According to this first embodiment, the lid 100 further includes a recessed portion 28 in the top wall 30, to accommodate a user's nose, which might otherwise contact the top wall 30 when the combination of the lid 100 and cup 16 was tipped at a large angle. Further, the spout 18 is shaped to generally conform to a user's mouth, including recessed portions 32 and an inside wall 34 for the user's upper lip.
In combination with the rim 12, the spout 18 of the lid 100 according to the first exemplary embodiment is adapted to allow consumption of the beverage substantially as well as a simple hole would, but to reduce spills of the beverage out of the spout during transport. That is, the spout includes three openings 22 where the beverage exits the cup, but the openings generally do not provide a direct vertical path from the surface of the beverage outside the cup. In alternate embodiments, one, two, or essentially any number of openings could be used.
FIG. 2 is a detail view illustrating one of the openings in the first embodiment. The openings include a cylindrically shaped flange 24 that extends downward from the round openings 22. The bottom of the cylinders includes a generally flat surface 36, closing off the interior of the cylinder from the beverage in the cup. The top of the cylinders is open at the openings 22. The cylinders further include a slot or a hole 26 in the side that faces the side wall 20 of the spout.
In the first embodiment, the bottom surface 36 at the bottom of the opening 22 reduces or prevents spills during transport by directly blocking the path of a splashing beverage 38 out of the cup. According to this embodiment, as a splashing beverage 38 moves toward the opening 22, it is deflected back toward the inside of the cup 16 by the bottom surface 36.
However, it is not necessary that the flange 24 extending downward from the opening 22 have a flat bottom surface 36. Other embodiments may include concave or convex surfaces. In yet other embodiments, the flange 24 may not be cylindrically shaped, but may taper from the opening 22 downward, ending in a point (as illustrated in FIG. 3A) or a curved bottom. FIG. 3B illustrates another exemplary embodiment with a triangularly shaped opening 22, including a flat bottom surface 36. FIG. 3C illustrates yet another embodiment with an oval shaped opening 22, a tapered flange 24 ending in a curved bottom, and a combination of a slot and a hole 24 for transfer of the beverage from the inside of the cup out the opening 22.It will be understood from these descriptions by one skilled in the art that the flange 24, the opening 22, and the hole 26 may take on essentially any shape, and the invention is not limited to any particular shape.
Referring again to FIG. 2, the first embodiment illustrates a hole 26 in the side of the flange 24. The hole 26 may be cut into the side facing the side wall 20 of the spout 18, or in alternate embodiments, the hole can be located anywhere along a side of the flange 24. Further, any number of holes can be placed in any number of sides of the flange 24. As illustrated in FIG. 4, positioning a hole 26 toward the side wall 20 assists the beverage to exit the cup with less of a tipping angle than would be required with the hole on another side. Further, when the user stops drinking the beverage, having the hole on the side facing the side wall 20 also facilitates the return of any beverage left within the flange 24 back into the cup.
During drinking, as the user tips the cup, the beverage flows toward the spout 18. When the beverage enters the spout, it enters the hole 26 in the flange 24, and exits out the opening 22, allowing consumption of the beverage. The top wall 30 of the lid 100 may have an air vent hole 46 essentially anywhere on its surface to allow air to enter the cup to replace the volume of the beverage as it exits the cup during consumption.
To improve the comfort of the user while drinking the beverage, the lid can be shaped to accommodate the contours of the face. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 1, the spout might include recessed portions 32 on either side of the openings, and further, the top wall may be recessed to form an inside wall 34 for the user's upper lip. In this way, the general form of the spout 18 is raised above the seal, and might be characterized as being similar to a spout in a child's sippy-cup.
Further, the top wall 30 might include another recessed portion 28 to accommodate the user's nose when the cup is tipped. This recessed portion 28 would allow a greater tipping angle without needing to deflect one's head. The recessed portion 28 might extend from the inside wall 34 to a location where the user's nose might otherwise come into contact with the top wall 30. In another embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 7A, a recessed portion 40 might have a convex shape something like the general shape of the tip of a user's nose.
