Package closure

Abstract

A closure for opening and reclosing a package includes a base attachable to the top of the package over a scored area thereof, and a lever pivotally connected to the base at a rearward portion of the base so that by pivoting the lever, a portion of the lever penetrates the scored area of the package, and eventually, another portion of the lever seats over the open area of the package to provide a pouring spout. A removable cover is provided over the seating portion of the lever so that re-opening and resealing of the package occurs by removing the cover.

Claims

We claim: 1. A closure for opening and reclosing a package having a top which includes a scored area to be opened and a pouring edge, the closure comprising: a base attachable to the top of the package over the scored area and having a rearward portion and a forward portion juxtaposed the pouring edge of the top, and a central open area opening from the rearward portion and extending longitudinally towards the forward portion; and a lever pivotally connected to the rearward portion of the base and having a forward portion and a rearward portion, the forward portion being disposed over the central open area of the base prior to opening the package and being pivotally movable through the scored area to open the package, the rearward portion being movable into a seated position over the central open area of the base after opening the package. 2. A closure according to claim 1, wherein the rearward portion of the lever includes a central opening, a spout formed around at least a forward peripheral edge of the central opening, and a cover fitted over the central opening of the rearward portion of the lever. 3. A closure according to claim 2, further comprising means for locking the rearward potion of the lever to the base and over the central open area of the base. 4. A closure according to claim 3, wherein the locking means comprises a lip extending upwardly from the base around the central open area thereof and a peripheral edge of the rearward portion of the lever snap fitting with the lip. 5. A closure according to claim 4, further comprising a pair of one-way locking means provided on opposite sides of the lip for gripping an upper surface of the lever when the rearward portion thereof is seated over the central open area of the base. 6. A closure according to claim 1, wherein the lever and the base are integrally formed of plastic material, and wherein the lever is pivotally connected between the forward and rearward portions thereof to the rearward portion of the base at a scored area of the plastic material which facilitates relative bending movement between the lever and the base. 7. A closure according to claim 1, further comprising a frangible joint connecting the forward portion of the lever to the base prior to package opening, and being broken by pivotal opening movement of the lever. 8. A closure according to claim 1, wherein the forward portion of the lever has a blunt end for penetrating the scored area of the top. 9. A closure according to claim 2, wherein the cover is detachably fitted over the central opening of the rearward portion of the lever. 10. A closure according to claim 2, wherein the cover is pivotally connected to the lever for pivotal movement away from the central opening of the rearward portion of the lever. 11. A closure for opening and reclosing a package having a top which includes a scored area to be opened and a pouring edge, the closure comprising: a base attachable to the top of the package over the scored area and having a rearward portion and a forward portion juxtaposed the pouring edge of the top, and a central open area overlying the scored area; and a lever pivotally connected to the rearward portion of the base and having a first portion and a second portion, the first portion providing means for penetrating the scored area of the top, and the second portion providing means for resealing the scored area of the top after opening by the first portion, the first and second portions being substantially positionally reversible such that rotation of the lever in one direction provides both initial opening of the scored area and resealing of the open scored area. 12. A closure according to claim 11, wherein the second portion of the lever includes a central opening, a spout formed around at least a forward peripheral edge of the central opening, and a cover removably fitted over the central opening of the second portion of the lever. 13. A closure according to claim 12, further comprising complementary locking means for locking the second portion of the lever to the base and over the central open area of the base. 14. A closure according to claim 13, wherein the complimentary locking means comprises a lip extending upwardly from the base around the central open area thereof and a peripheral edge of the rearward portion of the lever snap fitting with the lip. 15. A closure according to claim 14, further comprising a pair of one-way locking means provided on opposite sides of the lip for gripping an upper surface of the lever when the second portion thereof is seated over the central open area of the base. 16. A closure according to claim 11, wherein the lever and the base are integrally formed of plastic material and wherein the lever is pivotally connected at a medial point thereof between the first and second portions to the rearward portion of the base at a scored area of the plastic material. 17. A reclosable beverage container comprising: a paperboard package having a top which includes a scored area to be opened and a pouring edge; a base attachable to the top of the package over the scored area and having a rearward portion and a forward portion juxtaposed the pouring edge of the top, and a central open area opening from the rearward portion and extending longitudinally towards the forward portion; and a lever pivotally connected to the rearward portion of the base and having a forward portion and a rearward portion, the forward portion being disposed over the central open area of the base prior to opening the package and being pivotally movable through the scored area to open the package, the rearward portion being movable into a seated position over the central open area of the base after opening the package. 