CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/369,702, filed Apr. 10, 2002, the entire content of which is hereby incorporated by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to drink cups for infants, and more particularly to a sip adaptor specifically sized and configured for retrofit attachment to a conventional paper drink cup.
Most parents of infants and young children are very familiar with drinking cups often referred to as “sippy” or “sip” cups. Sip cups as currently known in the art typically comprises a cup portion which is fabricated from a plastic material and formed in the same general shape as a conventional paper drinking cup. In addition to this cup portion, the sip cup includes a lid which is engageable to the top rim of the cup portion. The lid itself typically includes an elongate spout which protrudes from a peripheral portion of the top surface thereof and includes a flow opening therein which fluidly communicates with the interior of the sip cup. In certain sip cups, the lid is threadably engaged to the cup portion, i.e., the cup portion is formed to include external threads about the rim thereof, with the lid being internally threaded with complementary threads. In other sip cups, the lid is frictionally engaged to the cup portion. The lid of some sip cups is provided with a valve arrangement which allows liquid to be drawn out of the flow passage of the spout when suction is applied thereto, but otherwise prevents liquid from spilling or dripping out of the spout when the sip cup is turned upside down or on its side and no suction is being applied to the spout.
In eating establishments where young children or toddlers are often found (e.g., fast-food restaurants, amusement park concession stands, etc.), it is the typical practice that a beverage is provided in a paper drinking cup. The paper drinking cup is typically provided with a plastic lid enclosure on one end thereof to contain the liquid within the cup, the lid enclosure including a slit for accommodating the advancement of a straw therethrough into the interior of the cup. Oftentimes, a toddler cannot be trusted to drink out of the cup/straw arrangement since there is still a high susceptibility for the lid enclosure to be dislodged from the cup and the contents spilling over the toddler. As such, it is a common practice for parents to pour the contents of the paper drinking cup into the cup portion of a sip cup, thereafter re-attaching the lid to the cup portion of the sip cup. The sip cup filled with the beverage is typically easier for the toddler to handle, and has substantially less susceptibility to spillage.
However, the initial transfer of the beverage from within the paper cup into the cup portion of the sip cup itself creates a susceptibility to accidental spillage. The present invention addresses this problem by providing a paper cup sip adaptor which is specifically sized and configured for retrofit attachment to a conventional paper beverage cup and provides the functional attributes of the lid of a sip cup.
The above problems, and others, are resolved by providing an adaptor for a commonly available cup having a longitudinal axis, the cup having side walls tapered along a length of that axis and having a smaller bottom and forming a larger circular opening with a bead around the opening. The adaptor, the adaptor has an annular collar defining a collar opening that is sized to receive the cup during use. The collar has a top rim with a recess configured to receive the bead of the cup during use.
A lid is provided that is configured to be removably fastened to the collar during use. The lid has inner and outer concentric flanges depending from the lid toward the collar. The flanges are sized and configured to receive the collar between them. The outer flange engages an outer surface of the collar to removably fasten the lid to the collar. The inner flange is configured to engage the cup adjacent the opening of the cup. The lid has a spout on an exterior surface of the lid with the spout having at least one fluid outflow opening in the spout placed in fluid communication with an inside of the lid. The spout being sized to allow a child to drink from the spout during use of the adaptor.
In the above adaptor the collar preferably, but optionally, has external threads mating with internal threads on an inside of the outer flange on the lid to releasably engage the lid and collar. Preferably, but optionally, at least one of the collar and inner flange is tapered at an angle corresponding to the taper of the cup side walls. Preferably, but optionally, the inner flange is oriented relative to the longitudinal axis so the flange abuts the side walls of the cup during use around a circumference of the side walls.
Moreover, the collar advantageously, but optionally, has a gripping surface on an exterior surface of the collar configured to be grabbed manually during use of the cup. Further, a handle can extend from one of the lid or collar. Advantageously, the handle extends along a length of the longitudinal axis corresponding to about ½ to ¾ of a length of the cup with which the adaptor is intended to be used. The Preferably the handle extends from the collar and is integrally molded with the collar.
When the cup with which the adaptor is intended to be used has a bead with a circular-cross-sectional shape, then advantageously, but optionally, the recess has a curved cross-sectional shape conforming to the circular cross-section of the bead on the cup and the recess is located to abut the bead along a lower quadrant of the bead during use. Ideally, a stop is provided on one of the collar and lid in order to engage a portion of the other of the collar and lid in order to limit relative motion between the collar and lid and control deformation of the bead.
