FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to reclosable packages. More specifically, the present invention relates to a resealable package with a tamper-evident structure and methods of making the same.
Conventional packaging traditionally did not allow for repeated openings and closings. Where packaging is not provided with a reclosable fastener assembly or other resealing means, once the packaging is opened from its manufactured state, the seal is broken and the package cannot be resealed in a fashion equivalent to its original seal. In view of this problem with conventional packaging, reclosable bags and other resealable packages have become increasingly popular for the convenience such packaging offers consumers. Being able to reseal packaging once the original seal is broken is desired for a number of reasons, including to maintain freshness of the product contents, to prevent the contents from spilling out of the packaging, to keep environmental hazards such as, e.g., insects and moisture, from penetrating the packaging and spoiling the contents, and to provide easy access to the contents.
Packages of this nature typically include a reclosable fastener assembly, which may comprise suitable interlocking profile strips, cooperating adhesive strips, cooperating hook-and-loop fasteners, or like matable or cooperating elements. After initial opening of the package, and partial removal of its contents, the reclosable fastener assembly permits the package to be suitably manipulated and maintained in a closed state until access to the package's contents is again desired.
To be acceptable as primary packaging for many products, especially foodstuffs, it is also necessary that the packaging include a tamper-evident structure associated with the original seal to ensure the quality of the product and safeguard the consumer's expectations. From the consumer's perspective, it is desirable to incorporate a tamper-evident structure that is commercially attractive, intuitive and easy to use, and that clearly indicates, without close inspection, that the original seal is either intact or has been broken. From a manufacturer's perspective, it is desirable to incorporate a tamper-evident structure that minimizes any extra production costs and that requires little or no modification of manufacturing and packaging equipment.
Many types of reclosable packaging materials are provided in the prior art. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,969,196 provides a bag having a first portion of a reclosable sealer extending from a first wall of a tube body of a bag and capable of sealing the bag via adhesive layers upon contact with a second portion of the reclosable sealer. Also provided is a tamper indicator wherein a bonding material extends to peripheral portions of the first wall and the reclosable sealer does not extend the entire width of the bag, such that peripheral portions of the reclosable sealer remain unsealed after initial opening of the bag when the reclosable sealer is in a close seal position. The unsealed portion on the edges of the reclosable sealer thus indicates that initial opening has occurred.
U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0223665 discloses a reclosable bag with a reclosable fastener assembly joined to the exterior of the bag, and no tamper-evident structure is provided.
U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0008908 provides a gusseted bag of disposable packaging material that has a roll-top closure comprising two releasably engageable fastener components. Also disclosed as a tamper evidence feature is a closure strip with a tear rib situated between two matable fasteners such that when the tear rib is grasped and pulled across the face of the bag, the substrate of the closure is severed into two parallel portions, each carrying an associated one of the matable fasteners.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,991,372 provides a resealable package having a slider-operated zipper wherein the contents of the package are accessed through the front wall of the package. A tearable header enclosing the zipper is also provided to indicate previous tampering with the contents of the package.
U.S. Pat. No. 7,048,442 provides a reclosable package with a closed plastic zipper installed in a gusset, the gusset comprising first and second panels connected at a fold line and the package being reclosable when opposing sides of the mouth of the bag are pressed together. A tamper-evident peel seal is placed between the zipper portions and above interlocked profiled closure elements of the zipper, giving a positive indication of having been broken when the package is first opened.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In many prior art constructions, the reclosable fastener assembly or resealing means has been positioned on inside surfaces of the package, so as to permit an opening in a front wall of the package to be reclosed, or for permitting a top opening of a package to be reclosed by joining front and rear walls of the package. In other prior art constructions, a reclosable fastener assembly or resealing means is provided on the exterior of the package. This exterior configuration has been recognized as promoting versatile positioning on the package, allowing convenient use by consumers, and affording the opportunity to provide printing indicia or the like on the reclosable fastener assembly (e.g., instructions for use of the assembly, information about the contents of the package, etc.). Positioning of the reclosable fastener assembly on the exterior of the package also largely avoids package contents (e.g., powdered or granulated contents) from interfering with the functioning of the reclosable fastener assembly.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention is directed to a resealable package with a tamper-evident structure and methods for making the same. One aspect of the invention includes a resealable package including a front panel joined at respective opposite side edges to a rear panel to form a package having an exterior. The package includes a reclosable fastener assembly joined to the exterior of the package. The fastener assembly includes a first fastening member and a second fastening member respectively joined to the rear panel and the front panel so that at least one marginal portion of the rear panel can be folded over in the direction of said front panel and the first fastening member can be releasably connected or connectable to the second fastening member, i.e., the fastening members may be either in a connected state or a “pre-connected” state. The package also includes a tamper-evident structure joined to the front panel and a folded over marginal portion of the rear panel.