18. A reclosable beverage container as claimed in claim 17, wherein the rearward portion of the lever includes a central opening, a spout formed around at least a forward peripheral edge of the central opening, and a cover fitted over the central opening of the rearward portion of the lever. 19. A reclosable beverage container as claimed in claim 18, further comprising means for locking the rearward portion of the lever to the base and over the central open area of the base. 20. A reclosable beverage container as claimed in claim 19, wherein the locking means comprises a lip extending upwardly from the base around the central open area thereof and a peripheral edge of the rearward portion of the lever snap fitting with the lip.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention relates generally to packages and containers for liquids and, more specifically, to closures having package opening and resealing features. 2. Description of the Related Art Paperboard cartons for beverages are generally well known. Probably the most familiar type is the milk carton which is provided with a gabled top, one end of which is designed to be folded back and then forwardly to provide a pouring spout. After use, the pouring spout is then folded back again to close the carton. Separately attachable closures provide an alternative means of opening and resealing a package. Generally, a box-like package having a flat top is provided with a scored area which can be broken inwardly to open the package. A closure is fitted over the scored area so that after opening, the package can be resealed to maintain the freshness of the contents thereof. European Patent Application No. 0 291 112 A2 describes a closure which is attached to the top lid of a container. The device includes a base portion and a movable portion preferably hinged thereto. The base portion has a dispensing aperture, a depending flange encircling the aperture and a deformable pouring lip/drain surface. The device is designed to be attached by pushing the base portions depending flange through a pre-scored or pre-cut aperture in the container's top. Thus, the closure of the aforementioned European patent application is not attached to the package prior to opening. U.S. Pat. No. 4,247,014 to Walz describes a self-contained opener for hollow containers such as thin walled beverage cans. The apparatus provides a can cover including a flat portion and a pull tap respectively having first and second mating portions mutually fixed and permanently interconnected, located either fixedly in the cover or together rotatable with the flat portion inwardly of the can as it is opened. The pull tab has an annular end portion encircling the opening formed by breaking open the flat portion, and covers the raw edge of the opening in its final protective position. Due to the fact that the container is a metal can, the pull tab is riveted to approximately the center of the top of the can. U.S. Pat. No. 3,977,561 to Strobe et al. describes a pull tab which is rotated nearly 180° to seat over an opening left by a tear tab which is pushed inwardly and to the side of the beverage can. The pull tab has a central opening for dispensing liquid. U.S. Pat. No. 4,629,088 to Durqin describes a beverage container lid including a foldable flap which may be opened to allow a user to drink from a beverage container which is covered by the lid. A recess in the beverage container lid is provided to receive the open flap and to firmly secure the flap in its open position. The recess includes a pair of detents on either side and an overhang at one end which cooperate to hold the flap firmly within the recess. The aforementioned references do not satisfactorily provide opening and resealing and pouring features suitable for flat top packages, particularly paperboard packages of the aseptic type. A continuing need exists for closures which are inexpensive to manufacture but effective in resealing the contents of the package. Moreover, a need exists for improved means for opening paperboard containers without tearing or folding or otherwise altering the basic geometric configuration of the container. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION An object of the present invention is to provide a closure which is capable of opening a package and then reclosing the package after opening. Another object of the present invention is to provide a closure which can be easily attached to a paperboard package without protruding from the package in such a way as to change the outward geometry of the package. Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a closure which is made substantially as a one-piece molded plastic unit attachable to a package prior to opening. Still another object of the present invention is to provide a closure having a built-in spout which facilitates pouring of the contents of a package after opening. Another object of the present invention is to provide a package closure which is relatively simple in construction and cost effective to produce. In a preferred embodiment, a closure for opening and reclosing a package includes a base attachable to the top of the package over a scored area and having a rearward portion and a forward portion juxtaposed a pouring edge of the top, and a central open area extending longitudinally between the rearward portion and the forward portion, and a substantially rigid lever pivotally connected to the rearward portion of the base and having a forward portion and a rearward portion, the forward portion being disposed over the central open area of the base prior to opening the package and being pivotally movable through the central open area to open the package, the rearward portion being movable into a seated position over