

FIG. 16 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a hand-held apparatus; and

FIG. 17 illustrates the hand-held apparatus of FIG. 16 being used to dip a cookie in a beverage.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention relates to a hand-held food immersing apparatus for immersing a food item in a beverage, liquid, or semi-solid.

It is important to note that the embodiments of the invention described below are only examples of some of the uses of the teachings described herein. In general, statements made in the specification do not limit any of the various claimed inventions. Moreover, some statements may apply to some inventive features but not to others. Unless otherwise indicated, singular elements may be in the plural and vice versa with no loss of generality. Similar reference numerals and letters represent similar components and system features throughout the drawings and the written description.

FIG. 1 diagrammatically illustrates an embodiment of the beverage container 10 of the present invention. The beverage container 10 illustrated in FIG. 1 is an open container 12 defined by substantially vertical walls 20. The upper portion 22 of the walls 20 define the opening 30 to the container 12. The lower portion 26 of the walls 20 is attached to the base 24. FIG. 2 diagrammatically illustrates a top view of the container of FIG. 1. The walls 20 of the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2 form a rounded, substantially circular shape. The lower portion 26 of the walls are continuously connected to a substantially horizontal base 24, thereby defining a glass, cup or mug 12 as is ordinarily known to all. The container 12 also includes a container handle 34.

The present invention 10 includes a holder 40. The holder 40 serves to hold the food article as it is lowered and raised in and out of the mug. In FIG. 1, holder 40 defines a concave area 42 which holds cookie 38. The size and shape of holder 40 may vary, but must be able to fit within the interior of container 12. The holder 40 defines an area adapted to hold food. Accordingly, the holder may take the form of a platform, basket, claw or other configuration capable of holding the food. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the concave holder 40 defines a scoop for holding the cookie against the side wall of the mug 12 (cookie not shown in FIG. 2). The scoop 40 of FIGS. 1 and 2 includes a hole 42 to allow any liquid accumulated within the scoop to drain when the holder 40 is raised out of the mug 12. Holder 40 also includes a magnet 50 on the side nearest the interior part of the side wall 20 of container 12, the purpose of which will be explained below. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, magnet 50 is embedded or encapsulated within holder 40.

FIGS. 3 and 4 diagrammatically illustrate a basket holder 40. Holder 40 includes multiple drainage holes 44. Similar to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, holder 40 includes magnet 50. Basket holder 40 also includes lift member 46. Member 46 provides finger grip areas 48 to allow the basket to be easily removed from the mug container 12.

The beverage container 10 of the present invention also includes a handle 60 to control the movement of holder 40. In FIGS. 1 and 2, handle 60 includes another magnet 70 embedded or encapsulated within the handle. Of course, it is not necessary that the magnet 70 be embedded or encapsulated within the handle 60.

The beverage container 10 functions as follows. The holder 40 is placed within container 12 with the magnetic portion against or adjacent an interior part of the walls 20 of the mug. The handle 60 is then placed adjacent the exterior part of the mug or cup 12 such that the magnetic portion of the handle is near the magnetic portion 50 of the holder 40. When the handle is placed near the ideal location, the magnetic fields of the corresponding magnets 50, 70 should interact forming a magnetic bond between the two magnets 50, 70 and causing the handle 60 and the holder 40 to align. The container 12 is then filled with the beverage of choice, for example milk. Using the handle 60, a person grips the handle 60 and guides the handle generally in an upward direction as indicated by arrow 62 in FIG. 1. Because of the magnetic bond between handle 60 and holder 40, holder 40 moves in an upward direction along the interior of container 12. After reaching an upper portion of the exterior wall 20 of the container 12, cookie or other article of food 38 is placed atop or within holder 40. Using the same technique, the person using the present invention then lowers the cookie 38 into the beverage by slowing lowering the handle 60 on the exterior of the container 12. The cookie 38 and holder 40 follow the movement of the handle 60. After immersing the cookie in the milk or other beverage, the user then uses the same technique to extract the cookie from the container 12. As the cookie and holder 40 are raised, and as the liquid contained within mug 12 is consumed or is depleted, the holder 40 may begin to rise above the level of liquid in the mug 12. If the holder 40 is held above the liquid line 64, accumulated liquid within holder 40 will drain down through hole 42. If the holder 40 includes a lift member 46 as illustrated in FIGS. 3A and 3B, the user may grip the cookie holder 40 and use the basket or holder 40 to retrieve and consume cookie 38.

