Patent application title: Sports Bottle and Fluid Dispensing system, device, and method.
Fadi Ibsies (Tigard, OR, US)
IPC8 Class: AB65D4700FI
Class name: Bottles and jars closures combined or convertible
Publication date: 2012-05-03
Patent application number: 20120103926
A sports bottle having a conventional open top with fitting lid,
generally vertical sidewalls forming a cylinder with a bottom includes a
valve mechanism for filling the bottle from a position other than the
open top. The bottle further includes means for identifying the bottle to
a dispensing machine. The dispensing machine interfaces with the valve
mechanism to enable fluid to flow into the bottle to a pre-determined
level. The valve mechanism further includes means for enabling the
escapement of air or other gases during the fluid filling operation. The
dispensing machine begins a pressurized flow of filtered water or other
desired fluid when the bottle is positioned on the machine.
1. A system for dispensing a user-selected fluid to a bottle, the system
comprising: a bottle; a dispensing machine; a means for identifying the
bottle with user-specific information; and a means for the dispensing
machine to use the user-specific information; and the bottle comprises at
least one vertical side wall coupled to a bottom wall to form a container
for encapsulating a fluid, the at least one vertical side wall further
defining an open top, the bottle further comprising a selectively opening
lid for selectively sealing the open top, the bottle further comprising a
check valve disposed on either the at least one side wall or the bottom;
and the dispensing machine includes a means for dispensing the fluid to
the bottle by forming a fluid conduit with the bottle at the check valve.
2. The system of claim 1 wherein: the means for identifying the bottle with user-specific information comprises encoding a user-specific code to at least one of an RFID tag, a bar code or a magnetic stripe coupled to a portion of the bottle.
3. The system of claim 1 wherein: the means for the dispensing machine to use the user-specific information comprises at least one RFID sensor, bar code scanner or magnetic stripe reader coupled to the dispensing machine and in data communication with a dispensing machine processor having associated memory and data storage.
4. The system of claim 1 further comprising: a kiosk having a user input interface and an output device in data communication with a kiosk processor having an associated memory and data storage; at least one RFID encoder, bar code generator, or magnetic encoder in data communication with the processor.
5. The system of claim 4 wherein: the dispensing machine further comprises the kiosk.
6. The system of claim 1 further comprising: a remote server comprising a processor in communication with a database, the database comprising customer specific information for at least one customer; a means for enabling at least one user to provide a payment method for services and products dispensed by the dispensing machine; a means for communicating data to and from the remote server from a remote location.
7. A method for filling a bottle with a user-selected fluid the method comprising: providing a sports bottle comprising at least one vertical side wall coupled to a bottom wall to form a container for encapsulating a fluid, the at least one vertical side wall further defining an open top, the bottle further comprising a selectively opening lid for selectively sealing the open top, the bottle further comprising a check valve disposed on either the at least one side wall or the bottom; providing a dispensing machine comprising a means for filling the sports bottle with a fluid by means of the check valve; providing a means for encoding user-specific information on the sports bottle; providing a means for the dispensing machine to read the user-specific information on the sports bottle; and providing a means for enable the user to provide payment.
8. A sports bottle comprising: at least one vertical side wall coupled to a bottom wall to form a container for encapsulating a fluid, the at least one vertical side wall further defining an open top, the bottle further comprising a selectively opening lid for selectively sealing the open top, the bottle further comprising a check valve disposed on either the at least one side wall or the bottom.
 This invention relates to sports bottles and generally to fluid containers and apparatus for filling multiple-use fluid containers. Specifically, this invention relates to sports bottle type beverage containers designed to allow fluids to be introduced through the bottom or side of bottle rather than through the main opening (top) of the bottle, and to the associated interfacing and fluid-feeding hardware, dispensing systems and methods of use including purchased pre-filled with a selected fluid from retailers but re-filled by the end user for re-use.