These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be more fully disclosed in, or rendered obvious by, the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the invention which are to be considered together with the accompanying drawings wherein like numbers refer to like parts and further wherein:
FIG. 1 is a side isometric view of a resealable package with tamper-evident structure in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2 is a side isometric view of the package of FIG. 1 with an unfolded top portion and without a tamper-evident structure;
FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of the package of FIG. 2 with a portion of the package in an unfolded, open position;
FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of the package of FIG. 3 after a first fold has been made;
FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of the package of FIG. 4 after a second fold has been made with first and second fastening members engaged and a tamper-evident structure applied transversely across a top portion of the package;
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 6 is a front elevational view of the package of FIG. 5 after a tear strip of a tamper-evident structure has been pulled transversely across part of the package.
This description of preferred embodiments is intended to be read in connection with the accompanying drawings, which are to be considered part of the entire written description of this invention. The drawing figures are not necessarily to scale and certain features of the invention may be shown exaggerated in scale or in somewhat schematic form in the interest of clarity and conciseness. In the description, relative terms such as “horizontal,” “vertical,” “up,” “down,” “top” and “bottom” as well as derivatives thereof (e.g., “horizontally,” “downwardly,” “upwardly,” etc.) should be construed to refer to the orientation as then described or as shown in the drawing figure under discussion. These relative terms are for convenience of description and normally are not intended to require a particular orientation. Terms including “inwardly” versus “outwardly,” “longitudinal” versus “lateral” and the like are to be interpreted relative to one another or relative to an axis of elongation, or an axis or center of rotation, as appropriate. Terms concerning attachments, coupling and the like, such as “joined,” “connected,” and “interconnected,” refer to a relationship wherein structures are secured or attached to one another either directly or indirectly through intervening structures, as well as both movable or rigid attachments or relationships, unless expressly described otherwise.
Referring to FIG. 1, an embodiment of the invention includes a resealable package 10. Resealable package 10 includes a front panel 12, a rear panel 14, a reclosable fastener assembly 16, and a tamper-evident structure 18.
Resealable package 10 includes a front panel 12 and a rear panel 14 each with a bottom edge 19, side edges 20, and a top edge 21. In some embodiments, the respective opposite edges 20 of front panel 12 and rear panel 14 are joined directly. In other embodiments, the respective opposite side edges 20 of front panel 12 and rear panel 14 are joined via a side gusset 22 (a fold/crease that gives the bag a three-dimensional shape). Side gusset 22 initially projects inwardly between front panel 12 and rear panel 14 and allows resealable package 10 to expand in volume. Side gussets 22 are typically formed integrally with the front and rear panels. Front panel 12 and rear panel 14 may be manufactured integrally as a continuous substrate suitably folded and joined to itself with a longitudinal seam in a tube-like configuration. Alternatively, front panel 12 and rear panel 14 may be manufactured separately as independent films or sheets of substrate to be joined at their respective opposite edges. Bottom edge 19 of front panel 12 is joined to bottom edge 19 of rear panel 14. When the front and rear panels are joined at their respective opposite side edges 20 and bottom edges 19, the panels form a bag or pouch defining an interior space. The top portions 21 of the front and rear panels define a mouth or opening 23 (FIG. 2). Opening 23 communicates with and provides access to the interior of resealable package 10.
