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United States Patent Application 20180192802
Kind Code A1
JOHNSON; PHILLIP A. July 12, 2018

Containers And Container Systems With An Enclosed Eating Or Serving Utensil

Abstract

A container system with an enclosed utensil. The utensil can be stored in a slot in a side wall of the container for easy removal and handling. The enclosed utensil can be retractable, and can include a collar for cleaning the utensil implement.


Inventors: JOHNSON; PHILLIP A.; (Atlanta, GA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

JOHNSON; PHILLIP A.

Atlanta

GA

US
Family ID: 1000003161003
Appl. No.: 15/869665
Filed: January 12, 2018


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62445509Jan 12, 2017

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A47G 21/145 20130101; B65D 77/245 20130101; B65D 51/246 20130101; A47G 19/186 20130101
International Class: A47G 21/14 20060101 A47G021/14; B65D 77/24 20060101 B65D077/24; B65D 51/24 20060101 B65D051/24

Claims



1. A container having a longitudinal axis and comprising: a container body having: a base; at least one side wall extending upwardly from the base relative to the longitudinal axis, the at least one side wall comprising an outer surface and an inner surface spaced from the outer surface relative to a transverse axis that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the container, wherein the at least one side wall defines an upper portion of the container body that is opposed from the base, the inner surface of the at least one side wall and the base cooperating to define an interior chamber of the container; and a slot defined within the at least one side wall, wherein the slot is positioned between the outer surface and the inner surface of the at least one side wall relative to the transverse axis, wherein the slot extends axially from the upper portion of the container body toward the base relative to the longitudinal axis of the container, and wherein the slot of the container body is configured to receive at least a portion of a utensil.

2. The container of claim 1, wherein the upper portion of the container body comprises at least one engagement element.

3. The container of claim 2, wherein the container further comprises a lid that is configured to engage at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body such that the lid, the inner surface of the at least one side wall, and the base cooperate to enclose the interior chamber.

4. The container of claim 3, wherein the lid is configured to sealingly engage the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body to create a seal between the lid and the container body.

5. The container of claim 3, wherein the lid is connected to the container body by a hinge.

6. The container of claim 3, wherein the lid has opposed inner and outer surfaces, wherein the outer surface of the at least one side wall defines the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body, and wherein the inner surface of the lid is configured to engage the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body.

7. The container of claim 6, wherein the at least one engagement element comprises at least one thread.

8. The container of claim 3, wherein the lid has opposed inner and outer surfaces, wherein the inner surface of the at least one side wall defines the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body, and wherein the outer surface of the lid is configured to engage the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body.

9. The container of claim 1, wherein the slot extends axially from the upper portion of the container body to the base of the container body.

10. The container of claim 9, wherein the slot has a primary elongate portion that is oriented substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the container and a distal portion that is oriented at a selected acute angle relative to the longitudinal axis of the container, wherein the distal portion of the slot extends radially outwardly from the primary elongate portion of the slot relative to the transverse axis.

11. The container of claim 9, wherein the base has an outer surface, and wherein the base defines at least one drainage opening in fluid communication with the slot and extending from the slot to the outer surface of the base.

12. The container of claim 1, wherein the slot extends axially from the upper portion of the container body to a distal location that is axially between the upper portion of the container body and the base of the container body.

13. The container of claim 12, wherein the slot has a primary elongate portion that is oriented substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the container and a distal portion that is oriented at a selected acute angle relative to the longitudinal axis of the container, wherein the distal portion of the slot extends radially outwardly from the primary elongate portion of the slot relative to the transverse axis.

14. The container of claim 12, wherein the at least one side wall defines at least one drainage opening in fluid communication with the slot and extending from the slot to the outer surface of the at least one side wall.

15. The container of claim 1, further comprising a utensil housing positioned within the slot and having a complementary shape to the slot, wherein the utensil housing is selectively removable from the slot.

16. The container of claim 1, wherein the at least one side wall of the container body comprises thermally insulating material.

17. A utensil having a longitudinal axis and comprising: a distal handle portion having an outer surface and opposed proximal and distal ends; a proximal handle portion comprising a hollow shaft configured to receive at least a portion of the distal handle portion, the proximal handle portion having opposed proximal and distal ends; and a collar coupled to the distal end of the proximal handle portion and configured to receive a portion of the distal handle portion, wherein the distal handle portion is slidingly coupled to the proximal handle portion to permit retraction of the distal handle portion through the collar and into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion, and wherein the collar defines a distal edge that is configured to block material on the outer surface of the distal handle portion from entering the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion as the distal handle portion is retracted into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion.

18. The utensil of claim 17, wherein the distal end of the distal handle portion defines a spoon element.

19. A container system comprising; a container having a longitudinal axis and comprising: a container body having: a base, at least one side wall extending upwardly from the base relative to the longitudinal axis, the at least one side wall comprising an outer surface and an inner surface spaced from the outer surface relative to a transverse axis that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the container, wherein the at least one side wall defines an upper portion of the container body that is opposed from the base, the inner surface of the at least one side wall and the base cooperating to define an interior chamber of the container, and wherein the upper portion of the container body comprises at least one engagement element, a slot defined within the at least one side wall, wherein the slot is positioned between the outer surface and the inner surface of the at least one side wall relative to the transverse axis, and wherein the slot extends axially from the upper portion of the container body toward the base relative to the longitudinal axis of the container, and a lid that is configured to engage at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body such that the lid, the inner surface of the at least one side wall, and the base cooperate to enclose the interior chamber; and a utensil, wherein the slot is configured to receive at least a portion of the utensil, and wherein the utensil is selectively removable from the slot.