 Sports bottles, commonly vacuum or injected molded of a non-breakable plastic or extruded from metal, include a large fill opening and a screw or snap-on cap for closing the opening, and have an open top or cap that includes a straw or squirt outlet feature that enables the liquid to be consumed by the user. Accordingly, sport bottles are reasonably durable, reusable, and contain a myriad of liquids of choice by the user, of which water is the most common. Successful sports bottles are not only stylish and functional, but also must be economical to make and to purchase, and easy to use during vigorous exercise, and easy to grip and manipulate with one hand without spilling.
 Many users carry individual bottles of water or other liquid, to replenish body liquids lost during exercise. As such, there is a conflicting desire to have a small, easy-to-manage sized container yet also have a large supply of liquid available during vigorous and prolonged exercise regimens. The larger the bottle is, of course, the more liquid can be carried, but also the larger the container the more difficult to manipulate, and the more difficult to exercise or operate fitness equipment.
 A common solution to this problem is to refill the bottle from public drinking fountains, which only provides unfiltered public tap water. This solution, however, comes with certain drawbacks. Specifically, drinking fountains do not have sufficient flow rate to rapidly fill an exercise bottle, and this time to fill the bottle not only interferes with the user's exercise routine, but also annoys other patrons anxiously awaiting their turn to use the drinking fountain. Further, the design of drinking fountains often precludes filling a bottle, as sports drink bottles have to be tipped to fit into the flow of water from the faucet. Alternately, users attempt to fill their sports bottles from restroom sinks. These typically small sinks provide only a limited vertical clearance between a water outlet nozzle and underlying sink structure. This means that the sports bottle must be tilted toward the horizontal in order to bring the bottle fill opening close to the water jet to have any water enter the bottle. Consequently, any severely tilted bottle is likely to be filled then, if at all, to only a small fraction of perhaps even less than half of its capacity.
 Additionally, there is a trend to drink filtered or bottled water. Accordingly, filling one's sports bottle from a public drinking fountain or restroom sink is offensive to many users. Therefore, there remains a need for a sports bottle that allows rapid filling, and a dispensing system that can provide users with filtered and cold drinking water at a fast replenishment rate.
 Yet another solution includes the pre-filling of single-use or multiple-use bottles with water, filtered water, vitamin-enhanced water, fluoride water, or sports drinks and ship en masse the individual single-use or multiple-use bottles to retail distribution points. There, the consumer purchases the singe-use bottle and, after consumption, disposes of the single-use or multiple-use bottle placing it in the waste stream or, preferably, recycles the container for re-use. However, there is currently no means for the consumer to re-fill the single-use or multiple-use bottle with the original product, such as vitamin water, fluoride water, or a sports drink. Thus, there is tremendous waste with the current method of delivering sports drinks and the like in single-use or multiple-use bottles.
 Thus, there remains another need for a system, machine, and re-usable bottle that overcomes this limitation and provides the consumer an option of refilling their bottle with a desired beverage including filtered water, vitamin water, and sports drinks, for example.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention overcomes shortcomings of and solves problems not addressed by the prior art. Specifically, a preferred embodiment of the present invention includes a system consisting of a sports bottle and a dispenser station for filling the sports bottle. The system enables rapid filling of the sports bottle from the bottom or side of the bottle and works well with filtration systems to provide the user with filtered water, or can be used to dispense any beverage.
 Unlike a typical water fountain, which is ill-suited to fill a sports water bottle and only provides unfiltered tap water, the present invention includes a dispensing machine that fills a bottle with filtered water or vitamin water, flourided-water, or a supplement drink such as Gatorade-brand sports drink or similar. Presently, such options are not available in a refillable manner that is conducive to a more "green" or environmentally acceptable solution. The present state of the art wastes a considerable amount of packaging because only single-use or multiple-use bottles are sold.
 The sports bottle of the present invention includes a one-way valve located on a bottom wall or, alternatively, on a sidewall of the bottle. The valve is in fluid communication with a tube inlet. The tube inlet is part of a spiral wound (or in an alternative embodiment, a straight) piece of tubing. The tubing has a hollow center and an outlet adjacent to a top portion of the bottle. The tubing is either formed in the side wall of the bottle during bottle formation, or, preferably, is a separate assembly inserted in the bottle. The bottle includes a normal top portion with cap or lid having a drinking nozzle or straw, as would be customary in the sports-bottle art.