FIG. 4A diagrammatically illustrates a side view of another embodiment of the beverage container 10 of the present invention. This embodiment includes a channel 80 running along an exterior part of the side walls 20 of container 12. The channel 80 may run the entire vertical length of the side wall 20, or may only run a portion of the length. In FIG. 4A, the channel runs at a slight angle relative to vertical, running from the lower portion 26 of the side wall up through the upper portion 22. The main purpose of channel 80 is to provide a guide for the movement of handle 60. FIG. 4B diagrammatically illustrates a cut-away view of the container in FIG. 4A from the perspective of 4B′-4B″. From this perspective, it is readily observable that wall 20 defines exterior channel or slot 80. Handle 60 includes a key or slide 68 protruding into channel 80. The embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 4A and 4B operates substantially similar to that of FIGS. 1 and 2. It should be noted that the configuration of channel 80 and slide 68 may be reversed without affecting the operation of the present invention. That is, the exterior part of wall 20 can define a rail or track, and handle 60 define a channel or slot. Moreover, more than one channel and corresponding slide may be added as well.

FIG. 5A diagrammatically illustrates an embodiment having two tracks or rails 80, 82 on the exterior of container 12. The embodiment of the present invention illustrated in FIGS. 5A and 5B is a kit used to convert an existing mug or cup into a food immersing apparatus. FIG. 5B illustrates the component parts of the kit. Exterior panel 84includes adhesive strips 86. Panel 84 is affixed to the exterior of mug 12 such that rails 80, 82 are substantially vertical. Other means of affixing panel 84 to the exterior of mug 12 may also be employed as in known to those skilled in the art. As with the other embodiments described herein, panel 84 could also define one or more channels without affecting the operation of the device. Holder 40 includes two holes 44 and contains a magnetic element 50. As with the other embodiments, holder 40 is disposed within preexisting mug 12. Handle 60 includes respective slots or channels 72, 74 built into magnetic element 70 which correspond to and align with rails 80, 82. Once the component parts are assembled onto the preexisting mug, cup or container 12, the retrofit device operates as previously described in connection with the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 6 diagrammatically illustrates a partial cut-away view of yet another embodiment of the beverage container for immersing food 10 having a channel 90 defined on the interior of the mug wall 20. The holder 40 of this embodiment thus includes a protruding slide or key corresponding to the channel 90. Again, the operation of the embodiment having channels to help guide the component parts along the walls of the container work in the same manner as previously described. As would be readily understood by one skilled in the art, a beverage container having at least one channel or track on both the inside and outside of the walls 20 of the mug 12 is yet another possible embodiment. Having channels on both sides of the mug wall 20 ensure proper alignment between the interiorly disposed holder 40 and the exteriorly disposed handle.

FIG. 7A diagrammatically illustrates a side view of another embodiment of the beverage container of the present invention. The container 12 includes a handle 34. Handle 34 is attached to an exterior part of the substantially vertical walls 20 of the container. The handle defines an outward facing or exterior channel 94 running axially along the handle 34 for at least a portion of the length of the handle. Finger grip or lever 92 protrudes into channel 94 and is couple to a flexible member 96 which runs within channel 94 into the interior of container 12. The protrusion of grip member 92 and flexible member 96 into channel 94 acts as a slide within channel 94. The distal or far end 88 of flexible member 96 is coupled to holder 40. The interior wall 20 of container 12 may also include a channel similar to channel 94 in handle 34 such that the flexible member is not exposed within container 12 (not shown in FIG. 7A). FIGS. 7B, 7C and 7D diagrammatically illustrate some of the alternative configurations between the channel 94 of handle 34, grip 92 and flexible member 96 from the perspective of section line 7B′-7B″ in FIG. 7A. FIG. 7B diagrammatically illustrates a T-shaped channel and slide from the perspective of section line 7B′-7B″ in FIG. 7A. FIG. 7C illustrates a U-shaped or C-Shaped channel and slide, and FIG. 7D illustrates a key and slot configuration. As with the embodiments having channels and tracks illustrated in FIGS. 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B and 6, the channel 94 and track or slide 96 of the embodiment of FIG. 7A may also be reversed to accomplish the mechanical link between the lever 92 and holder 40. That is, handle 34 may include a rail or track and the flexible member 96 and/or grip 92 define the corresponding, fitting channel.