the central open area of the base after opening the package. Preferably, the rearward portion of the lever includes a central opening through which the contents of the package are poured and which overlies the central open area of the base when the lever is rotated into the package-opening position. A spout is formed around at least a forward peripheral edge of the central opening and a hinged cover is fitted over the central opening of the rear portion of the lever so that after initial opening in which the scored area is broken, the package is reopened and resealed by opening and reclosing the cover. These objects, together with other objects and advantages which will be subsequently apparent reside in the details of construction and operation of the resealable package closure as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part hereof, wherein like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a closure attached to the top of a package according to a first preferred embodiment of the present invention; FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the closure of FIG. 1, with a lever of the closure rotated to the package-open position, and with a cover of the closure rotated open from a pouring opening provided in the lever; FIG. 3 is a top view of the closure of FIG. 1; FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the closure of FIG. 1; FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken along line V--V of FIG. 3; and FIGS. 6-9 are side elevational views, partly in section, showing the range of rotational movement of the closure of FIG. 1 and the package opening and resealing features thereof. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring now to FIGS. 1-5, a closure for opening and resealing a package is generally referred to by the numeral 10. The closure 10 is attachable to a box-like paperboard package 12 which contains a dispensable fluid. The top 14 of the package 12 is provided with a scored or partially cut area over which the closure 10 is attached. The scored area is the area defined by a score line or partially cut line which is preferably U-shaped. The U-shaped score line and thus the closure 10 are located near a pouring-side edge 16 of the top 14. The closure 10 has a base 18 which is attachable to the top 14 of the package 12 by any suitable means, such as adhesive bonding. The base 18 has a forward portion 20 and a rearward portion 22. The forward portion 20 is juxtaposed the edge 16 of the top 14. A central open area 24 opens from the rearward portion 22 and extends longitudinally towards the forward portion 20. The central open area 24 is substantially U-shaped and corresponds to the U-shaped scored area of the top 14. A substantially rigid lever 26 is pivotally connected to the rearward portion 22 of the base 18 and has a forward portion 28 and a rearward portion 30. The forward and rearward portions are divided at approximately a transverse center line of the lever 26, the transverse center line providing a pivot axis. The forward portion 28 of the lever 26 is disposed over the central open area 24 of the base 18 prior to opening the package 12. Since the closure 10 is preferably molded out of plastic materials, the lever 26 and the base 18 can be made as a one-piece unit. A score line 32, which may be formed by stamping, partial cutting, or as a molded depression, is provided between the forward and rearward portions of the lever to act as a hinge and fulcrum for the lever 26 when it rotates through its range of pivotal movement. The forward portion 28 of the lever 26 is elevated slightly from the lower part of the rearward portion 30. Also, the forward portion 28 is more narrow than the rearward portion so as to facilitate movement of the forward portion through the central open area 24 of the base 18. A blunt stiffening flange 34 formed on the end of the lever 26 stiffens the lever at the end and impinges on the scored area of the top 14 during rotation of the lever and pushes a flap defined by the score line of the top inwardly and backwardly into the package 12. FIGS. 3 and 4 show the lever 26 in its flat, preopened disposition. The closure 10 substantially conforms to the top of the container 12 prior to opening the container and thus does not interrupt the overall box-like geometry of the package. This feature is important in that it allows the packages to be stacked in an orderly manner on grocery shelves, etc. Thus, prior to opening, the closure 10 has an overall flat appearance. A frangible connection 36 is provided between the stiffening flange 34 of the lever 26 and the curved edge 38 of the central open area 24. The connection serves to hold the lever in its flat, preopen position shown in FIG. 6, and comprises a small piece of plastic material integrally formed with and extending between the base and lever. Sufficient downward motion of the lever fractures the connection to permit the lever to move as described above. The fracture also evidences tampering, since the package cannot be opened without fracturing the connection. To open the package 12, the forward portion 28 of the lever 26 is pushed downwardly while the rearward portion 30 is lifted upwardly, thus initially breaking the frangible connection 36 and pivoting the lever 26 about the score line and pivot axis 32. The lever 26 rotates nearly 180° until the rearward portion 30 is in a seated position over the central opening 24 of the base 18, as illustrated in FIG. 2. The rearward portion 30 of the lever 26 includes a central opening 40 formed by an upstanding curved sidewall 42. A spout 44 is formed around at least a forward portion of the peripheral edge of the central opening 40. A hinged cover 46 has an inner planar surface 48 which overlies the rearward portion 30 of the lever and is in continuous contact with the raised edge 50 which extends around the central opening 40. The raised edge 50 is coplanar with a flat portion 52 of the lever 26. Thus, when the cover 46 is fitted on the rearward portion 30, the inner planar