FIELD OF INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to holders for coated paper cups. More particularly, the invention relates to an insulating holder for a coated paper cup, such as a coffee cup.
In recent years, the trend has been to get away from using polystyrene cups and moved towards coated paper cups for hot beverages. While paper cups are more environmentally friendly than polystyrene cups, they have poor insulating properties. Once the cup is filled with a hot beverage, it is often uncomfortably hot to hold in the hand.
Several strategies have been tried to address the problem of heat transfer through a paper cup.
One way to address this problem is to double cup. However, double cupping not only increases costs, it also increases the amount of waste that is produced. Another approach to the problem of heat transfer through a paper cup has been the introduction of tubular members made from recycled cardboard fiber. U.S. Pat. No. 5,205,473 is directed to a corrugated tubular member that includes fluting on the inside that functions to contain insulating air. U.S. Pat. No. 5,425,497 is directed to another type of cardboard sleeve for insulating a cup. This sleeve contains nubbins and depressions to provide the insulation between the cup and your hand. These cardboard sleeves work well and do reduce waste somewhat since they comprise about 50% less material than a second paper cup. However, they are intended for single use only and thus (do) contribute significantly to the amount of paper that is wasted.
There have also been attempts to design insulating holders that are reusable, especially for cold beverages. U.S. Pat. No. 5,065,879 discloses a multi-layer insulator for a beverage container, which includes a base and a sleeve that has an exterior fabric layer, an interior fabric or neoprene layer, and an intermediate insulation layer. This device comprises an essentially tubular sleeve with a closure at the top and the bottom.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,860,399 discloses an insulated beverage holder that has a tubular body and a hinged lid. The tubular body is generally shaped to receive a beverage container such as a (pop) 355 ml. can.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,655,543 is directed to a beverage container insulator that is tubular with open ends formed from two elastic panels. The insulator also contains a hem that provides for a very tight and snug fit against the walls of the beverage container.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,550,271 is directed to a neoprene bottle insulator that is particularly designed to fit tightly over a bottle. It is not adapted for use with hot beverages.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The attempts of the prior art to provide an effective insulator for a hot beverage cup have drawbacks. Double cupping and cardboard sleeves are not reusable and cause significant litter and waste. The neoprene type of insulators are designed to fit snuggly over a hard container such as a bottle or a can and are not feasible for use with a flexible container such as a coffee cup especially one containing hot liquid. Thus, there remained a need for a holder for a cup containing a hot beverage that has good insulating properties and that is environmentally friendly.
The present invention addresses the problems of the prior art by providing a reusable insulating beverage container holder that comprises a truncated, essentially conical member that is comprised of a flexible material. A preferred flexible material for use in the present invention is neoprene, as it provides the advantage of four way stretch.
In one aspect of the invention, the holder comprises an essentially tubular member that has an open top end and an open bottom end. The top opening is generally larger than the bottom opening in order to fit a tapered cup.
In a preferred embodiment, the upper opening includes a cut away portion that is adapted to receive a user's mouth when the holder is in use on a cup. In this way, the user's mouth contacts the disposable cup rather than the reusable holder. The mouth cut out can take various shapes, but is preferably a semi-circular or U-shaped cut out.
In one preferred aspect of the invention, the reusable beverage container holder is formed from a single blank. The blank comprises a top edge and a bottom edge that are arcuate and essentially concentric. The top edge has a greater length than the bottom edge such that a tapered fit is provided. Because the top edge is longer than the bottom edge, the sides of the blank are essentially non-parallel as they extend from the top edge to the bottom edge.
The holder is preferably made of a flexible material such as neoprene. Neoprene has excellent insulating qualities and it is also very flexible so that the holder can easily be folded for storage in a pocket or purse. The holder is formed when the two side edges of the blank are sewn together. The size of the blank can be adjusted according to the size of the cup that it is designed to fit. For example, different holders can be provided for small, medium, large or extra large cups.
The present invention provides several advantages. The holder is 100% reusable and machine washable. It has excellent insulating properties for hot or cold. The cut out for the mouth provides a natural feel when drinking from the cup. The holder is reversible, can be printed on for marketing and advertising purposes and its four way stretch material provides a snug fit that won't easily slip.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
This summary of the invention does not necessarily describe all features of the invention.
