REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/815,547, filed Jun. 21, 2006, the entire content of which is incorporated herein by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to storage devices and, more specifically, to a storage device including a plurality of containers supported on a turntable.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Consumers buy and consume a wide variety of food products, and organizing and storing these food products presents a well known problem. Cabinets, cupboards and drawers tend to be cluttered with various shaped packages, making it difficult to find a particular item. In light of this, there is a need for improved food storage devices and systems.
The present invention provides a variety of food storage systems. In one embodiment, the system includes a carousel base supported for rotation about a central axis. The base has a turntable portion with an upper surface and a central column extending upwardly from the turntable portion. The central column has an outer surface with a plurality of faces defined thereon. Each face has a vertically elongated shaped indentation defined therein. A plurality of generally wedge-shaped containers each has an inner nose portion and an outer portion that is wider than the nose portion. The nose portion of each container is shaped to be received into the shaped indentation of one of the faces in the column. The containers are received on the upper surface of the turntable portion with the nose portions each being received into one of the shaped indentations and the outer portions disposed radially outwardly therefrom.
In another embodiment of the present invention, a carousel base has an upper surface and is mounted for rotation about a central axis. The base includes a light for illuminating at least a portion of the food storage system. A plurality of generally wedge-shaped containers are configured to-be received on the upper surface of the carousel.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In a further embodiment of the present invention, a rotary food storage system includes a carousel base supported for rotation about a central axis. The carousel base has a turntable portion with an upper surface. The upper surface of the turntable portion slopes downwardly toward the center of the turntable portion. A plurality of generally wedge-shaped containers are configured to be received on the upper surface of the turntable portion. Each of the containers has an inner nose portion and an outer portion that is wider than the nose portion.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a rotary food storage system according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the rotary food storage system of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a top view of the rotary food storage system of FIGS. 1 and 2;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a rotary food storage system according to the present invention with several containers removed, and illustrating an embodiment of a light for use with the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a rotary food storage system according to the present invention, illustrating various versions of lights that may be used with the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a rotary food storage system according to the present invention with yet another version of a light;
FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of a further embodiment of a rotary food storage system according to the present invention; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 8 is a side view, with partial cutaways, of a rotary food storage system according to the present invention being used as a snack tray.
The present invention provides a food storage system that includes a carousel base 10 that includes a preferably circular or generally circular turntable portion 12 that is mounted for rotation about a central axis. FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a first embodiment of the present invention. The carousel base 10 may be placed in a cabinet or on a countertop, preferably on a flat surface. The base 10 may also include a sliding portion that allows it to slide outwardly for easier access. For example, the base 10 may include a slide component that sits or mounts on a preferably flat surface and allows the carousel 12 to be slid outwardly prior to rotating the carousel 12 about its axis.
The present invention also includes a plurality of containers, such as 16, 18, 20 and 22 which are preferably shaped so as to be received on the upper surface of the turntable portion 12. The containers 16-22 are preferably wedge shaped such that a plurality of the containers fit on the generally round turntable portion 12 and use most or all of the upper surface. Referring to FIG. 2, the container 20 may be said to have an inner nose portion 24 and an outer portion 26, with the nose portion being narrower than the outer portion. The nose portion 24 may come to a point, may be blunt, or may be rounded, as shown. The container 20 has a pair of opposed sides 28 and 30 which are angled with respect to each other such that the container has an overall wedge-shaped horizontal cross section, As will be clear to those of skill in the art, the angle between the sides 28 and 30 will depend on how many containers fit on the turntable portion 12. For example, if ten equal width containers fit on the turntable portion, the angle between the sides will be approximately 36 degrees. If six equal width containers fit on the turntable portion, the angle between the sides will be 60 degrees.
In one preferred embodiment, the containers are all of the same width and the turntable portion 12 has a plurality of indentations or ridges 31 that define receiving areas for each container. As such, a container may be positioned on the upper surface of the turntable portion and easily positioned such that it is in its designated location. Additional containers may be placed on the turntable portion 12 until it is full. The carousel base 10 may also have a central column as shown at 32 in FIG. 2.
In a preferred embodiment, the central column 32 has an outer surface with a plurality of faces that are each generally vertical. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, the central column 32 has six faces. It is also preferred that each of the faces has a vertically elongated shaped indentation defined therein. In the embodiment of FIG. 2, each indentation is an arcuate or curved generally vertical channel. The shaped indentations in the faces of the column 32 preferably receive the corresponding nose portions 24 of the containers. The nose portions 24 of the containers are preferably shaped so as to mate with and be received in the indentations in the column.