In a further embodiment an adaptor is provided to enable a child to drink from a cup having a wall tapered at an angle and having a bead extending around an open end of the cup and located on an exterior surface of the cup. The adaptor includes an annular collar for supporting the cup by engaging a lower portion of the bead of the cup around a substantial portion of a periphery of the bead. The collar has a rotationally activated, releasable locking mechanism on an exterior surface of the collar.
A lid is removably engageable with the collar. The lid has inner and outer concentric, annular flanges depending from a lower surface and extending toward the collar during use of the adaptor. The inner flange is located to abut an interior side of the wall of the cup when the lid engages the collar. The outer flange is located and configured to engage the releasable locking mechanism to releasably fasten the lid to the collar. The lid also preferably has an annular groove formed between the flanges and enclosing a portion of the bead of the cup when the lid engages the collar during use of the adaptor. Thus, the bead of the cup is substantially enclosed by the annular recess and collar and sealingly engaged with at least one of the flanges and recess in the lid to form a fluid seal.
The lid has a child drinking spout on an exterior surface of the lid adjacent a peripheral edge of the lid, the spout having at least one hole therein that is in fluid communication with a lower surface of the lid to place the spout in fluid communication with the cup during use of the adaptor. Advantageously the lid and collar are integrally molded of plastic. Moreover, a gripping surface is placed on the exterior of the collar, the lid, or both. Advantageously, but optionally, the collar has an inner periphery inclined at an angle complementary to the angle of the wall of the cup and wherein the collar has a recess with an arcuate cross-section configured and located to engage a lower portion of the bead of the cup. Moreover, handles can optionally be provided on one of the lid or collar, with the handles extending along a length of the cup greater than ½ the length of the cup, and preferably from ½ to ¾ of that length.
There is also advantageously provided a method for enabling a child to drink from a cup having a wall with a bead extending around an open end of the cup and located on an exterior surface of the cup. The method includes supporting a lower portion of the bead on an annular collar having an inner periphery defining an opening through which a body of the cup extends. The method also includes enclosing an upper portion of the bead with a lid having an annular recess defined between inner and outer by concentric flanges depending from the lid so that the recess encloses the bead. The method further includes fastening the lid to the collar using a rotating connection on the outer flange in cooperating with a mating rotational connection on the collar. A fluid seal is provided between the lid and the cup. The method also includes providing a child drinking spout on the lid, where the spout has an opening in fluid communication with the cup.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Advantageously, the step of providing a fluid seal optionally, but preferably includes placing the inner flange in frictional engagement with an inner surface of the wall of the cup. Moreover, the step of providing a fluid seal advantageously, but optionally includes wedging the wall of the cup between the collar and the inner flange. Still further, the step of providing a fluid seal includes pressing a bottom of the annular recess against the bead. Advantageously, the method also includes providing a manual gripping surface on an outer periphery of at least one of the lid and collar The method can also optionally include providing at least one handle connected to the collar or lid to allow manual manipulation of the cup and adaptor during use. Advantageously, the handle extends along a length of the cup for a distance of about ½ to ¾ of that length.
These, as well as other features of the present invention will become more apparent upon reference to the drawings in which like numbers refer to like parts throughout, and wherein:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating the sip cup adaptor assembly of the present invention as operatively interfaced to a conventional paper beverage cup; and
FIG. 2 comprises top views of the collar and lid components of the sip cup adaptor assembly of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a partial sectional view of the cup and adaptor of FIG. 1; and
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION
FIG. 4 is a side view of a further embodiment of the cup and adaptor of FIG. 1 but having handles fastened to the adaptor.
Referring now to the drawings wherein the showings are for purposes of illustrating one embodiment of the present invention only, and not for purposes of limiting the same, the subject invention is directed to a sip cup assembly 10 which is adapted for retrofit attachment to a conventional paper beverage cup 12. As best seen in FIG. 2, such conventional beverage cup 12 comprises an outer wall 14 which has a generally frusto conical configuration. Extending along the periphery of one end of the outer wall 14 is a continuous, enlarged bead 16 which defines the rim of the beverage cup 12 and that encircles the opening that allows access to the inside of cup. The opposite end of the outer wall 14 is enclosed by a bottom wall 18. In accordance with conventional construction techniques, the bead 16 of the beverage cup 12 has a generally circular cross-sectional configuration. The cup 12, and bead 16, are typically made of a paper-based material coated with a sealant such as wax or plastic, or the entire cup may be made of plastic. Other materials could of course be used to form a fluid container comprising the cup 12.