 The dispensing system includes a nozzle that interfaces with the one-way valve on the bottle. When the bottle is placed on the dispenser, a sensor (pressure or mass or optical, bar code) determines the presence of the sports bottle and a pressurized stream of water (filtered water, sports fluid or other beverage) begins to flow from a source via a pump. The fluid flows into the sports bottle via the one-way valve and follows the tubing to the top of the bottle and begins filling the bottle. When the user removes the bottle from the dispenser, the flow is immediately stopped.
 From this it should be apparent that a sports bottle can be filled rapidly without having to remove the top cap or lid.
 FIG. 1 is a front view of a sports bottle according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view taken along the line 2-2 in FIG. 1.
 FIG. 3 is a partial assembly view of components of the sports bottle according to another embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 4 is a detail cross-sectional frontal view of a portion of the bottom of a sports bottle according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention and illustrates a check valve in the closed position.
 FIG. 5 is the check valve of FIG. 4 in the open position.
 FIG. 6 is an offset frontal-top view of a system according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of a sports bottle and fluid dispenser according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 8 is an alternative embodiment of a water bottle according to the present invention.
 FIG. 9 is a system according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 10 is a front view of a sports bottle according to yet another preferred embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 11 is a front view of a sports bottle according to again another preferred embodiment of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 Possible preferred embodiments will now be described with reference to the drawings and those skilled in the art will understand that alternative configurations and combinations of components may be substituted without subtracting from the invention. Also, in some figures certain components are omitted to more clearly illustrate the invention.
 In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a sports bottle filling system includes a sports bottle 10 and dispenser 50. A sports bottle of the present invention, similar to existing sports bottles and the various sports bottles according to various preferred embodiments of the present invention, include a liquid-tight body comprised of a circumferential side wall, a transverse bottom wall, and transverse top walls, with the top wall having an upstanding neck surrounding a fill opening. The illustrated neck includes external threads, to removably accept a threaded cap for closing the fill opening. Alternately, the neck includes a feature adapted to enable a snap-fit cap to selectively secure the open top of the bottle. Outlet means, such as straw or squirt outlet, provided through or in the cap allows a user to take liquid directly from the bottle and into the mouth without removing the cap or spilling, even while exercising, as is well-understood in the art.
 FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a preferred sports bottle 10 having a lid or cap 20. The lid or cap 20 includes common features such as a nozzle or straw (not illustrated) enabling the user to drink the contents without removing the lid. The sports bottle 10 includes a tapered neck portion 18 forming the top wall 16 of the bottle, which connects to a nearly vertical and cylindrical formed sidewall 12 extending to a bottom wall 14. The bottom wall 14 includes a raised, inverted neck 22. The interior of the sports bottle is hollow and is suitable for holding and dispensing a liquid such as water or a sports drink or other beverage. A spiral-wound tube 27 attaches to the interior face of the sidewall 12. The tube has an outlet 29 and inlet 28.
 In a second preferred embodiment, the sports bottle 10, as just described, includes a straight tube 26 (of FIG. 3, for example) in lieu of the spiral wound tube 27. The sports bottle (although not shown in FIGS. 1 and 2) includes a one-way valve 30, which is located at the bottom wall 14 (of FIG. 3). The one way valve includes a gasket, o-ring, or other seal 40 to ensure that the coupling between the tube 26 or 27 and the valve is leak-free. A second seal 24 further ensures that the envelope of the bottle is leak free. The valve 30 is inserted in the bottom wall prior to molding the bottle or as an insert after the bottle is removed from the mold. The bottle 10 is molded from a thermoplastic material, as would be well understood in the art or extruded from a metal, such as aluminum, or blown glass coated with an external layer consisting of a polymer film to reduce the propensity of breakage and encapsulate any shards of glass in the event the glass breaks. for example.