Front panel 12 and rear panel 14 can be made from any variety of substrates suitable for packaging, wrapping, covering, casing, or encasing materials. Conventionally, packages have been composed of multiple layers of paper and solid plastic films with an outer ply typically including a polymer-coated paper with a smooth printing surface, wherein the paper may be laminated to a layer of film and another paper layer. Some embodiments provide a package comprising a middle layer of woven mesh tubing to which an outer layer of solid plastic film is adhered using polypropylene or other polylaminates. The outside layer of film (comprising the outside of the package) may be printed or reverse-printed with graphics and product labeling. Solid films are utilized, which provide excellent printability and strength and meet or exceed performance standards dictated by the marketplace. Some embodiments also use films that are treated or coated to prevent slippage of packages during manufacturing, filling, transport, and storage. The materials to be used may partially or wholly comprise compostable, degradable, or recyclable materials. In some embodiments, a resealable package is provided in the form of a multi-layered composite bag used to store bulk-type products such as pet food, seeds, fertilizer, cereals, grains, charcoal, gravel, sand, and other bulk products intended for human and non-human consumption, and other non-consumable bulk products.
In some embodiments wherein front panel 12 and rear panel 14 are manufactured integrally, a woven mesh material is formed into a tube to which a sheet of plastic film is adhered using a lamination process. The mesh material is comprised of suitable film-forming plastic resin that is split and/or stretched and then woven to form a mesh or net-like material. The woven mesh material is formed into a tubular shape to easily adapt to high-speed bag-forming equipment. The flattened tube is then fed into an extrusion laminator, and laminated on both sides of the flattened tube to a solid plastic film using polypropylene or other polylaminate.
Among the alternative films that can be employed in making the mesh tubes are, without limitation, thermoplastic synthetic polymers, including polyolefins such as low density polyethylene, linear low density polyethylene, polypropylene coated with a layer of polyethylene, high density polyethylene, metallocene, electron-beam cured solid films, copolymers of ethylene and propylene and combinations of these polymers, polyesters, polyamides, polyvinyl polymers, and copolymers, and polylactic acid (PLA) resins. Preferred resins are polyethylene, low density, high density, or linear low density, and combinations thereof, as well as polypropylene coated or laminated with a layer of polyethylene, and polyesters. The solid plastic film to which the mesh tubes are adhered is comprised of various thermoplastic resins or polymers or combinations thereof, including but not limited to polypropylene, low density polyethylene, high density polyethylene, linear low density polyethylene, metallocene, and/or polypropylene coated with a layer of polyethylene, films coated with electron-beam surfaces that may or may not be pre-printed, and PLA resins.
An outer solid plastic film layer provides a surface for printing or reverse-printing graphics and/or product labeling. The outer solid plastic film is then adhered to the mesh tubes using adhesives, poly extrusion laminating, or some other known means of attaching the two layers. The mesh tube comprises the inside layer of the package, giving the package strength and integrity. A layer of transparent or colored film may also serve as an inside liner of the package and may or may not be printed. The outside film layer also may be treated or otherwise coated on one side with any material that alters the level of slipperiness or tackiness of the outer surface, including the coefficient of static friction measure, making the package less likely to slip during manufacturing, transporting and/or storing.
In an embodiment wherein front panel 12 and rear panel 14 are manufactured as separate films to be joined, the respective opposing side and bottom edges of front panel 12 and rear panel 14 may be joined by any number of various methods of sealing and shutting packages, including, but not limited to, using adhesives or heat seals.