20. The container system of claim 19, wherein the utensil has a longitudinal axis and comprises: a distal handle portion having an outer surface and opposed proximal and distal ends; a proximal handle portion comprising a hollow shaft configured to receive at least a portion of the distal handle portion, the proximal handle portion having opposed proximal and distal ends; and a collar coupled to the distal end of the proximal handle portion and configured to receive a portion of the distal handle portion, wherein the distal handle portion is slidingly coupled to the proximal handle portion to permit retraction of the distal handle portion through the collar and into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion, and wherein the collar defines a distal edge that is configured to block material on the outer surface of the distal handle portion from entering the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion as the distal handle portion is retracted into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority to and the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/445,509, filed Jan. 12, 2017, which application is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD

[0002] The disclosed invention relates to containers and packaging, and particularly to a container system with an enclosed eating utensil.

BACKGROUND

[0003] While it has been previously proposed to provide a concealed eating or serving utensil in association with a container, such container systems do not provide a convenient way to store the utensil if the user does not have an opportunity to clean the utensil before returning it to the container (for example, if the user is camping or in another outdoor environment). U.S. Pat. No. 5,705,212, for example, describes a container that includes a storage compartment for a folded utensil underneath the lid of the container. Folding a utensil that has been used, however, is inconvenient and unsanitary if the user does not have an opportunity to clean the utensil before returning the utensil to the storage compartment.

[0004] Other conventional containers are also deficient. U.S. Pat. No. 4,219,283, for example, describes a bottle having a removable cap with a vertical extension that has a brush or spoon at its free end for removing material from the bottle. However, when the cap is placed back on the bottle, the brush or spoon extends completely into the compartment contacting the material stored therein. In addition, the utensil is connected rigidly to the cap so that it cannot be used separately. The device is also unsatisfactory for food use, primarily from a food safety standpoint but also from an aesthetic point of view, because the spoon touches the contents of the bottle.

[0005] Thus, there is a need for systems and methods that address one or more of the deficiencies of the conventional container systems that include an enclosed utensil as described above.

SUMMARY

[0006] Described herein, in various aspects, are containers, utensils, and container systems including a utensil provided in association with a container. The container can be shaped in a variety of different ways and be made of a variety of different materials. The container can include a container body having a side wall with a slot for housing an enclosed utensil. The slot can be accessed through an opening defined by an upper portion of the container body. The user can then selectively remove the enclosed utensil and place the utensil back into the slot after use.

[0007] The utensil can comprise any one of a manner of different types of utensils, such as a paddle, spoon, fork, knife, spork, or straw. For convenience and easier storage, the utensil can be retractable from an expanded configuration to a retracted configuration. In one embodiment, the retractable utensil can include a proximal handle portion that slidingly engages and receives a distal handle portion. The utensil can also include a collar that can clean the utensil when the distal handle portion slides (is retracted) into the proximal handle portion.

[0008] Optionally, the container can also include a removable housing that can fit inside of the slot and receive the utensil. The utensil can also be configured to include a flange that sits flush or substantially flush with the portions of the container body that define the opening of the slot to provide a more desirable aesthetic appearance. Optionally, the slot can extend to the base of the container body and to drainage holes that are defined by the base. The drainage holes of the container body can be positioned in fluid communication with the slot to allow excess material to drain out of the container. In other optional aspects, the slot can extend to a location along the axial length of the side wall, and the drainage holes can be located in the side wall and positioned in fluid communication with the slot.

[0009] These and other objects of the present invention will become more readily apparent when taken into consideration with the following description and the attached drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a rear elevational view of an exemplary container including a lid, as disclosed herein. As shown, the container can enclose a utensil as disclosed herein, and the container and the utensil can together form a container system.

[0011] FIG. 2 is a rear elevational view of the container of FIG. 1, with the lid removed.

[0012] FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of an exemplary container having a slot that does not extend to the base of the container, as disclosed herein.

[0013] FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of an exemplary container having a slot that extends to the base of the container, as disclosed herein.

[0014] FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the container of FIG. 1, with the lid detached.

[0015] FIG. 6A is a top plan view of an exemplary lid, as disclosed herein. FIG. 6B is a bottom plan view of the lid of FIG. 6A.

[0016] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an exemplary utensil in a retracted configuration, as disclosed herein.

[0017] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the utensil of FIG. 7 in an expanded configuration, as disclosed herein.

[0018] FIG. 9A is a perspective view of an exemplary utensil housing, as disclosed herein.

[0019] FIG. 9B is a side elevational view of the utensil housing of FIG. 9A.

