BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present disclosure relates to bowls used to hold food products during consumption. More particularly, the present disclosure relates to bowls with coverings to reduce spillage in the event the bowl is turned upside down.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Bowls are well known and widely used. Coverings having a sealing interface with a storage container such as a bowl are also well known. During use, bowls are typically supported by a table or other stable surface in a horizontal position. When a conventional bowl such as a cereal bowl is turned upside down, the contents of the bowl will spill out.
The present invention comprises one or more of the features recited in the appended claims and/or the following features which, alone or in any combination, may comprise patentable subject matter:
A container may comprise a bowl and a covering removably coupleable to the bowl. The covering may include an opening which provides access to contents of the container by a person using an eating utensil, such as a spoon, for example, to consume the contents. The container may be configured to retain contents of the bowl if the bowl is tipped or flipped over.
The bowl may have a bottom and an annular side wall. The side wall may have an increasing diameter as the sidewall progresses away from the bottom. However, the sidewall of the bowl may have any desired shape including frustoconical, concave, or convex, as well as combinations of these. The radii of curvature of the convex and concave portions of the sidewall may vary from portion to portion of the sidewall. In some embodiments, the bowl may not have a uniform shape about a central axis. For example, the bowl may have a polygonal shape such as a square, hexagon, or octagon when the bowl is viewed along a central axis. In some embodiments, the bottom may be omitted and the sidewall may form a uniform shape such as a hemispherical shape, for example, with feet or similar supports coupled to the sidewall to support the bowl when resting on a surface. In some embodiments, the bottom may form a substantially planar surface which provides support to the bowl when the bowl is placed on a flat, level surface.
The sidewall surrounds an interior region of the bowl. An upper edge of the sidewall of the bowl defines an opening through which the interior region is accessed. The upper edge of the sidewall of the bowl may have a flange. The flange may have a substantially planar horizontal engagement surface and a substantially cylindrical vertical engagement surface.
The covering may engage the top of the bowl so as to form a substantially liquid-tight seal at the connection of the covering and the bowl. The covering may be shaped such that portions of the covering complement portions of the bowl so as to form a volume between the covering and the bowl. The opening in the center of the covering may be surrounded by a channel. The channel may have various shapes with the bowl sidewall having any of a number of complementary profiles to the channel. When the covering is coupled to the bowl, the covering channel may complement the bowl sidewall to form a volume to retain contents of the container in the event the container is flipped over.
In one illustrative embodiment, the covering may have an annular shape about a central axis that is common to the central axis of the bowl when the covering is coupled to the bowl. The opening in the covering may be centered on the central axis.
The covering may also include an engagement portion about the periphery of the covering, the engagement portion comprising a locking flange, a lip, and a sealing flange. The sealing flange may engage the horizontal engagement surface of the bowl flange to form a substantially liquid-tight seal. The covering may be removably coupled to the bowl by the locking flange, wherein the lip extends vertically downward from the sealing flange of the covering and engages the vertical engagement surface of the bowl and the locking flange engages a lower edge of the vertical engagement surface of the bowl to provide a friction fit between the locking flange and the edge to retain the covering on the bowl. While the illustrative embodiment shows the coupling features described herein, it should be understood that a number of methods are known for locking a covering to a bowl to form a substantially liquid-tight seal and that any of those methods may be employed within the scope of the invention disclosed herein.
Inboard from the engagement portion of the covering toward the central axis, the covering may have an arch-shaped cross-section so as to form a continuous channel about the central axis, the channel opening downwardly toward the interior region of the bowl. The shape of the channel in the covering may be such that the covering may complement the sidewall of the bowl so that the covering and sidewall form a volume therebetween that is of sufficient size to contain a volume equal to or greater than a volume of the interior region of the bowl. The channel may be formed by an arching surface profile as the covering progresses inwardly from the sealing flange of the engagement portion toward the central axis with the arching surface terminating at a lower edge which is below the top of the sidewall of the bowl. The opening through which a person can access the contents of the container is formed by the lower edge of the arching surface. In the illustrative embodiment, the channel is arch shaped. It should be understood that any of a number of shapes which complement the various shapes of the sidewall of the bowl may be used to form the channel and, thereby, the volume between the covering and the bowl.
The arching surface of the channel portion may be shaped to provide sufficient clearance to allow a person using a spoon to access contents of the container in a near horizontal orientation providing for the contents of the container being removed with the spoon without spilling during removal of the spoon from the opening. The opening may be sized to complement the shape of the arching surface on the top of the covering to facilitate spooning contents from the container.