In some embodiments, reclosable fastener assembly 16 includes a first fastening member 24 and a second fastening member 26. In some embodiments, reclosable fastener assembly 16 includes cooperating extruded profiles wherein the first fastening member 24 is a profile strip element that cooperates with the second fastening member 26, also a profile strip element, in a press-to-close fashion. In other embodiments, the reclosable fastener assembly 16 may include any number of suitable resealing mechanisms, including, but not limited to, the following: (a) a male strip intersecting with a female groove; (b) slider tabs; (c) metal tabs extending beyond the side edges of either the front or rear panel so that a top portion of the resealable package can be folded over and the tabs can be bent to hold the package closed; (d) hook-and-loop-type closure strips; (e) a conventional zipper; or (f) a re-joinable adhesive release liner. The reclosable fastener assembly 16 is fixed to the exterior of resealable package 10 and configured to permit easy, intuitive, and convenient opening and resealing of opening 23. Specifically, first fastening member 24 is joined to rear panel 14 and second fastening member 26 is joined to front panel 12. The first and second fastening members may be joined to the package by any suitable means, including use of adhesives, binders, heat-seals, or cold-seals. In some embodiments, the first and second fastening members are provided with an adhesive or binder pre-applied to a portion of the fastening member to be joined to the package.
In some embodiments, tamper-evident structure 18 comprises an adhesive tape 28 with or without a tear tape or tear strip 30. Tear strip 30 extends transversely across front panel 12 in the area of where a top portion of rear panel 14 is folded over to front panel 12. In some embodiments, tear strip 30 extends from one side edge 20 of front panel 12 to the other side edge 20 of front panel 12 with at least one extension 32 of tear strip 30 extending beyond one side edge 20. Adhesive tape 28 extends transversely across front panel 12 and the second marginal portion 42 of the package and directly over top of tear strip 30. In one embodiment, adhesive tape 28 extends at least from one side edge 20 of front panel 12 to the other side edge 20 of front panel 12 and does not extend past any extensions 32 of tear strip 30. In another embodiment, the adhesive tape 28 and the tear strip 30 extend transversely across front panel 12 from at least one side edge 20 to at least the other side edge, and the adhesive tape may be notched and/or sliced at the tear strip, so that the tear strip may be accessible and easily torn away from the adhesive tape by the end user.
Tear strip 32 may be made from any suitable material, including, but not limited to polymeric materials including cellulose, cellulose derivatives, acrylics, polyvinyl chloride, vinyl chloride copolymers, linear polyesters and/or polyolefins such as polypropylene, polyethylene or copolymers thereof, or other suitable thermoplastic materials. Tear strip 32 may be non-adhesive or adhesive on one or both sides. Tear strip 32 may be coated with any material suitable for coating, such as a polymeric material. Tear strip 32 may have any suitable width, is preferably between about ⅛ (0.125) inches and about ½ (0.5) inches, and is most preferably about ⅛ (0.125) inches. Tear strip 32 may have a color or be colorless and may be transparent, translucent, or opaque. In one embodiment, tear strip 32 has a color distinctive from and visible through a transparent or translucent adhesive tape 28. In another embodiment, tear strip 32 is made of a material that allows printing or reverse printing of graphics and/or text.
Adhesive tape 28 may be made from any suitable material, including, but not limited to polymeric materials including cellulose, cellulose derivatives, acrylics, polyvinyl chloride, vinyl chloride copolymers, linear polyesters and/or polyolefins such as polypropylene, polyethylene or copolymers thereof, or other suitable thermoplastic materials. Preferably, adhesive tape 28 is made of a material that allows printing or reverse printing of graphics and/or text, such as company logos, product trademarks, directions or instructions, and/or any other relevant information. Adhesive tape 28 is adhesive on one side so as to adhere to resealable package 10 and underlying tear strip 32. Adhesive tape 28 may have any suitable width, is preferably between about ½ (0.5) inches and about 3½ (3.5) inches, and is most preferably 2 inches. In one embodiment, adhesive tape 28 is a conventional acrylic packaging tape. The adhesive used to join adhesive tape 28 to resealable package 10 is preferably a pressure-sensitive adhesive and is relatively strong so as not to come un-joined from and/or re-adhered to the package without leaving an obvious, visible demarcation or signal that it has been so removed.