As used herein, the up, upper or top direction or part refers to the relative direction along a longitudinal axis 13 extending from the bottom of the cup 18 toward the top of the cup 12, which direction is generally vertical when the bottom 18 rests on or parallel to the ground. As used herein, the term inner or inward refers to a direction generally toward the inside of the cup 12 and preferably toward a longitudinal axis 13 of the cup 12. The term outer or outward indicates a direction away from that centerline.
The sip cup assembly 10 of the present invention comprises two parts, the first of which is an annular collar 20 which is preferably fabricated from a plastic material such as PVC, although any other plastic material suitable for holding beverages consumed by mammals, and especially consumed by humans, could be used. The collar 20 has a top rim 22 sized and located to generally match the bead 16 and engage an exterior of wall 14 and a lower portion of bead 16. The collar 20 also defines an outer or exterior surface 26 which is itself tapered and includes a plurality of recesses 28 formed therein to provide a gripping surface for the sip cup assembly 10 when the collar is interfaced to the beverage cup 12 in a manner which will be described in more detail below.
The collar 20 also has an inner surface or inner wall 24 depending from the collar toward the bottom 18 of the cup 12. The inner wall 24 is preferably, but optionally, tapered. The slope or contour of the tapered inner wall 24 is configured to be complementary to the taper of the outer wall 14 of the beverage cup 12, or in some instances angled slightly toward the wall 14 to ensure a snug, and optionally, but preferably, a slight interference fit with the walls 14. The annular wall 24 may be slit longitudinally, parallel to axis 13 in order to provide a resilient engagement with the cup 14.
Extending between the top rim 22 or edge of the annular collar 20 and the inner surface 24 is a preferably arcuately contoured, generally concave engagement surface 27. The engagement surface 27 could comprise a radial ledge in a plane orthogonal to axis 13, or an inclined surface, but preferably takes the form of a top rim 22 having a recess with a circular cross-section sized to snugly receive bead 16 of cup 12. The engagement surface 27 itself thus defines a groove or detent within the top rim of the collar 20 that is preferably, but optionally, continuous.
External threads 29 are formed on an exterior surface of collar 20, adjacent the top edge of the collar. As used herein, the term threads includes continuous or intermittent threads, bayonet mounts, and any other interlocking mechanisms that use relative rotation to engage locking portions on two mating parts. The threads 29, as broadly defined herein, comprise rotational locking means that are sized and configured to releasably engage the collar to a cap 30.
The exterior surface of collar 20 is opposite and generally parallel to interior surface 24, but the exterior surface is contoured whereas the interior surface 24 is advantageously smooth. In addition to the threads 29, the exterior surface advantageously, but optionally, has a textured gripping surface 28. The gripping surface 28 advantageously is formed by alternating recesses and raised areas, but could include knurled surface or other arrangements of raised and recessed surfaces that make it easier for a person to manually grip and hold the collar 20 when a cup 12 is held by the collar 20.
In addition to the annular collar 20, the sip cup assembly 10 includes a lid member 30 which is preferably, circular and sized to cover the opening of cup 12 and to mate with the annular collar 20. The lid 30, like the collar 20, is also preferably fabricated from a plastic material. The lid member 30 defines a top wall 32 and an inner side wall 34 and outer side wall 34, each of which are integrally connected to and extends about the periphery of the top wall 32. Integrally connected to and protruding outwardly from the top wall 32 is a spout portion 36 of the lid member 30. Formed in the distal end of the spout portion 36 is a flow opening 38. The spout portion 36 is not centrally positioned upon the top wall 32, but rather is offset toward the side wall 34 thereof.
The collar 20 thus has a depending outer surface or outer wall 36 which is generally parallel to, but radially outward of, the inner wall 34. The outer wall 36 is preferably, but optionally tapered to match the inclination of wall 14. Preferably, but optionally, the inclination of the outer wall 36 is slightly toward the wall 14 of the cup 12 to ensure a slight interference fit and to ensure a good fluid seal between the walls 14, 36. Thus, the inner and outer walls 34, 36 are either parallel with each other and with cup wall 12, or one or both walls 34, 36 are slightly angled toward each other so as to sealingly grip the wall 14 of cup 12 between the walls 34, 36 of collar 20. Walls 34, 36 are angled toward each other by less than 10° from being parallel to each other, and preferably less than 5° and still mor preferably by 1-3° are believed suitable. Because the walls 34, 36 are annular, they are effectively concentric or alternatively concentric and slightly inclined toward each other.
The interior surface of outer wall 36 has internal threads 40 facing the inner wall 34. The threads 40 are thus generally concentric with walls 34, 36.