[0020] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an exemplary container system, as disclosed herein. The container system of FIG. 10 includes a container body, a lid, and an enclosed utensil.

[0021] FIG. 11 is a cut-away view of the container system of FIG. 10, showing the outer surface of the container body partially removed to expose the enclosed utensil.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0022] The present invention now will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all embodiments of the invention are shown. Indeed, this invention may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will satisfy applicable legal requirements. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout. It is to be understood that this invention is not limited to the particular methodology and protocols described, as such may vary. It is also to be understood that the terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only, and is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention.

[0023] Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention set forth herein will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which the invention pertains having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing description and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.

[0024] As used herein the singular forms "a", "an", and "the" include plural referents unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. For example, use of the term "an opening" can refer to one or more of such openings.

[0025] All technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood to one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs unless clearly indicated otherwise.

[0026] Ranges can be expressed herein as from "about" one particular value, and/or to "about" another particular value. When such a range is expressed, another aspect includes from the one particular value and/or to the other particular value. Similarly, when values are expressed as approximations, by use of the antecedent "about," it will be understood that the particular value forms another aspect. It will be further understood that the endpoints of each of the ranges are significant both in relation to the other endpoint, and independently of the other endpoint. Optionally, in some aspects, when values are approximated by use of the antecedent "about," it is contemplated that values within up to 15%, up to 10%, or up to 5% (above or below) of the particularly stated value can be included within the scope of those aspects. Similarly, in some optional aspects, when values are approximated by use of the term "substantially" or "substantially parallel," it is contemplated that values within up to 15%, up to 10%, or up to 5% (above or below) of the particular value can be included within the scope of those aspects.

[0027] As used herein, the terms "optional" or "optionally" mean that the subsequently described event or circumstance may or may not occur, and that the description includes instances where said event or circumstance occurs and instances where it does not.

[0028] The word "or" as used herein means any one member of a particular list and also includes any combination of members of that list.

[0029] The following description supplies specific details in order to provide a thorough understanding. Nevertheless, the skilled artisan would understand that the apparatus and associated methods of using the apparatus can be implemented and used without employing these specific details. Indeed, the apparatus and associated methods can be placed into practice by modifying the illustrated apparatus and associated methods and can be used in conjunction with any other apparatus and techniques conventionally used in the industry.

[0030] Disclosed herein, in various aspects and with reference to FIGS. 1-6B and 10-11 is a container 200 that can have a longitudinal axis 210 and can comprise a container body 211 having a base 230 and at least one side wall 240 extending upwardly from the base relative to the longitudinal axis. The at least one side wall 240 can comprise an outer surface 242 and an inner surface 244 spaced from the outer surface relative to a transverse axis 220 that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 210 of the container 200. The at least one side wall 240 can define an upper portion 250 of the container body 211 that is opposed from the base 230. The inner surface 244 of the side wall 240, the base 230, and the upper portion 250 can cooperate to define an interior chamber 260 of the container 200 (or container body 211). The side wall 240 can comprise a variety of different materials, including thermally insulating material as is known in the art. Optionally, in exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that the side wall 240 can comprise an inner panel that defines the inner surface 244 of the side wall and an outer panel that is spaced radially outwardly from the inner panel to define the outer surface 242 of the side wall 240, with the space between the inner and outer panels (apart from a slot as disclosed herein) being at least partially filled with thermally insulating material. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the inner and outer panels can optionally comprise plastic, at least one thermoplastic elastomer, or other materials suitable for the uses disclosed herein. Optionally, in exemplary aspects, at least one of the side walls 240 can comprise a spigot that is positioned in fluid communication with the interior chamber 260 to assist in emptying the contents of the container. Optionally, in these aspects, it is contemplated that the spigot can be positioned on a front portion of the container body 211.

[0031] In further exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that the side wall 240 can define a desired cross-sectional shape of the container. For example, in one aspect, it is contemplated that the side wall 240 can have a round cross-sectional shape, such as a circular, substantially circular, oval, substantially oval, elliptical, or substantially elliptical cross-sectional shape. In another aspect, it is contemplated that the side wall 240 can have a polygonal or substantially polygonal cross-sectional shape, such as a triangular, substantially triangular, square, rectangular, substantially rectangular, pentagonal, substantially pentagonal, hexagonal, substantially hexagonal, heptagonal, substantially heptagonal, octagonal, or substantially octagonal cross-sectional shape. In still further aspects, it is contemplated that the side wall 240 can have a complex cross-sectional shape, such as, for example and without limitation, a star-like cross-sectional shape with a plurality of projections extending radially outwardly from the longitudinal axis 210. More generally, it is contemplated that the side wall 240 can have any desired cross-sectional shape.