These and other features of the invention will become more apparent from the following description in which reference is made to the appended drawings wherein:
FIG. 1 illustrates a blank for the preparation of one embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2A illustrates a cup holder prepared from the blank of FIG. 1.
FIG. 2B illustrates the embodiment of FIG. 2A once it has been applied to a cup;
FIG. 3 illustrates how the blank is folded around to form the holder; and
FIG. 4 illustrates another embodiment of the invention.
The following description is of a preferred embodiment.
The present invention provides a novel type of holder for a coated paper cup. The holder is made of a flexible material that has excellent insulating properties. In a preferred embodiment, the holder is made of neoprene. It is apparent, however, that other types of flexible materials with good insulating properties could also be used. Another property of the cup holder is that it has good gripability. The flexibility of the material enables the holder to be collapsed and easily stored in a purse or pocket. The holder has an open top and open bottom that also helps to facilitate this flexibility and foldability. When ready for use, the holder takes on the three dimensional tapered shape of a cup, such as is normally used for hot beverages like coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Of course, it is apparent that the cup holder can also be used to insulate cups containing cold beverages, such as soft drinks, juices, etc.
Referring now to the figures, FIG. 1 illustrates a blank for the preparation of one embodiment of the cup holder. The blank 10 comprises an upper edge 12 and a lower edge 14. The upper and lower edges are arcuate in shape and are essentially concentric. The blank also includes a first side edge 16 and a second side edge 18. Due to the fact that the upper edge 12 is longer than the lower edge 14, the two side edges are essentially non-parallel. In the illustrated embodiment, the blank 10 includes a mouth cut away portion 20 that is essentially U-shaped.
FIG. 2A illustrates a cup holder 24 in its ready to use state. The cup holder comprises a top open end 26 and a bottom open end 28. The top open end 26 is larger in diameter than the bottom open end 28 thereby providing the cup holder with a three-dimensional tapered configuration. The holder also comprises a cut away mouth portion 30.
FIG. 2B illustrates the cup holder of the invention applied to a coated paper cup. The holder 24 is dimensioned to fit over the cup 32. The cover slides smoothly over the cup, and the fit is not so tight as to cause compression of the cup or the contents inside the cup. The mouth cut away portion 30 is positioned near the upper brim of the cup and provides an open area on the cup 36 that can be accessed by a user to sip the contents of the cup. Various sizes of cup holders are adapted to fit standard cups such as small, medium, large, extra-large and so on. The stretchability of the material used for the cup holder allows for a snug, non-slip fit over the cup.
FIG. 3 illustrates how a cup holder of the invention is formed. The two side portions 16 and 18 are folded around and adhered to each other to form an essentially tube like structure. Due to the fact that the upper edge 12 is longer than the lower edge 14, the tubular structure has a wider opening at the top than at the bottom. Various methods can be used to adhere the two side edges to each other. For example, they may be glued or affixed by metal fasteners. A preferred method of adhering the two edges is to stitch them together, preferably in a zigzag fashion so as to provide strength to the seam. In a particularly preferred embodiment, all the free edges are also stitched to provide a uniform, finished look to the product.
FIG. 4 illustrates another embodiment of the invention in which the cup holder 40 includes a mouth opening 42 that is square cut, rather than U-shaped. It is apparent to one skilled in the art that the size and shape of the mouth cut out can easily be altered without affecting the functionality of the cup holder.
The cup holder of the present invention is 100% reusable. It is fabricated from an excellent insulating material that can be used for both hot and cold beverages. The flexibility and four way stretch of the material allows for a unique snug, yet not compressive fit around the cup. The cup holder is contoured to fit over a standard tapered cup. The open top and bottom ends allow the flexible material to be easily collapsed for storage. The cup holder of the invention is easy to make. It is formed from a single blank with one seam. In one preferred embodiment, the cup holder is printed to include marketing or advertising information. The cup holder is fully reversible and can be printed with different messages on each side.
The present invention has been described with regard to one or more embodiments. However, it will be apparent to persons skilled in the art that a number of variations and modifications can be made without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the claims.