The walls 34, 36 are spaced apart a distance sufficient to accommodate the passage of bead 16 of cup 12 and to allow the internal threads 40 to engage external threads 29. The walls 34, 36 thus form an annular groove or recess around the periphery of collar 20. The bottom 42 of that groove or recess forms the interior juncture between inner and outer walls 24, 26. The bottom 42 is preferably, but optionally curved to match the curvature of bead 16, and thus forms an annular recess centered on axis 13 with a cross-sectional shape of a circle slightly larger than the circular bead 16. The bottom 42 could be flat, as a plane orthogonal to axis 13, or the bottom could be formed of a plurality of flat, annular surfaces concentric with axis 13.
As best seen in FIGS. 1 and 3, the sip cup assembly 10 is interfaced to the beverage cup 12 by dropping the beverage cup 12 into the collar 20 such that the enlarged bead 16 of the beverage cup 12 is brought into direct, abutting contact with the top rim 22 of the collar 20, and advantageously with contoured engaging surface 27 formed in or adjacent to that rim.
As will be recognized, such an interface is facilitated by advancing the beverage cup 12 into the collar 20 with the bottom wall 18 entering first. The complementary tapers between the inner surface 24 of the collar 20 and the outer wall 14 of the beverage cup 12 maintain the collar 20 in firm, frictional engagement to the beverage cup 12.
Once the collar 20 has been engaged to the beverage cup 12 in the above-described manner, the lid member 30 is advanced over the bead 16 and top rim 22, and maintained upon the collar 20. Advantageously the lid 30 screws onto the collar 20 by use of the mating threads 29, 40.
Alternatively, the threads 29, 40 could be replaced by various snap-lock arrangements that use an axial interlock rather than a rotational interlock. Indeed, even a frictional engagement could be used in which the rim 22 and bead 16 are wedged into the space between walls 34, 36 with the walls 34, 36 engaging the wall 12 to form a frictional engagement to hold the lid 30 on the collar.
The engaging surface 27 advantageously encloses the lower quarter of the bead 16 of cup 12. The groove between walls 34, 36 encloses between half to the remaining portion of the bead 16. Preferably, the groove bottom 42 is configured to snugly engage the bead 16. Advantageously the groove 42 and walls 34, 36 cooperate with recess 27 to enclose the bead 16 while preferably not crushing the bead 16 as that may create a location for fluid to leak from the cup 12 past the crushed portion. To help achieve this snug fit, the bottom 40 may enclose more than half of the upper portion of the bead 16, causing a slight snap lock with the bead. Alternatively, the groove 40 encompasses no more than about half the upper portion of bead 16.
The slightly inclined walls 34, 36 advantageously grip the collar 20 between them in a realasably engageable manner. Preferably, the walls 34, 36 of lid 32 cooperate with the collar 20 to grip the wall of cup 12 adjacent the bead 16, desirably within about ½ inch of the lip, and preferably as close as possible to the bead. The gripping preferably does not crush the bead 16 as that may create a location for fluid to leak from the cup 12 past the crushed portion. The engagement of the lid 32 with the collar 20 advantageously provides a substantially fluid tight engagement with the cup 12 to prevent fluid from leaking out of the cup (other than through openings 38 in spout 36, and the parts are preferably configured to achieve that fluid tight engagement.
The firm engagement between the lid member 30 and the collar 20 causes the combination of the beverage cup 12, collar 20 and lid member 30 to closely mimic the structural and functional attributes of a conventional sip cup, i.e., the beverage cup 12 satisfies the aforementioned cup portion element of the conventional sip cup. Once the beverage within the beverage cup 12 has been consumed by the toddler, the lid member 30 is detached from the collar 20, with the now empty beverage cup 12 simply being removed by being unscrew or “popped out” from within the collar 20, depending on how the lid is fastened to the cup. As will be recognized, with the sip cup assembly 10 being positioned upon the beverage cup 12 in the above-described manner, liquid is drawn out from within the beverage cup 12 by the toddler sucking on the spout portion 36 of the lid member 30.
Referring to FIG. 4, in a further embodiment a handle 50 extends from one of the collar 20 or lid 30. Preferably the handle 50 extends from the lid 30 so that the handle or handles 50 can be consistently orientated relative to the spout 38. The handle 50 preferably, but optionally, is slightly curved to provide more room for a child's hands to fit between the handle and the cup 12. The handle 50 thus extends laterally from the collar 20 along an axis radial to a centerline of the cup 12 and then curves to extend along a length of the cup 12. Because the cup 12 is tapered, the handle 50 can extend in a gradual arc without any prominent lateral section as shown in FIG. 4. Advantageously, but optionally, the handle 50 extends for about ½ to ¾ of a length of the cup 12. That allows a child to hold the handle at about the middle of the cup, near the center of gravity of the cup 12. A handle 50 extending a length of about 3-4 inches (76 mm-100 mm) along the length of a cup 12 is believed suitable.