The covering may be made of a pliable thermoplastic which has sufficient flexibility to allow the lip of the covering to slip past the vertical engagement surface of the bowl to retain the covering on the bowl. In some embodiments, the covering may comprise a transparent or translucent material such that the contents of the container are visible through the covering. Similarly, the bowl may be made of a pliable and resilient thermoplastic material to provide flexibility of the bowl while the covering is removably coupled to the bowl.
The covering may have a substantially continuous thickness throughout, such that a downwardly facing surface of the covering and an upwardly facing surface of the covering are substantially parallel. The covering may have an integrated handle or tab which extends from the periphery of the covering to provide a grip for the container and to provide leverage for disengagement of the covering from the bowl during removal of the covering from the bowl.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Additional features, which alone or in combination with any other feature(s), including those listed above and those listed in the claims, may comprise patentable subject matter and will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon consideration of the following detailed description of illustrative embodiments exemplifying the best mode of carrying out the invention as presently perceived.
The detailed description particularly refers to the accompanying figures in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container having a covering removably coupled to a bowl such that the covering and bowl form a substantially liquid-tight seal, the covering having an opening through which food may be accessed by an eating utensil;
FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the container of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view, taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 1, showing contents in the bowl;
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the container of FIG. 3 rotated ninety degrees about a horizontal axis showing the position of contents in the bowl; and
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the container of FIG. 3 rotated one-hundred eighty degrees about a horizontal axis showing the position of contents in the bowl.
A container 10 shown in FIG. 1 comprises a bowl 12 and a covering 14. Covering 14 has an opening 30 sized to allow an eating utensil such as a spoon 16, for example, to be used to access contents 38 of the container 10. In use, the container 10 holds contents 38 (best seen in FIGS. 3-5) such as food products, for example. The contents 38 are accessible by a person to eat and the container 10 is configured to reduce or eliminate spills of the food products if the container 10 is moved abruptly or tipped over.
Referring to FIGS. 3-5, bowl 12 comprises a bottom 36, and a side wall 26 which extends upwardly from bottom 36 and is generally annular in shape about a central vertical axis 50. Bottom 36 of bowl 12 is generally planar providing a lower surface 52 on which bowl 12 rests for support. When container 10 is placed on a generally flat horizontal surface such as a table, for example, lower surface 52 supports container 10 and contents 38. Bottom 36 and sidewall 26 of bowl 12 may have a substantially uniform thickness. In some embodiments, the thickness of bottom 36 and sidewall 26 may vary to lower the center of gravity of the container and thereby reduce the potential for the container 10 to be inadvertently flipped over.
In the illustrative embodiment shown in FIG. 3, sidewall 26 is shaped to form a lower portion 32 and an upper portion 34 each of which are generally annularly shaped with sidewall 26 in lower portion 32 having a slightly increasing diameter as sidewall 26 progresses upwardly. Upper portion 34 begins at a transition 58 with upper portion having an increasing diameter as the bowl 12 sidewall 26 extends upwardly with the rate of change in the diameter decreasing as the sidewall 26 progresses upwardly. The resulting structure of bowl 12 appears as if a larger bowl is sitting on a smaller bowl. The smaller lower portion 32 results in the gathering of contents 38 in the lower portion 32 near axis 50 as some of the contents 38 are removed, thereby making access to the remaining contents 38 through the opening 30 easier.
At the top of sidewall 26 a flange 20 extends outwardly from axis 50 to form a horizontal engagement surface 44. A vertical engagement surface 24 extends downwardly a short distance from surface 44 and has a size which is approximately half the width of surface 44. Surface 44 and surface 24 are configured to be engaged by the covering 14 to form a substantially liquid-tight seal.
Covering 14 has an annular shape about axis 50 with opening 30 centered on axis 50 and sized to permit access to the contents of container 10 through opening 30. A downward facing concave channel 40 is formed in covering 14 circumscribing opening 30 and cooperates with a portion of sidewall 26 of bowl 12 to form a volume which retains contents of container 10 if container 10 is flipped over.