 In yet another preferred embodiment (as FIG. 10 illustrates), a sports bottle 10 with a cap or lid 20 includes a spiral sidewall 101 design. The cap selectively couples to an open top that tapers to a neck portion 18 forming the top wall 16 of the bottle. At this top wall portion of the bottle, a one-way valve 30 disposes in such a manner to enable a dispenser 50 to selectively replenish the bottle with a sports drink, water, or other desired fluid--as discussed below in connection with the other preferred bottle embodiments and the preferred system. The bottle of FIG. 10 includes a spiral-wound vertical sidewall to form a cylinder extending to a bottom wall 14. The interior of the sports bottle is hollow and is suitable for holding and dispensing a liquid such as water or a sports drink or other beverage.
 The one-way valve 30 (or check valve) of the sports bottle 10 (of each of the preferred bottle embodiments) can be of various designs. FIGS. 4 and 5 illustrate the operation of such a check valve 30 contemplated by the present invention. Such a valve includes a ball 34 adjacent to a spring 32 or biasing member, which in turn, rests against a seat 36. The spring 32 has a rate such that it pushes the ball against the curved walls of the valve body until sufficient force is applied by the pressurized stream of water from the dispenser (FIG. 4 shows the valve in the closed position). When that force threshold is met, the ball retracts (FIG. 5) to enable a fluid passage to open.
 In the preferred embodiments of FIGS. 1-5, the substantially cylindrical bottle is formed by the circumferential bottle wall 12 extending along a longitudinal axis, and the bottom wall 14 is disposed approximately normal to the circumferential wall and axis, at the bottom of the bottle. An in-turned neck 22 formed off of the bottom wall has features adapted to receive a one-way check valve 30, such as a ball valve and associated gasket. This may be press fit into this bottom neck opening after the walls are formed or may be insert-molded during bottle formation.
 The check valve 30 of the various preferred embodiments is well-understood in the art and is a valve in which the closing member, the movable part to block the flow, is a spherical ball. The interior surface of the main seats of ball check valves are more or less conically-tapered to guide the ball into the seat and form a positive seal when stopping reverse flow. Although the balls are most often made of metal, they can be made of other materials.
 In the case of a one-way valve 30 located on the sidewall near the top of the bottle, such as the bottle of FIG. 10, instead of a fill tube, the fluid may be simply introduced directly into the hollow bottle interior. At a low flow rate, the fluid will follow the spiraled contour of the inner sidewall and trace a descending spiral pattern to the filling fluid level.
 FIG. 6 shows a sports bottle 10 according to the present invention and a dispenser 50 with bottle-receptacle 60 and filling-nozzle 62. Fluid, such as water or, alternatively, a sports-specific drink such as Gatorade-brand drink, fills the bottle of the present invention as follows: The wall (bottom or side) having a one-way valve is brought into contact with the mating fluid delivery assembly, a concentric planar o-ring seal is engaged between the beverage container and the fluid delivery assembly. Vacuum suction is supplied and an electronic vacuum sensor is attached at valve 301. An optional window closes to prevent premature removal of the bottle from the machine by the user. Alternatively, or in combination with the window, a mechanical barrier or arm restricts the bottle to prevent premature removal by the user or accidental ejection of the bottle during the filling sequence. Mechanical pressure is developed in the space between the concentric o-ring seals as soon as vacuum suction is able to engage. Bringing the one-way valve on the bottom of the bottle into contact with the o-rings or sealing gaskets sucks the beverage container down firmly into place and registers a pressure change on the electronic vacuum sensor.
 Of course, any air in the bottle would need to be evacuated during filling. One way of enabling the displaced air to escape is through the open top of the bottle. Another way includes the use of a vacuum suction line located at a port disposed on a top portion of the bottle.