From the foregoing description, use of the exemplary resealable package will be readily apparent. Referring to FIGS. 2-5, one embodiment of resealable package 10 is folded and closed in the following manner: Front panel 12 and rear panel 14 are flattened or pressed together and a first marginal portion 46 (e.g., the top or distal portion of the package 10) of resealable package 10 is rolled or folded in the direction of front panel 12 such that top edge 21 of front panel 12 is folded down toward front panel 12 and a first crease 40 is made transversely across the top of resealable package 10. First crease 40 provides a primary seal of opening 23. After first crease 40 is formed, first fastener member 24 is positioned on the same side of resealable package 10 as second fastener member 26. After first crease 40 is formed, a second marginal portion 42 (e.g., the penultimate portion of the package, immediately adjacent to the first marginal portion) of resealable package 10 is rolled or folded in the direction of front panel 12 such that first crease 40 is folded down toward front panel 12 and a second crease 44 is made transversely across the top of resealable package 10.
In some embodiments, after second crease 44 is made, first fastening member 24 is aligned with and able to be releasably connected to second fastening member 26. In other embodiments, multiple folds and creases (e.g., more than two) may be implemented to close resealable package 10. For example, in some embodiments, two folds forming two creases may be implemented before a third fold brings first fastening member 24 to the same side of resealable package 10 as second fastener member 26, such that a fourth fold is used to align and engage the fastener members. In some embodiments, pressure is applied across second marginal portion 42 to releasably connect first fastening member 24 and second fastening member 26. First marginal portion 46 and second marginal portion 42 may be of any width or widths suitable for releasably sealing package 10 and may be dependent on, and may be greater than or equal to, the width of the first and second fastening members. The marginal portions may be of any suitable width or widths, preferably the marginal portions are each about ½ (0.5) inches to about 2 inches, and most preferably the marginal portions are each about 1¼ (1.25) inches. First marginal portion 46 may or may not have a width equal to the width of second marginal portion 42. Resealable package 10 is opened from this closed state by disengaging the reclosable fastener assembly 16 and unfolding the first and second marginal portions to gain access to opening 23. In the above-described fashion, resealable package 10 can be easily and conveniently opened, closed and sealed, reopened, and reclosed and resealed several times.
In other embodiments (not shown), the package may have an additional first fastening member 24 and an additional second fastening member 26 positioned further from the top (distal) end of the package for resealing the package when a substantial portion of the contents have been removed, and several marginal portions have been folded over.
Referring to FIG. 5, when resealable package 10 is folded over and sealed for the first time after its manufacture, tamper-evident structure 18 is applied transversely across resealable package 10 over second marginal portion 42 and front panel 12, such that tear strip 30 is substantially near crease 40. As initially sealed with tamper-evident structure 18, reclosable fastener assembly 16 cannot be disengaged and resealable package 10 cannot be unfolded.
Referring to FIG. 6, tamper-evident structure 18 is opened for the first time after initial sealing of resealable package 10 by grasping and pulling extension 32 of tear strip 30 transversely across the package. As tear strip 30 is pulled across the package, adhesive tape 28 is severed substantially linearly along split 56. Once tear strip 30 has been pulled completely across the package, adhesive tape 28 is fully severed and reclosable fastener assembly 16 may be disengaged to open resealable package 10 for the first time. Split 56 along adhesive tape 28 indicates that resealable package 10 has been tampered with or opened.
In further embodiments, the reclosable fastener assembly comprises a first fastening member pre-mated to a second fastening member, with the reclosable fastener assembly being first joined to the front panel, and later joined to the first marginal portion, or alternatively, the reclosable fastener assembly comprises a first fastening member pre-mated to a second fastening member, with the reclosable fastener assembly being first joined to the first marginal portion, and later joined to the front panel.
It is to be understood that the present invention is by no means limited only to the particular constructions herein disclosed and shown in the drawings. The appended claims should be construed broadly to cover any variations or modifications within the scope or range of equivalents of the claims.