Covering 14 has an engagement portion 18 which includes a sealing flange 58 configured to engage surface 44 of bowl 12. Referring now to FIG. 2, the covering 14 is positioned engage bowl 12 along axis 50 such that covering 14 may removably coupled to bowl 12 to form container 10. Referring again to FIGS. 3-5, an engagement lip 22 extends down vertically from sealing flange 58 and is configured to engage the surface 24 of bowl 12. A locking flange 48 extends inwardly from the engagement lip 22 and is configured to hold the covering 14 by engaging an edge 46 at the bottom of surface 24 about the periphery of bowl 12. An engagement plane 42 is defined at interface between sealing flange 58 and surface 44.
Covering 14 is monolithic and has a substantially uniform thickness throughout. Inwardly from engagement portion 18, covering 14 has a curved annular wall 61 shaped to create a concave channel 40. Concave channel 40 is formed as the cross-section of covering 14 follows an arching profile 60 from engagement portion 18 to a lower edge 62 of covering 14. The arching profile 60 provides the shape of concave channel 40. The outward radial region of wall 61 is situated above engagement plane 42 and the inward radial region of wall 61 is below plane 42 such that lower edge 62 is situated below engagement plane 42. Thus, plane 42 intersects wall 61 of covering 14. By having the radial inward region of wall 61 below plane 62, the volume of space which retains the contents of container 10 when container 10 is flipped over, is increased. In alternative embodiments, covering 14 is shaped so that lower edge 42 is either substantially coplanar with, or above plane 42, when container 10 is in the normal, upright position.
Opening 30 is bounded by lower edge 62 and is centered relative to axis 50. The arching profile of wall 61 facilitates access to contents 38 of container 10 with spoon 16 because the shape of wall 61 blends smoothly toward opening 30 thereby permitting a person using a spoon 16 to remove some of the contents 38 from container 10 through opening 30 with a scoop portion 17 of spoon 16 remaining in a substantially horizontal orientation.
When covering 14 is coupled to bowl 12, the engagement between sealing flange 58 and engagement surface 44, as well as the engagement between the engagement lip 22 and engagement surface 24 results in a substantially liquid-tight seal. The engagement of locking flange 48 to edge 46 retains covering 14 on bowl 12 until removed by a person. A person may use a tab handle 28 which is formed in covering 14 to gain leverage to disengage locking flange 48 from edge 46 to remove covering 14 from bowl 12.
The sealing between covering 14 and bowl 12 is such that as container 10 is flipped over, contents 38 of the bowl will be retained without leaking. For example, FIG. 4 shows container 10 rotated in the direction of arrow 64 ninety degrees about a horizontal axis and illustrates how some of contents 38 are retained within concave channel 40 of container 10. The substantially liquid-tight seal of covering 14 to bowl 12 reduces the potential for contents 38 to leak. If the container 10 is rotated one-hundred eighty degrees about the horizontal axis, contents 38 will be distributed such that contents 38 will continue to be retained in concave channel 40 as shown in FIG. 5.
While the illustrative embodiment of FIGS. 1-5 show an engagement between covering 14 and bowl 12 that requires covering 14 to be snapped over the surfaces 44, 24 and edge 46 of bowl 12, it should be understood that a number of methods of removably coupling coverings to bowls exist in the prior art. For example, in some embodiments, container 10 may comprise a bowl having an annular flange extending upwardly from an upper flange or edge and the covering may have a complementary recess which fits over the flange to form an interference fit between the recess and flange that is substantially liquid-tight. Also, in some other embodiments, covering may have a flange circumscribing the outermost edge of the covering, the flange extending downwardly and having an inner diameter smaller than an outer diameter of the bowl so as to engage the bowl with an interface fit resulting in a substantially liquid-tight seal. The scope of this disclosure should not be limited to the coupling/sealing configuration shown herein.
Also, it should be understood that the proportion of sizes and shapes of covering 14 and bowl 12 may be varied to vary the resulting size of concave channel 40 and thereby vary the volume of contents 38 retained. The embodiment shown in FIGS. 3-5 is illustrative only and the proportions of the components therein may be varied to achieve any of a number sizes and shapes of concave channel 40.
Further, the arching profile of wall 61 reduces the potential for spilling. The arching wall 61 redirects contents 38 back into the bowl 12 so that contents 38 which are splashed against the wall 61 have a tendency to fall back down into the bowl 12. Because the wall 61 extends below the plane of engagement at the sealing point, the potential for spills out of the opening 30 is reduced even further.
Although certain illustrative embodiments have been described in detail above, variations and modifications exist within the scope and spirit of this disclosure as described and as defined in the following claims.