The beverage container embodiment 10 illustrated in FIG. 7A operates different from the other embodiments. The user simply grabs handle 34 and depresses lever 92 in the direction of arrow 98. This can be accomplished by placing the thumb on finger grip or lever 92 and applying pressure in a downward direction 98. The downward movement of lever 92 causes flexible member 96 to slide along channel 94, which in turn causes holder 40 to move in a generally upward direction indicated by arrow 100. By reversing this action, and sliding lever 92 toward the top of handle 34 and closer to the opening 30 of container 12, the holder 40 drops deeper into the container. Hence, a cookie or piece of bread 38 can be lowered and raised within container 12. One advantage of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 7A is the lack of magnets or need to have a magnetic force between the inside holder and outside handle.

The embodiment of FIGS. 7A through 7D may be simplified by removing handle 34 altogether. FIG. 8 diagrammatically illustrates such an embodiment wherein the grip member 92 is positioned along an exterior part of walls 20 of container 12. The walls 20 define a channel 94 wicht runs to an upper part of the walls, terminating at an upper edge of the container 12. Grip member 92 is coupled to flexible member 96. Flexible member 96 runs along channel 94 to the top of container 12 and into the interior of the container 12. The other end of flexible member 96 is coupled to holder 94. Flexible member 96 may be a flexible piece of plastic, rubber, string or any other suitable material capable of flexing such that movement of the grip along the outer part of container 12 permits relative up and down movement of holder 40 within container 12. The embodiment of FIG. 8 operates substantially similar to the embodiment of FIG. 7A.

The several components making up the beverage container 10 of the present invention may be made of plastic, metal, porcelain (ceramic), or other suitable material, or a combination thereof, as is known to those skilled in the art. For example, the side walls 20, base 24 and container handle 34 may be made of porcelain, and the other components of extruded plastic. The embodiments requiring magnets or magnetically attracted components requires that at least one of magnets 50 and 70 be an actual magnetic element and the other either a ferrous metal or another magnetic element. Thus, for example, in the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, magnet 50 may be a magnetic element and magnetic portion 70, a piece of steel. Alternatively, magnet 70 may be another magnetic element.

The present invention may also be embodied in an apparatus that retrofits onto a preexisting beverage container such as a coffee mug or other open container large enough to allow passage of the apparatus. FIG. 9A diagrammatically illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of a food immersing apparatus 110 adapted to be retrofit onto an open beverage container. The retrofit food immersing apparatus 110 may take many forms. In FIG. 9A, the food holder 40 has a basket-like structure with drainage holes 44. As with the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 7A, the holder 40 can be any structure such that food can be placed and immersed into the beverage container 12. Holder 40 is coupled to elongated member 124. holder 40 may be integrally attached to member 124. For example the two components may be plastic made through a mold. Elongated member 124 extends upwards such that the member is capable of extending out of the container 12 within which it is placed. A portion 132 of member 124 extends over the top edge 22 (see FIG. 11) of the walls of the container 12. In the preferred embodiment, in order to prevent the apparatus from slipping off the edge of a container 12 and submerging into the liquid within the container, the elongated member 124 extends downward for at least a portion of an exterior part of the walls of the container. In FIG. 11, portion 134 extends in a generally downward direction.

The basket holder 44 of FIG. 9A includes a lid 120. In FIG. 9A, Lid member 120 is coupled to the top of holder 40. FIG. 9B diagrammatically illustrates one embodiment of the coupling between lid 120 and the holder 40. The lid member 120 is illustrated detached from holder 40 and includes nubs 140, 146. Nubs or detents 140, 146 fit within recesses 142, 144. Of course, any type of coupling mechanism may be utilized as would be known to those skilled in the art. By way of example, lid member 120 may be coupled via a flexible plastic strip that is attached to elongated member 124 or holder 40 by gluing or fusing. Alternatively, the lid member 120 may be coupled via a hinge.