[0032] The container body 211 can comprise a slot 270 defined within the at least one side wall 240. Optionally, the slot 270 can be positioned on a rear portion of the container body 211; however, other placements of the slot 270 are contemplated. As shown in FIGS. 3-4, the slot 270 can be positioned between the outer surface 242 and the inner surface 244 of the side wall 240 relative to the transverse axis 220. Optionally, as shown in FIG. 4, the slot 270 can extend axially from the upper portion 250 of the container body 211 to the base 230 relative to the longitudinal axis 210 of the container. Alternatively, in other optional aspects, and as depicted in FIG. 3, the slot 270 can extend axially from the upper portion 250 of the container body 211 to a distal location that is axially between the upper portion of the container and the base 230 of the container. In use, as shown in FIGS. 1-2, the slot 270 of the container body 211 can also be configured to receive at least a portion of a utensil as depicted in FIGS. 1-4 and further disclosed herein. Optionally, as shown in FIGS. 1-2, the upper portion 250 of the container body 211 can also comprise at least one engagement element 252. Exemplary engagement elements can include, for example and without limitations, at least one thread, at least one projection, at least one fastener, at least one slot, at least one recess, and/or the like.

[0033] As shown in FIGS. 1-4 and 6A-6B, the container 200 can further comprise a lid 280 that can be configured to engage the at least one engagement element 252 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211 such that the lid, the inner surface 244 of the at least one side wall 240, and the base 230 can cooperate to enclose the interior chamber 260. The lid 280 can be configured to sealingly engage the at least one engagement element 252 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211. The lid 280 can have opposed inner 282 and outer surfaces 284. Optionally, in some aspects, the outer surface 242 of the at least one side wall 240 can define the at least one engagement element 252 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211. In these aspects, the inner surface 282 of the lid 280 can be configured to engage the at least one engagement element 252 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211. In other optional aspects, the inner surface 244 of the at least one side wall 240 can define the at least one engagement element 252 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211. In these aspects, the outer surface 284 of the lid 280 can be configured to engage the at least one engagement element 252 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211. In exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that the surface or surfaces of the lid 280 that engage the at least one engagement element 252 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211 can comprise engagement elements (e.g., at least one thread, at least one projection, at least one fastener, at least one slot, at least one recess, and/or the like) that are complementary to the engagement elements 252 of the container body 211. Optionally, in exemplary aspects, the lid 280 can be provided as a completely separate component from the container 200. Alternatively, in other exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that the lid 280 can remain mechanically coupled to the container body 211, with the lid moveable about and between an open position and a closed position. For example, in these aspects, it is contemplated that the lid 280 can be coupled to the container body 211 by a hinge. Optionally, in still further exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that the lid 280 or the container body 211 can comprise a handle 254 to permit easier transport of the container system. For example, as shown in FIGS. 10-11, the container 200 can comprise at least two handles 254 oppositely disposed on the container body 211 relative to the longitudinal axis 210.

[0034] In exemplary aspects, the lid 280 can be configured to create a liquid-tight seal between the lid 280 and the container body 211. Optionally, in these aspects, the closure of the lid 280 over the container body 211 can produce a suction force that creates a seal between the lid and the container body, either with the aid of engagement elements or without such engagement elements.

[0035] Optionally, in exemplary aspects, and as shown in FIGS. 3-4, the slot 270 can comprise a primary elongate portion 272 that can be oriented parallel or substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis 210 of the container 200 and a distal portion 274 that can be oriented at a selected acute angle 275 relative to the longitudinal axis of the container. As disclosed herein, the term "substantially parallel" can include values that are parallel or within 15 degrees of parallel. In some aspects, the primary elongate portion 272 of the slot 270 can have an axial length (relative to longitudinal axis 210) that is greater than an axial length of the distal portion 274 of the slot. In further exemplary aspects, when the distal portion 274 of the slot 270 extends to the base 230, it is contemplated that the base of the container body 211 can have an outer surface 234, and the base can define at least one drainage opening 232 (shown in FIGS. 1-2) in fluid communication with the slot and extending from the slot to the outer surface of the base. In still further exemplary aspects, when the distal portion 274 of the slot 270 extends to an axial position between the upper portion 250 and the base 230 of the container body 211, it is contemplated that the at least one side wall 240 can define the at least one drainage opening 232 in fluid communication with the slot 270 and extending from the slot to the outer surface 242 of the at least one side wall 240.

[0036] In these aspects, it is contemplated that the angular orientation of the distal portion 274 of the slot 270 can provide gravity-assisted transport of fluid from within the slot to the at least one drainage opening 232 and the outer surface 234 of the base 230. The distal portion 274 of the slot 270 can extend radially outwardly from the primary elongate portion 272 of the slot relative to the transverse axis 220. Optionally, with reference to FIGS. 9A-9B, the slot 270 can also comprise a removable utensil housing 276 positioned within the slot and having a shape complementary to the slot (optionally, including a primary elongate portion and a distal portion that are complementary to the corresponding portions of the slot). It is contemplated that the utensil housing 276 can be selectively removable from the slot 270. Optionally, it is contemplated that the utensil housing 276 can comprise conventional plastic, at least one thermoplastic elastomer, foam, or other materials that are configured for use in wet or moist environments. Optionally, in exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that the utensil housing 276 can be selectively deformable to permit selective insertion and removal of the utensil housing from the slot 270. However, in these aspects, it is further contemplated that the utensil housing 276 can be sufficiently resilient such that following deformation, the utensil housing can return to a shape that is complementary to a corresponding portion of the slot 270. In other optional aspects, it is contemplated that at least a portion of the utensil housing 276 can be rigid or substantially rigid.