Referring to FIG. 3, a top view is provided which shows the nose portions 24 being received in the indentations 34. As will be clear to those of skill in the art, the fact that the nose portions are received in an indentation of the column 32 helps to locate and stabilize the containers on the turntable portion 12 of the carousel base. In embodiments including the ridges or indentations 31 in the upper surface of the turntable portion 12, the containers are further located and stabilized. However, as shown in FIG. 2, it is preferred that embodiments of the present invention include containers of differing heights. For example, the container 20 is a full height container that extends approximately the same height as the central column 32. Containers 16 and 18 are half height containers that each stand approximately half the height of the central column 32. Containers such as container 22 are one-third height containers, such that three containers can be stacked to approximately equal the height of the column 32. As will be clear to those of skill in the art, containers that are stacked on top of each other, rather than being placed directly on the upper surface of the turntable portion 12, may be less securely located. The engagement between the nose portion of one of these upper containers and the indentation in the column 32 helps to stabilize and locate these upper containers. While the indentations 34 and the column 32 are shown as curved grooves, they may alternatively be pointed or have other shapes, with the nose portions of the containers preferably having complementary shapes so that they mate with the indentations.
It is preferred that no further interconnection between the containers and the central column is provided. However, in alternative embodiments, a further interconnection may be provided. For example, the central column may have magnets or magnetic material disposed therein with corresponding pieces of magnet or magnetic material in the nose portions of the containers. Alternatively, any type of latch or catch may be provided so as to provide interconnection between the nose portions and the column. As a further alternative, the; containers may interlock or otherwise engage the turntable 12, such as providing a magnet or magnetic material in the bottom surface of the container and a corresponding magnet or magnetic material in the turntable portion. As another alternative, the containers may snap into recesses in the turntable so that they are more securely received, or to allow transportation of the overall device.
The containers may also have a lip or flange at some point along their inner to outer length such that the containers interact with an outer rim of the carousel or a ridge on the carousel. For example, the carousel may have an upwardly extending ring at any radius, including the outer edge, with this ring being received in a flange, lip or recess in the underside of the containers. This design would help to prevent the containers from being inserted too far onto the carousel and would also help to retain the containers on the carousel when it is rotated. An additional piece may be provided to more securely interconnect the containers and carousel, such as a perimeter locking ring or a lid or cover. As a further alternative on the present invention, the carousel base may be formed as a carousel support that forms an upper part of the system. In other words, the carousel would form a carousel rack or holder. Containers then may be hung from the carousel for rotation therewith. In one example, the carousel could be mounted under an upper cabinet with a plurality of preferably wedge-shaped containers that are received on the carousel support for rotation about its axis. Each container may have a hook or other interaction means for interconnecting with the carousel.
The containers may have a handle, not shown, so that each container may be easily gripped and removed from the carousel. Numerous alternatives on this handle 34 may be utilized as part of the present invention. For example, the outer end 26 of the containers may have small indentations or other gripping surfaces to allow a user to grip and remove a container from the carousel. The containers are preferably clear or translucent so that a consumer may observe what is inside of each container. They may have labeling regions on the sides and/or outer surfaces so that a consumer may label them. Alternatively, they may have a pocket to receive a portion of a label for the food product that is placed in the container. The containers may each have a removable lid 36 which may be a single piece or may have an openable portion to form a pouring spout 38.
In one version of the present invention, the carousel has a diameter between ten inches and twelve inches and the containers have a height of about ten inches. Alternatively, the carousel and/or containers may be substantially smaller or larger. As will be clear to those of skill in the art, numerous alternatives form part of the present invention. As one alternative, containers of different heights and widths may be provided for use on a single carousel. For example, some “double wide” containers may be provided.
Referring now to FIGS. 4 and 5, some embodiments of the present invention further include a light for illuminating some or all of the rotary food storage system. In FIGS. 4 and 5, a light 40 is provided inside the column 32, which is preferably at least partially formed out of a translucent or transparent material. The light 40 in this embodiment is provided as a series of LEDs 42 that are distributed along the column. As such, when the light 40 is illuminated, illumination passes through the column 32. Preferably, the containers are also transparent or translucent such that the light 40 is able to illuminate the contents of the containers. FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional side view that shows multiple containers received on the turntable portion 12 of the carousel base with the containers shown with material therein, such as food.