 Also, there may be a mixture of used liquid and air in the bottle. IN this event, it would be important to remove this unsanitary matter from the bottle, and clean the bottle (optionally) before filling the bottle for re-use by the same user. Further, this unsanitary matter may need to be cleaned prior to discharging the unsanitary matter to the sewer system connected to the dispensing machine. Accordingly, known tools and methods may be incorporated in the dispensing machine to sanitize the bottle and the effluent matter coming from the bottle. One contemplated device includes a replaceable filler nozzle that includes a fluid output and unsanitary fluid matter inlet.
 The resulting electronic signal can be used to actuate an electronic fill valve mechanism upstream of the fluid delivery assembly. The compressed inner o-ring gasket prevents leakage of the fluid. The fill duration can be controlled by a timer or by weight, or by continual measuring or sensing of predetermined space or level in the bottle which can be identified by a bar code or an encoded RFID tag, or other optical feature with a sensor on the dispensing machine, for example.
 In another embodiment, a sustained manual mechanical down force by the user is required in order to affect a reliable seal between the fluid injector assembly and the beverage container. In this embodiment, filling begins when the downward pressure exerted by the bottle on the filling dispenser system registers. This, in turn, initiates the pressurized flow of fluid. A valve mechanism directly upstream of the fluid delivery assembly is actuated open, allowing the constantly-pressurized fluid to flow into the bottle via the bottle's one-way valve and associated fill-tube. Filling is stopped by either closing the valve upstream of the fluid delivery assembly, by depressurizing the fluid reservoir, or, if applicable, by actuating the outflow mitigation device closed.
 FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram of the system according to the present invention. A portion of the sports bottle 10, including bottom wall 14 (or, alternatively, a sidewall) with the internal components of a check valve 30 is shown. It will be understood that this check valve 30 could be arranged in the sidewall (as shown in FIG. 10) and that it would work substantially the same and when placed near the top portion of the sidewall, a fill tube may not be required. The dispenser receptacle 60 includes a filling nozzle 62 with gasket 64. This seals against the check valve 30 mounted in the bottom wall 14 of the sports bottle 10. The check valve 30 is shown in the open position, which would only occur with the pressurized flow of water, which is not illustrated in this figure. The pressurized flow of water would only begin when the bottle was fully seated on the receptacle and the pressure sensor 54. (It should be noted that many other types of sensing arrangements would work equally well including, but not limited to, a mass sensor, an optical sensor, a bar code imprinted on the bottle and paired with a bar code reader on the dispensing machine, an RFID tag and reader, and other similar devices as would be appreciated by those skilled in the art). Once the bottle is in place, the sensor signals the central processor, which in turn starts a vacuum pump to draw air flow through vacuum tubes 55 causing the bottle to seal against the filling nozzle. Then the processor signals the water pump and a pressurized flow of water begins to flow.
 The fill volume delivered to the bottle can be determined in a myriad of ways. In one embodiment the fill volume is determined by the weight of the bottle--because the bottle has a known weight and volume, the weight of the bottle when placed on the sensor area can be used to assess if there is a partial fill or an empty bottle. The weight of the bottle is routinely sampled during the fill processes and the flow of liquid stops when a predetermined weight threshold is reached. In another embodiment, and optical sensor positioned near the top of the bottle triggers when the liquid reaches the sensor, thus even a partial filled bottle will not be overfilled. In other embodiments the system uses RFID tags to identify the bottle volume and this information in conjunction with one of the sensor methods just discussed determines the amount of fluid to be delivered to the bottle.
 In one embodiment, a method of the present invention charges the user for the dispensed water. The volume of dispensed liquid is measured and charged to a pre-arranged account including credit card or a Paypal-like on-line banking service. iTunes, iPhone Application, and other mobile device-based systems are also contemplated wherein calculating the amount owed, the amount of liquid consumed during a workout, or other time period or activity. Thus, in one embodiment the present invention contemplates a method and system that enables a customer to set up an account with preferences of the liquid to be delivered and other customer specific information including a type of payment to be charged when the bottle is filled.