The Utensil

[0037] In exemplary aspects, and with reference to FIGS. 7-8, the utensil 300 can have a longitudinal axis 310 and comprise a distal handle portion 320 and a proximal handle portion 330. The distal handle portion 320 can have an outer surface 326 and opposed proximal and distal ends 322, 324. The proximal handle portion 330 can comprise a hollow shaft 331 that can be configured to receive at least a portion of the distal handle portion 320. The proximal handle portion 330 can have opposed proximal and distal ends 332, 334 and can also have a collar 340 coupled to the distal end 334 of the proximal handle portion that can be configured to receive a portion of the distal handle portion 320. The distal handle portion 320 can be slidingly coupled to the proximal handle portion 330 to permit retraction of the distal handle portion through the collar 340 and into the hollow shaft 331 of the proximal handle portion. The collar 340 can define a distal edge 342 that can be configured to block material on the outer surface 326 of the distal handle portion 320 from entering the hollow shaft 331 of the proximal handle portion 330 as the distal handle portion is retracted into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion. The collar 340 can also be used to clean the distal handle portion 320 when the distal handle portion is retracted through the collar and into the proximal handle portion 330. More particularly, the collar 340 can have an inner diameter that is only slightly greater than an outer diameter of the distal handle portion 320 such that the distal handle portion can be received within the collar but material (such as food or liquid) on the outer surface 326 of the distal handle portion contacts the distal edge 342 of the collar.

[0038] The distal end 324 of the distal handle portion 320 can define a spoon element 350, a fork element, a knife element, a paddle element, or any other utensil or implement. Optionally, as shown in FIGS. 7-8, the proximal end 332 of the proximal handle portion 330 of the utensil 300 can define a flange 360. In use, upon positioning of the utensil 300 within the slot 270 of the container body 211, the flange 360 of the proximal handle portion 330 of the utensil can be configured to engage a portion of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211 and cooperate with surrounding portions of the at least one side wall 240 to define a surface 362 of the upper portion 250 of the container body 211. In other optional aspects, a portion of the flange 360 can project from the upper portion 250 of the container body 211 to clearly identify the utensil 300 to the user and permit easy grasping of the utensil when the utensil is positioned within the slot 270. In exemplary aspects, the flange 360 can have a rounded or substantially rounded shape. However, it is contemplated that any desired shape profile (e.g., rectangular, substantially rectangular, elliptical, substantially elliptical, oval, substantially oval, and/or the like) can be used.

[0039] Optionally, in some aspects, and with reference to FIG. 7, when the distal handle portion 320 is fully retracted within the proximal handle portion 330, a recess or slot 328 defined at the proximal end 322 of the distal handle portion can receive a projection 338 that extends distally away from the flange 360 (or other proximal surface) of the proximal handle portion. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the projection 338 can engage (optionally, frictionally engage) the distal handle portion 320 such that the distal handle portion is retained in the fully retracted configuration until the distal handle portion is manually expanded (in a distal direction away from the proximal handle portion). In exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that the slot 270 of the container body 211 can accommodate the utensil 300 when the utensil is in the fully retracted configuration. Optionally, in these aspects, it is contemplated that when the utensil 300 is in the fully expanded configuration, the axial length of the expanded utensil can exceed the axial length of the slot 270 (relative to the longitudinal axis 210 of the container 200).

[0040] In operation, as further disclosed herein, the utensil 300 can be retracted such that at least a portion of the distal handle portion 320 is received within the hollow shaft 331 of the proximal handle portion 330. Following retraction, the retracted utensil 300 can be positioned within the slot 270 of the container body 211. The utensil 300 can also be removed from the slot 270 of the container body 211 and then, optionally, expanded such that the distal handle portion 320 is fully or partially extended distally away from the proximal handle portion 330, as shown in FIG. 7. It is contemplated that the utensil 300 can be used to stir, displace, serve, or remove contents of the container. It is further contemplated that the utensil 300 can be used separately from the container 200 (for example, for serving, stirring, or eating the contents of other containers). Following use of the utensil 300, the utensil can be returned to the retracted configuration and then placed in the slot 270 of the container body 211. Optionally, following use of the utensil 300 and prior to return of the utensil to the slot 270 of the container, the utensil can be rinsed or washed to remove any material remaining on the outer surfaces of the utensil. It is contemplated that the above steps can be repeated as desired to permit multiple uses of the utensil.

[0041] Thus, in use, it is contemplated that the disclosed container 200 and utensil 300 can function together as a reliable container system 400, as shown in FIGS. 10-11. As further disclosed herein, the enclosed utensil 300 can provide advantages when a user is camping, picnicking, or is any other situation where there is not easy access to cleaning facilities. For example, the utensil, when enclosed within the container, can maintain a desirable overall appearance of the container while maintaining separation between the utensil and the other contents of the container. Additionally, it is contemplated that the removable utensil can be easily rinsed or cleaned separately from the container. Further, it is contemplated that the drainage capabilities of the container can prevent fluid and moisture accumulation within the side wall 240 of the container body.