Various embodiments can be constructed using numerous kinds of plastics, such as thermoplastic, or a biodegradable material. The combination of lid and cup may be disposable, such that they are only intended for a single use. In this case, the lid can be made very thin and constructed of very inexpensive material. Otherwise, the lid may be intended for a repeated use, in which a more durable material may be used.
The lid may be formed using a process of vacuum forming, injection molding, or any other suitable process. Because processes for manufacturing goods such as lids for cups are well known in the art, a detailed description of these processes will be omitted. One skilled in the art will understand that various embodiments may be manufactured using other processes, and that the invention is generally not limited to any particular method of manufacture.
In various exemplary embodiments, the lids are shaped in such a way that a plurality of lids can be stacked on top of one another, in such a manner that the top of one lid substantially conforms to the shape of the bottom of a lid stacked on top of it. In this way, two stacked lids can occupy a much smaller volume than twice the volume occupied by a single lid. Therefore large quantities of lids can be shipped or stored using a smaller space, reducing shipping costs.
As described above, various embodiments of the invention can include a spout having a flange with any number of openings. For example, FIG. 8 illustrates an embodiment including a spout 18 having a flange 24 with three slots 26. In this way, spills are still reduced or prevented while a greater volume of liquid is allowed to pour from the spout 18 when drinking from the cup.
According to another embodiment as illustrated in FIG. 9, a partition 42 is provided in the sunken portion 22 of the spout 18. In the illustrated embodiment, one slot 26 is provided on each of opposite sides of the partition 42. In this way, the partition 42 functions to separate a stream of liquid from the spout 18 into two distinct streams, providing for a different sensation for a user of the lid during consumption of the beverage. Various embodiments including a partition are possible, including a plurality of partitions, and/or a plurality of slots on each side of the partition or partitions.
According to yet another embodiment as illustrated in FIG. 10, a trench 44 is provided in the top wall 30 of the lid. As discussed previously, an air vent hole 46 enables air to displace the volume of the beverage that exits the spout 18. In addition, the air vent hole can also act as a drain hole 46, enabling spills that remain on the top wall of the lid to drain back into the cup. The trench 44 improves the functionality of the drain hole 46 by guiding any spills toward the drain hole 46. In the illustrated embodiment, the trench 44 is an elongated depression or sunken portion extending from a region near the spout 18, across the top wall30, to the opposite side of the top wall 30. Here, the lid is configured such that the trench 44 slopes downward toward the drain hole 46 when the cup is placed on a level surface, such that a liquid on the top surface of the lid will generally flow toward the drain hole 46. Clearly, various other embodiments are possible still within the scope of the invention, including various shapes or locations of the trench 44 and the drain hole 46.
Yet another embodiment of the invention, illustrated in FIG. 11, includes two spouts 18 on opposite sides of the lid. According to this embodiment, two users can share the same cup without being required to drink out of the same spout 18. Each of the spouts 18 includes an opening or sunken portion 22 having a hole or slot 26 in a side wall or flange 24, reducing spills while still enabling essentially effortless consumption of the beverage without removing the lid. In some further embodiments, the lid includes an asymmetric marker or indicator 48 allowing the users of the cup to visually distinguish between the two spouts 18. Here, the marker 48 includes a U-shaped indentation in the top wall 30. This way, users are less likely to confuse the two spouts 18. In other embodiments, the asymmetric marking may not necessarily be on the top wall, but may be essentially anywhere on the lid, for example, differently shaped spouts 18, printed labels, varying color or texture, or essentially any other feature that allows users to visually distinguish between spouts 18.
While the present invention has been described in connection with certain exemplary embodiments, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiments, but, on the contrary, is intended to cover various modifications and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims, and equivalents thereof.