As also shown in FIG. 5, a switch 44 may be provided at the upper end of the central column 32 for activating the light 40. In the illustrated embodiment, the switch 44 is a mechanical switch which is depressed downwardly for operation. Alternatively, the switch may be a touch sensitive switch without moving parts. As a further alternative, the light 40 may be activated by a motion switch, such that movement of the turntable 12 causes illumination of the light for a period of time. FIG. 5 also illustrates batteries 46 for powering the light 40. In the illustrated embodiment, the batteries are in the base of the column 32, and are accessible from underneath. Alternatively, they may be provided in the top of the column, down the center of the column, or elsewhere in the base. The batteries may take a variety of forms, and other power sources, such as a fuel cell, may be substituted.
FIG. 5 also illustrates that the turntable 12 is supported by a support 13 with bearings provided for rotation of the turntable portion 12 relative to the support 13. Referring again to the light which may be provided as part of the inventive food storage system, a light or lights may be additionally or alternatively provided in the turntable portion 12 or under the turntable portion, such as in the support 13. A plurality of LEDs 48 are illustrated in the turntable 12 and another plurality of LEDs 50 is illustrated in the support 13. Lights may be provided in other ways, such as a bulb in or under the turntable portion 12. If a light is provided in or under the turntable 12, it is preferred that at least portions of the turntable portion 12 may be formed of a transparent or translucent material so that illumination passes from the light source upwardly to where the containers rest. A switch may be provided on the turntable in addition to or instead of on top of the column for activating the light. Additionally or alternatively, a motion sensor may be used for activating the lights. As an alternative approach to providing a light, various approaches to providing a glowing surface may be used, such as the use of electro-luminscent surfaces.
Referring to FIG. 6, yet another alternative is illustrated. A light may be provided on the top of the column, in addition to or as an alternative any of the other lights previously illustrated. In FIG. 6, the light takes the form of a tap light in which a portion of the light 52 is pressed in order to illuminate the bulb inside. This light may take a variety of forms, and it is preferred that it provide at least some illumination in a downward direction so as to illuminate the containers.
Referring now to FIG. 7, in some embodiments of the present invention, the turntable portion 60 has an upper surface 62 that tapers downwardly towards the center. This taper helps in positioning containers, such as 64 thereon. This embodiment may also include a column 66 that tapers inwardly from its lower end to its upper end. In one preferred version, the angle of downward taper of the upper surface 62, relative to horizontal, is the same as the amount of inward taper of the column 66 between its lower end and its upper end, relative to vertical. This allows the container 64 to have a lower surface 68 that is generally perpendicular to the nose portion 70. As with earlier embodiments, the column 66 may have a plurality of shaped indentations 72 defined in outer faces thereof. Alternatively, the column 66 may have a generally constant cross-section between its lower and upper ends. In some versions, the containers may have a nose portion that is sloped inwardly slightly as compared to the design shown in FIG. 7, so that the containers mate with the constant cross-section column. As with earlier embodiments, it is preferred that the nose portion of each of the containers is received in the indentation of the column so as to help locate the containers relative to the carousel base. The amount of taper of the upper surface of the turntable portion and/or column may be any functional taper, with 1 to 30 degrees preferred, and 5 to 10 degrees more preferred.
Referring now to FIG. 8, an alternative use for some embodiments of the present invention is illustrated. FIG. 8 shows a carousel base 80 with the turntable portion 82 and a central column 84 extending upwardly therefrom. The device is being shown used as a party tray when the containers have been removed and substitute snack containers 86 have been placed on the upper surface of the turntable portion 82. The central column 84 may have inner connection portions 88 to engage an inner edge of the snack containers 86 and to assist in retaining them on the turntable portion 82. Other approaches to retaining the containers 86 may also be used, such as providing lower surfaces that engage with the upper surface of the turntable. A dip tray 90 is shown supported by the upper end of the column 84. In the illustrated embodiment, lights 92 are also provided in the central column 84.
As will be clear to those of skill in the art, the various embodiments of the present invention illustrated and discussed herein may be altered in various ways without departing from the scope or teaching of the present invention. For example, embodiments of the present invention may include any or all of the features discussed herein. The size, shape and appearance of the food storage system according to the present invention may also be altered without departing from the scope or teaching of the present invention. It is the following claims, including all equivalents, which define the scope of the present invention.