[0042] The following sets of dimensions are merely exemplary and, except where indicated, are not provided to require that certain combinations of dimensions be provided together. Thus, it is understood that the disclosed container systems can have one or more dimensions falling outside the ranges provided below. Similarly, it is understood that the disclosed container systems can have some dimensions falling within the first set of exemplary dimensions and some dimensions falling within the second set of exemplary dimensions.

First Set of Exemplary Dimensions

[0043] Optionally, in one aspect, as shown in FIG. 1, the container 200 can have a height 201 ranging from about 9.75 inches to about 11.75 inches. In another aspect, the height 201 can range from about 7.75 inches to about 13.75 inches. In an additional aspect, the height 201 can range from about 5.75 inches to about 15.75 inches. In still another aspect, the height 201 can range from about 10.5 inches to about 11.5 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the height can be 10.75 inches.

[0044] Additionally, in one aspect, the container lid 280 can have a thickness 281 that optionally ranges from about 1 inch to about 1.5 inches. In another aspect, the lid thickness 281 can range from about 0.75 inches to about 1.75 inches. In an additional aspect, the lid thickness 281 can range from about 0.5 inches to about 2 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the lid thickness 281 can be 1.25 inches.

[0045] Additionally, in one aspect, the container 200 can have an outer diameter 202 that optionally ranges from about 6.625 inches to about 8.625 inches. In another aspect, the outer diameter 202 can range from about 4.625 inches to about 10.625 inches. In an additional aspect, the outer diameter 202 can range from about 1.625 inches to about 11.625 inches. In still another aspect, the outer diameter 202 can range from about 7 inches to about 8 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the outer diameter 202 can be 7.625 inches.

[0046] Additionally, in one aspect, the container 200 can optionally have an inner diameter 203 ranging from about 5 inches to about 7 inches. In another aspect, the inner diameter 203 can range from about 3 inches to about 9 inches. In an additional aspect, the inner diameter 203 can range from about 1 inch to about 11 inches. In still another aspect, the inner diameter 203 can range from about 5.5 inches to about 6.5 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the inner diameter 203 can be 6 inches.

[0047] Additionally, in one aspect, the slot 270 can have a length 271 that optionally ranges from about 7.25 inches to about 9.25 inches. In another aspect, the slot length 271 can range from about 5.25 inches to about 11.25 inches. In an additional aspect, the slot length 271 can range from about 3.25 inches to about 13.25 inches. In still another aspect, the length 271 can range from about 8 inches to about 8.5 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the slot length 271 can be 8.25 inches.

[0048] Additionally, in one aspect, the slot 270 can have a width 273 that optionally ranges from about 1.75 inches to about 2.25 inches. In another aspect, the slot width 273 can range from about 1.5 inches to about 2.5 inches. In an additional aspect, the slot width 273 can range from about 1.25 inches to about 2.75 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the slot width 273 can be 2 inches.

[0049] Additionally, in one aspect, the utensil 300 can have a retracted length 301 (measured when the utensil is retracted) ranging from about 7.75 inches to about 9.75 inches. In another aspect, the utensil retracted length 301 can range from about 5.75 inches to about 11.75 inches. In an additional aspect, the utensil retracted length 301 can range from about 3.75 inches to about 13.75 inches. In still another aspect, the utensil retracted length 301 can range from about 8 inches to about 9 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the utensil retracted length 301 can be 8.75 inches.

[0050] Additionally, in one the utensil 300 can, optionally, have an expanded length 302 (measured when the utensil is fully expanded) ranging from about 11.5 inches to about 13.5 inches. In another aspect, the utensil expanded length 302 can range from about 9.5 inches to about 15.5 inches. In an additional aspect, the utensil expanded length 302 can range from about 7.5 inches to about 17.5 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the utensil expanded length 302 can be 12.5 inches.

[0051] In an exemplary aspect, it is contemplated that the container 200 can have a height 201 ranging from about 7.75 inches to about 13.75 inches, an outer diameter 202 ranging from about 4.625 inches to about 10.625 inches, and an inner diameter 203 ranging from about 3 inches to about 9 inches. In this exemplary aspect, it is contemplated that the length 271 of the slot 270 can range from about 5.25 inches to about 11.25 inches and the width 273 of the slot 270 can range from about 1.5 to about 2.5 inches. In this aspect, it is further contemplated that the utensil 300 can have a retracted length 301 ranging from about 5.75 inches to about 11.75 inches and an expanded length 302 ranging from about 9.5 inches to about 15.5 inches.

Second Set of Exemplary Dimensions

[0052] Optionally, in another aspect, the container 200 can have a height 201 ranging from about 19.75 inches to about 21.75 inches. In another aspect, the height 201 can range from about 17.75 inches to about 23.75 inches. In an additional aspect, the height 201 can range from about 15.75 inches to about 25.75 inches. In still another aspect, the height 201 can range from about 20 inches to about 21 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the height can be 20.75 inches.