FIG. 9C diagrammatically illustrates member 120 coupled to the elongated member 124. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 9C, the proximal end 126 of member 120 is bulbous and fits within hole 128 defined by elongated member 124. For purposes of assembly, the lid member 120 may be molded plastic with end 126 having slightly larger cross-sectional dimensions than hole 128. During assembly, end 126 is press fit within hold 128 such that the bulbous end is free to rotate within hole 128.

FIG. 10 diagrammatically illustrates another embodiment of the retrofit apparatus 110 of the present invention. In FIG. 10, elongated member 124 is a flexible member having an arcuate shape. As in FIG. 9A, handle 60 is attached at the downwardly projecting portion 134 of elongated member 124. The embodiment illustrated in FIG. 10 includes a restraint 130 coupled to elongated member 124 at 136. Restraint 130 is attached to elongated member via members 112,114. Other coupling means may be used. Restraint 130 helps restrain food placed in holder 40 such that it does not float off when immersed in the beverage. Lid member 120 of FIGS. 9A through 9C serves a similar purpose.

FIG. 11 diagrammatically illustrates yet another embodiment of the retrofit apparatus 110 of the present invention. In FIG. 11, handle 60 is coupled to elongated member 124 at portion 132.

The retrofit apparatus 110 of the present invention is easy to use with most beverage containers. As can be readily observed in FIGS. 9A, 10 and 11, the elongated member 124 is designate to be placed over the wall of a beverage container 12. Similar to the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 7A, the user places a food article atop or within holder 40. In the embodiments having a lid 120 or restraint 130, the user may have to adjust the lid or restraint in order to properly place the food article within the holder 40. Next, the user grabs handle 60 and gently laces the holder 40 within the beverage container 12 such that the elongated member 124 straddles or lies atop the brim of the beverage container 12. After a few seconds, the apparatus is lifted from the container and the food article is consumed.

FIGS. 12 through 17 illustrate a hand-held food apparatus 200 to allow a person to dip food in a container with a liquid such as a beverage. For example, apparatus 200 may be used to dip cookies, crackers, biscotti, and similar food items into a traditional beverage container. Alternatively, this embodiment may be used to dip or immerse a food item into other types of containers holding liquids or other semisolids. For example, the hand-held food apparatus 200 may be used to dip food items into gravy, sauces, dressings or other appropriate acompaniments. Apparatus 200 includes a main, substantially elongated member 210 having a first segment 220 that is proximal to the user's hand and a second segment 222 that is distal to the user's hand during use. The first segment 220 includes a handle portion 230 adapted to facilitate the user's grip on the apparatus. In the preferred embodiment, the apparatus 200 prevents the user's hand from contacting the liquid in the container during use. Hence, in the preferred embodiment, the length of the main member 210 is adapted to prevent the user's hand 168 from contacting the container 12 or the liquid 66 in the container (see FIG. 17).

In the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 12 through 13, the apparatus 200 is shaped like an anthropomorphic character with its arms stretched upward. However, other structures may be used to implement the invention. The character of FIG. 12 appears to be standing on a substantially planar, disk-shaped handle grip 230. The design of the apparatus 200 conveys the image of a person standing on a cookie. The small projections 232 provide for a better grip when handling the apparatus 200 and can be made to appear as chips on a cookie. The main elongated member 210 is axially and longitudinally aligned with reference line 204. The embodiments of FIGS. 12 through 14 are also symmetrical about reference line 204. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 12 through 14, the second segment 222 of elongated member 210 has two flexible, elongated and outwardly curved members 240, 242. The two curved member 240, 242 in FIG. 12 have a substantially bowed shape and are attached to the second segment 222 near and about the end 224 of the main member 210. In this embodiment, the distal end 224 also includes the head 226 of the character. The curved arm-like members 240, 242 and the main member 210 are longitudinally aligned such that the curved arm-like members 240, 242 define a smaller space or gap between the curved members 240, 242 near the second segment 222 as shown by arrows 234, 236 and a larger space or gap between the curved members at a point distal from the small gap as shown by arrows 254, 256. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS 12. through 14, the distal ends 244, 246 of the two curved members 240, 242 are shaped to facilitate the alignment of the food 38 to be placed between them. The illustrated members 240, 242 include rounded ends that open relative to the reference line 204, making it easier to align the food item 38 during insertion between members 240, 242. The curved shape of the members 240,242 is designed to apply pressure to the food item 38 once placed between them.