The handle 50 is advantageously thick enough so it will not break under use and abuse by a child. A handle 50 with a circular or oval cross section is preferred, and a smooth surface to avoid abrasion. But a textured gripping surface could be provided along the gripping areas of the handle. Knurling or slightly roughened areas along the straight portions are believed suitable.
Advantageously, there are two handles 50 extending from opposing sides of the collar 20. More than two handles 50 could be formed. If four, equally spaced handles are provided, then the cup 12 can rest on a lower two of the handles while being held by an upper two of the handles by a child. Advantageously the handles 50 are integrally molded with whichever of the collar 20 or lid 30 to which the handles 50 are fastened, but the handles could formed separately and then glued, welded, adhered or fastened to the collar or lid. Alternatively, one or more handles 50 could be fastened or molded to the lid 30, and one or more handles 50 could be fastened or molded to the collar 20. A variety of configurations for a handle 50 could be used and the depicted configuration is given for illustration, not limitation.
In use, the bottom of the cup is placed through the opening defined by the annular collar so that the bead 16 rests against the top rim 22 of the collar. Advantageously, the bead 16 rests against the mating contour of the recess 22 in the collar. The collar 20 thus holds the cup 12.
The lid 30 is then screwed onto the collar, so that the bottom 42 of the groove formed by flanges 34, 36 cooperates with the recess 42 to complete the enclosure of the bead 16. The collar 20 is received in the annular space between concentric flanges 34, 36. A seal is formed between one or both of flanges 34, 36 and the walls 14 of cup 12, and/or with the bead 16. Further, the collar 20 stabilizes the open end of the cup 12 so that it cannot be easily deformed radially inward toward the longitudinal axis 13. That allows a fluid tight seal to be maintained. The collar 20 also advantageously provides a gripping surface to hold the cup with the adaptor 10 on the cup. Fluid can then be withdrawn through outflow opening 38 of spout 36 by tipping the cup to the user's mouth, preferably using the handle 50 to guide the cup and adaptor. This allows a parent to buy a soft drink or other drink at a fast food restaurant and to easily place the adaptor 10 on the soft drink container for use by a child.
Advantageously, the rim 22 of the collar 20 is sized relative to a depth of flanges 34, 36 so that the rim 22 abuts a projection on at least one of the inner and outer flange 34, 36 in order to limit the relative movement of the lid and collar toward each other along the longitudinal axis 13. That limit on motion helps prevent the bottom 42 of the annular groove between flanges 34, 36, from abutting and crushing the bead 16 in unacceptable ways. A slight, tight fit is desirable, but if the bead 16 is crushed it may form paths through which fluid could leak from the cup 12. As shown in FIG. 3, the rim 22 abuts a curved portion of bottom 42 to limit the motion. In lieu of or in addition to the rim 22 abutting lid 30, the distal lip or rim 44 of lid 30 can abut a stop 46 on the exterior of collar 20 in order to limit relative motion of the lid and collar.
Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that various modifications to the sip cup assembly 10 may be implemented without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, the lid member 30 of the sip cup assembly 10 may be formed to include the above-described valve arrangement of prior art sip cups which prevents the spillage of liquid from the spout portion 36 unless suction is applied thereto. Such a valve is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,079,013, the complete contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
Additionally, the inner surface 24 of the collar 20 need not necessarily be formed to have a tapered configuration, nor do the recesses 38 necessarily need to be formed within the outer wall 26 of the collar 20. Additionally, the taper of the inner wall 24 of the collar 20 may be formed to have a slope which provides for some measure or level of frictional retention to a wide variety of differently sized beverage cups 12. Along these lines, the collar 20 (as well as the lid member 30) may be fabricated to be of differing diameters, depending on the particular size or size range of the beverage cup 12 with which the sip cup assembly 10 is to be used. Moreover, the gripping surface 28 can be on the outer periphery of the collar 20, the lid 30, or both, even if handles 50 are provided.
Additional modifications and improvements of the present invention may also be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. Further, the various features of this invention can be used alone, or in varying combinations with each other and are not intended to be limited to the specific combination described herein. Thus, the particular combination of parts described and illustrated herein is intended to represent only certain embodiments of the present invention, and is not intended to serve as limitations of alternative devices within the spirit and scope of the invention.