[0053] Additionally, in one aspect, the container lid 280 can have a thickness 281 that, optionally, ranges from about 2 inches to about 2.5 inches. In another aspect, the lid thickness 281 can range from about 1.75 inches to about 2.75 inches. In an additional aspect, the lid thickness 281 can range from about 2.5 inches to about 3 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the lid thickness 281 can be 2.25 inches.

[0054] Additionally, in one aspect, the container 200 can have an outer diameter 202 that optionally ranges from about 14.75 inches to about 16.75 inches. In another aspect, the outer diameter 202 can range from about 12.75 inches to about 18.75 inches. In an additional aspect, the outer diameter 202 can range from about 10.75 inches to about 20.75 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the outer diameter 202 can be 15.75 inches.

[0055] Additionally, in one aspect, the container 200 can have an inner diameter 203 that, optionally, ranges from about 12 inches to about 14 inches. In another aspect, the inner diameter 203 can range from about 10 inches to about 16 inches. In an additional aspect, the inner diameter 203 can range from about 8 inches to about 18 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the inner diameter 203 can be 13 inches.

[0056] Additionally, in one aspect, the slot 270 can have a length 271 that, optionally, ranges from about 18.75 inches to about 20.75 inches. In another aspect, the slot length 271 can range from about 16.75 inches to about 22.75 inches. In an additional aspect, the slot length 271 can range from about 14.75 inches to about 24.75 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the slot length 271 can be 19.75 inches.

[0057] Additionally, in one aspect, the slot 270 can have a width 273 that, optionally, ranges from about 2.25 inches to about 2.75 inches. In another aspect, the slot width 273 can range from about 2 inches to about 3 inches. In an additional aspect, the slot width 273 can range from about 1.75 inches to about 3.25 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the slot width 273 can be 2.5 inches.

[0058] Additionally, in one aspect, the utensil 300 can have a retracted length 301 that, optionally, ranges from about 16.5 inches to about 18.5 inches. In another aspect, the utensil retracted length 301 can range from about 14.5 inches to about 20.5 inches. In an additional aspect, the utensil retracted length 301 can range from about 11.5 inches to about 22.5 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the utensil retracted length 301 can be 17.5 inches.

[0059] Additionally, the utensil 300 can optionally have an expanded length 302 that, optionally, ranges from about 23 inches to about 25 inches. In another aspect, the utensil expanded length 302 can range from about 21 inches to about 27 inches. In an additional aspect, the utensil expanded length 302 can range from about 19 inches to about 29 inches. In one exemplary non-limiting aspect, the utensil expanded length 302 can be 24 inches.

[0060] In another exemplary aspect, it is contemplated that the container 200 can have a height 201 ranging from about 17.75 inches to about 23.75 inches, an outer diameter 202 ranging from about 12.75 inches to about 18.75 inches, and an inner diameter 203 ranging from about 10 inches to about 16 inches. In this exemplary aspect, it is contemplated that the length 271 of the slot 270 can range from about 16.75 inches to about 22.75 inches and the width 273 of the slot 270 can range from about 2 to about 3 inches. In this aspect, it is further contemplated that the utensil 300 can have a retracted length 301 ranging from about 14.5 inches to about 20.5 inches and an expanded length 302 ranging from about 21 inches to about 27 inches.

Exemplary Aspects

[0061] In view of the described devices, systems, and methods and variations thereof, herein below are described certain more particularly described aspects of the invention. These particularly recited aspects should not however be interpreted to have any limiting effect on any different claims containing different or more general teachings described herein, or that the "particular" aspects are somehow limited in some way other than the inherent meanings of the language literally used therein.

[0062] Aspect 1: A container having a longitudinal axis and comprising: a container body having a base; at least one side wall extending upwardly from the base relative to the longitudinal axis, the at least one side wall comprising an outer surface and an inner surface spaced from the outer surface relative to a transverse axis that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the container, wherein the at least one side wall defines an upper portion of the container that is opposed from the base, the inner surface of the at least one side wall and the base cooperating to define an interior chamber of the container; and a slot defined within the at least one side wall, wherein the slot is positioned between the outer surface and the inner surface of the at least one side wall relative to the transverse axis, wherein the slot extends axially from the upper portion of the container toward the base relative to the longitudinal axis of the container, and wherein the slot of the container is configured to receive at least a portion of a utensil.

[0063] Aspect 2: The container of aspect 1, wherein the upper portion of the container body comprises at least one engagement element.

[0064] Aspect 3: The container of aspect 1 or aspect 2, wherein the container further comprises a lid that is configured to engage at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body such that the lid, the inner surface of the at least one side wall, and the base cooperate to enclose the interior chamber.

[0065] Aspect 4: The container of aspect 3, wherein the lid is configured to sealingly engage the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body.

[0066] Aspect 5: The container of aspect 3, wherein the lid is configured to create a seal between the lid and the container body.

[0067] Aspect 6: The container of any one of aspects 3-5, wherein the lid is connected to the container body by a hinge.

[0068] Aspect 7: The container of any one of aspects 3-6, wherein the lid has opposed inner and outer surfaces, wherein the outer surface of the at least one side wall defines the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body, and wherein the inner surface of the lid is configured to engage the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body.