The devices illustrated in FIGS. 12 through 17 may be manufactured from a single piece of a material. The device may be made of any number of materials, including plastics, polymers, resins, wood, or metal. In one embodiment, the device is made of a temperature-resistant plastic and manufactured as a single piece through injection molding. The single piece makes the device less likely to break or come apart and the heat-resistant plastic material allows the device to be cleaned in a dishwasher. Plastics and other pliable polymers are ideal materials because they are abundant and provide some flexibility in the device such that the curved arms 240,242 expand, slightly conform to the food item 38 placed between them, and exert pressure onto the food item 38 so that the food item does not fall out of the device inadvertently during use.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 12 through 14, the curved members are disposed about the second segment 222 in manner that defines a plane that is substantially aligned with the plane defined by the handle 230 of first segment 220. The plane that bisects the curved members 240, 242 is substantially co-planar with the plane that bisects handle 230 in this embodiment. FIG. 15 illustrates an alternative embodiment of the hand-held apparatus 200 with a cookie or cracker 38 held between its curved members 244. In this alternative embodiment, curved members 244 are disposed about the second segment 222 in a manner that define a plane that is substantially perpendicular to the plane defined by the handle 230 of the first segment 230 of the main member 210.

FIGS. 16 and 17 illustrate an alternative embodiment of a hand-held apparatus 200 of the present invention. In this embodiment, the second segment 222 of elongated member 210 has two outwardly projecting fork prongs 260, 262. The curved members 240, 242 are attached to a distal portion 270, 272 of the fork prongs 260, 262. The two curved members 240, 242 FIG. 16 are flexible and have a substantially bowed shape. The curved members 240, 242 form a band or pocket through which a food item 38 may be placed. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17, the fork prongs 260, 262 and the curved members 240, 242 define a hole 280. However, curved members 240, 242 may be made wider such that edges 290, 292 overlay fork prongs 260, 262. Similar the elongated members of the apparatus of FIGS. 12 through 15, the curved shape of the members 240, 242 of the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17 is designed to apply pressure to the food item 38 once placed between them.

FIG. 17 illustrates use of the hand-held apparatus 200. The hand-held apparatus 200 is simple to use. By holding the main member 210 of apparatus 200 in one hand, the user 168 places the desired food item 38 within the confines of the curved members 240, 242 with the other hand. The food item 38 may protrude beyond the grasp of the curved members 240, 242. The user 168 may then grasp the apparatus 200 using handle 230 and insert the distal end of the apparatus into the desired container 12. Finally, the user 168 may consume the food article.

The claims appended hereto are meant to cover modifications and changes within scope and spirit of the present invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7897088Feb 8, 2007Mar 1, 2011Elward-Louis Joint Venture LlpMethod of molding a multi-pole magnetized beverage container holder
US8001671 *Mar 9, 2010Aug 23, 2011Mitchell Jed DMethod for securing a beverage container to a mounting surface
US8348083 *Feb 10, 2010Jan 8, 2013Oded LightPartitioned cereal bowl
US8505788 *Apr 22, 2010Aug 13, 2013Richard R. ThibaultDetachable handle for a portable paint and brush container
US20100200597 *Feb 10, 2010Aug 12, 2010Pushkapor LlcPartitioned cereal bowl
US20110259891 *Apr 22, 2010Oct 27, 2011Thibault Richard RDetachable Handle for a Portable Paint and Brush Container
US20120048128 *Aug 31, 2010Mar 1, 2012Robert HalelukSandwich cookie dipper
Classifications
U.S. Classification220/501
International ClassificationB65D25/04
Cooperative ClassificationA47G19/22
European ClassificationA47G19/22