surface 48 closes the opening 40 by maintaining an abutting, coplanar relationship with the raised edge 50 and flat portion 52. The hinged cover 46 is also provided with a raised lip 54 on the inner planar surface 48. The lip 54 has a shape corresponding to the shape of the central opening 40. The outer surfaces of the raised lip 54 provide an interference fit with the curved sidewall 42 of the opening 40 so as to hold the cover 46 in place. The rearward end 56 of the cover 46 may be hinged to the rearward portion of the lever 26 so that, after rotating the lever nearly 180° to open the container, the cover 46 may be pivoted in a direction opposite of the original pivotal movement of the lever to provide a reclosing capability. When manufacturing the closure out of molded plastic, the lever 26, the base 18, and the cover 46 are molded together, with the cover molded at an angle to the base and lever which are molded in-line. A hinged connection is provided between the rearward end 56 of the cover 46 and the rearward portion 30 of the lever 26 by a hinge comprising part of the molded plastic material. The cover can not be completely separated from the lever when re-opening the package. However, it would be possible to mold the cover separately and detachably connect it to the lever. After the lever 26 is rotated nearly 180° to the open position, the rearward portion 30 is fitted into the base 18 and is held in place by complementary fastener means. In a preferred embodiment, the complimentary fastener means includes a substantially U-shaped lip 58 whose inner edge corresponds substantially to a U-shaped outer edge 60 of the rearward portion 30. Thus, when the rearward portion 30 is rotated into a position over the central open area 24, further rotation causes the lever and the base to be locked together by an interference fit between the outer edge 60 and the inner edge of lip 58. Alternatively, or in addition thereto, complimentary locking tabs may be provided on the cover for locking in receptacles provided in the lever. Complimentary sealing means may also be provided between the lip 58 and the rearward portion 30 by providing a slight downward groove 62 along the inner wall of the lip 58, and a slight protrusion 64 provided around the rearward portion 30. The interference fit between the lip 58 and the rearward portion 30 insures an adequate seal between the two components such that when the package is tilted for pouring, the liquid will flow out of the central opening 40 (after removal of the cover 46) and will be directed away from the edge 16 of the top 14 by the spout 44, thus preventing dripping. Additional locking means are provided to maintain the seating of the rearward portion 30 in the lip 58. Locking arms 66 and 68 are provided on opposite sides of the lip 58 and are positioned to engage the U-shaped outer edge 60 of the rearward portion 30 after the edge 60 is pressed below the lower ends of the locking arms, thus providing one-way locking means. Alternatively, a single locking arm can be provided on the forward portion of the base for locking with a receptacle or other complementary means provided on the lever. Referring now to FIGS. 6-9, operation of the closure 10 will be described with reference to the range of rotational movement of the lever (note that FIGS. 6-9 are views taken from a side opposite the views of FIGS. 1 and 2, so that the scored area to be opened appears on the left side in FIGS. 1 and 2, and on the right side in FIGS. 6-9). FIG. 6 shows the closure 10 and package 12 prior to opening, whereupon the closure 10 conforms substantially to the top 14 and thus does not interrupt the geometric configuration of the package. The base 18 is attached to the top 14 over the scored area. The scored area is defined by a score line or partial cut line which can be provided by any known scoring techniques. The purpose of scoring is to weaken the top 14 in an area designed to break inwardly and thus provide an opening into the package 12. The scoring of the top should not be to the point of compromising the aseptic nature of the package, and since the score line is preferably U-shaped, a flap will be formed and which will remain attached to the top. For some packages, after the flap formed by the scored area is broken inwardly, the package must be refrigerated to keep the contents thereof from spoiling. However, the opening must in addition be reclosed to preserve the quality of the liquid contained therein. When the forward portion 28 of the lever 26 rotates through the scored area of the top 14, the package 12 is open, as illustrated in FIG. 7. Further rotation by either pushing downwardly on the forward portion 28 or pulling upwardly on the rearward portion 30, or both, takes place until the lever 26 is rotated almost 180° into the position illustrated in FIG. 8. In this position, the lever 26 is locked into place by the locking arms and the interference fit between the rearward portion 30 and the lip 58. At this point, the package 12 is resealed by the closure 10. To dispense liquid from the package 12, the cover 46 is pulled out of its seated position as shown in FIG. 9. If the rearward end 56 is hinged to the lever 26, and pivoted upwardly away from the central opening of the rearward portion 30. If no hinged connection is provided for the cover, the cover can simply be temporarily removed and replaced after liquid is dispensed from the package 12. The many features and advantages of the present invention are apparent from the detailed specification, and thus, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such features and advantages of the resealable package closure, which fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art based upon the disclosure herein, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation illustrated and described. Accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to falling within the scope and the spirit of the invention.

Description

Topics

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