[0069] Aspect 8: The container of any one of aspects 2-7, wherein the at least one engagement element comprises at least one thread.

[0070] Aspect 9: The container of aspect 3 or aspect 4, wherein the lid has opposed inner and outer surfaces, wherein the inner surface of the at least one side wall defines the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body, and wherein the outer surface of the lid is configured to engage the at least one engagement element of the upper portion of the container body.

[0071] Aspect 10: The container of any of the preceding aspects, wherein the slot extends axially from the upper portion of the container body to the base of the container body.

[0072] Aspect 11: The container of aspect 10, wherein the slot has a primary elongate portion that is oriented substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the container and a distal portion that is oriented at a selected acute angle relative to the longitudinal axis of the container, wherein the distal portion of the slot extends radially outwardly from the primary elongate portion of the slot relative to the transverse axis.

[0073] Aspect 12: The container of aspect 10 or aspect 11, wherein the base has an outer surface, and wherein the base defines at least one drainage opening in fluid communication with the slot and extending from the slot to the outer surface of the base.

[0074] Aspect 13: The container of any one of aspects 1-9, wherein the slot extends axially from the upper portion of the container body to a distal location that is axially between the upper portion of the container body and the base of the container body.

[0075] Aspect 14: The container of aspect 13, wherein the slot has a primary elongate portion that is oriented substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the container and a distal portion that is oriented at a selected acute angle relative to the longitudinal axis of the container, wherein the distal portion of the slot extends radially outwardly from the primary elongate portion of the slot relative to the transverse axis.

[0076] Aspect 15: The container of aspect 13 or aspect 14, wherein the at least one side wall defines at least one drainage opening in fluid communication with the slot and extending from the slot to the outer surface of the at least one side wall.

[0077] Aspect 16. The container of any one of the preceding aspects, further comprising a utensil housing positioned within the slot and having a complementary shape to the slot, wherein the utensil housing is selectively removable from the slot.

[0078] Aspect 17: The container of any one of the preceding aspects, wherein the at least one side wall of the container body comprises thermally insulating material.

[0079] Aspect 18. A utensil having a longitudinal axis and comprising: a distal handle portion having an outer surface and opposed proximal and distal ends; a proximal handle portion comprising a hollow shaft configured to receive at least a portion of the distal handle portion, the proximal handle portion having opposed proximal and distal ends; and a collar coupled to the distal end of the proximal handle portion and configured to receive a portion of the distal handle portion, wherein the distal handle portion is slidingly coupled to the proximal handle portion to permit retraction of the distal handle portion through the collar and into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion, and wherein the collar defines a distal edge that is configured to block material on the outer surface of the distal handle portion from entering the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion as the distal handle portion is retracted into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion.

[0080] Aspect 19: The utensil of aspect 18, wherein the distal end of the distal handle portion defines a spoon element.

[0081] Aspect 20. A container system comprising: the container of any one of claims 1-17; and a utensil, wherein the slot is configured to receive at least a portion of the utensil, and wherein the utensil is selectively removable from the slot.

[0082] Aspect 21: The container system of aspect 20, wherein the utensil has a longitudinal axis and comprises: a distal handle portion having an outer surface and opposed proximal and distal ends; a proximal handle portion comprising a hollow shaft configured to receive at least a portion of the distal handle portion, the proximal handle portion having opposed proximal and distal ends; and a collar coupled to the distal end of the proximal handle portion and configured to receive a portion of the distal handle portion, wherein the distal handle portion is slidingly coupled to the proximal handle portion to permit retraction of the distal handle portion through the collar and into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion, and wherein the collar defines a distal edge that is configured to block material on the outer surface of the distal handle portion from entering the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion as the distal handle portion is retracted into the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion.

[0083] Aspect 22: The container system of aspect 21, wherein the distal end of the distal handle portion of the utensil defines a spoon element.

[0084] Aspect 23: The container system of aspect 21 or aspect 22, wherein the proximal end of the proximal handle portion of the utensil defines a flange, and wherein upon positioning of the utensil within the slot of the container body, the flange of the proximal handle portion of the utensil engages a portion of the upper portion of the container body and cooperates with surrounding portions of the at least one side wall to define a surface of the upper portion of the container body.

[0085] Aspect 24: A method of using a container system as recited in aspect 20.

[0086] Aspect 25: A method of using a container system as recited in any one of aspects 21-23, comprising: (i) retracting the utensil such that at least a portion of the distal handle portion is received within the hollow shaft of the proximal handle portion; and (ii) positioning the retracted utensil within the slot of the container body.

[0087] Aspect 26: The method of aspect 25, further comprising: (iii) removing the utensil from the slot of the container body; (iv) expanding the utensil such the distal handle portion is fully extended distally away from the proximal handle portion; and repeating steps (i) and (ii).

[0088] All publications and patent applications mentioned in the specification are indicative of the level of those skilled in the art to which this invention pertains. All publications and patent applications are herein incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each individual publication or patent application was specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated by reference.

[0089] Although the foregoing invention has been described in some detail by way of illustration and example for purposes of clarity of understanding, certain changes and modifications may be practiced within the scope of the appended claims.

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