 To prevent a user from prematurely removing the bottle during the filling process, the fill machine includes a mechanical device (not illustrated in the drawing) that restricts access to the bottle during the fill operation. In one embodiment the mechanical device comprises a glass or Plexiglas screen that selectively positions and retracts from in front of the bottle during the filling sequence. In another embodiment, a mechanical arm holds the bottle firmly in position in a manner that precludes a user from taking the bottle during the fill sequence.
 In one embodiment, a method of use and systems of the present invention include radio-frequency identification "RFID" tags coupled to the bottle. To use the system, a customer goes to kiosk and inputs information about customer-supplied bottle including volume of bottle and type of opening. The software is pre-loaded with common bottle types, sizes, and opening arrangements. There is also a custom-input option for the customer to directly describe the size, shape and type of opening used on their specific bottle. Additionally, customer-specific preferences including preferred beverage, payment method, for example, is input. The customer can also select custom-fill options, such as filtered water, vitamin water, carbonated water, sports drink, half fill, full fill, etc. This information is associated with the RFID tag or encoded directly with the tag, and the customer then places the encoded tag on their bottle. A suitable RFiD tag and encoding scheme is available from http://www.adasainc.com/s.nl/sc.5/.f, for example.
 The kiosk can be separate from the dispensing machine or incorporated into the dispensing machine.
 The dispensing machine may further include mechanisms to dispense clean bottle for sale.
 The customer places the RFID tagged bottle in the fill area of the dispensing machine and initiates the fill sequence. The machine reads the RFID tag and executes the customer-specific fill as encoded on the RFID tag or as associated with the tag. The fill machine may connect to the Internet or other remote database system to query customer-specific information from a remote server.
 FIG. 8 illustrates an alternative bottle design according to the present invention. As such the bottle 10 includes a vertical sidewall 12 having a check-valve 30. The construction, operation, and details of this embodiment are otherwise the same as previously discussed.
 FIG. 9 illustrates a system and method of use according to one embodiment of the present invention. The system 100 enables a user U to interface with a kiosk 60 having an input panel (touch screen) combined with a display 61 and an output device (not shown) such as an RFID encoder or barcode label printer, or other similar device. The user inputs various parameters at the kiosk. As previously discussed, such parameters include the type and volume of the bottle, the user-specific data including payment means. This information is encoded on the RFID tag or, more accurately, is associated with a unique code, the unique code is imprinted on the bar code or encoded to the RFID tag. The label or tag is then affixed to the bottle. The unique user-specific code and associated data is communicated to a remote server and database 80 by a communication means such as the Internet 70 by communication protocols, software, and hardware well understood in this art.
 Still referring to FIG. 9, once a bottle 10 has an encoded tag or label (whether generated at a stand-alone kiosk 60 or integrated into the dispensing machine 50), the user places the bottle 10 in the filling station 55 portion of the dispensing machine and inputs the desired responses to a series of predetermined queries generated at the dispensing machine 50. The dispensing machine includes a display 51, such as a touch screen display, and other input devices including input buttons, a keyboard, a magnetic card reader, and other input devices as would be well-understood in the art. The dispensing machine includes various sensors and mechanical components to introduce the user-selected fluid into the bottle, as previously disclosed herein. One possible selection the user may make is a cleaning cycle whereby the dispensing machine rinses, sterilizes, and rinses the bottle prior to refilling the bottle.
 The bottle of the present invention may further include a bar-code label, RFID label, a magnetic label, or any other similar smart-label (active or passive) to encode information about the bottle such as the volume of the bottle and a unique bottle identification. The bottle identification can be linked to a remote database that tracks use, payment information, user preferences and other data. From this, is should be apparent that the present invention further contemplates a method of use that tailors products and services based on an individual user's preferences. One contemplated service is billing the user for use of liquids consumed.
 FIG. 11 illustrates again another embodiment of a sports bottle 10 according to the present invention. The bottle of FIG. 11 integrates with the dispensing machine as previously described. However, the dispensing machine is modified to include a bacterial filter 1103 for effluent air from discharge port 1107 on the bottle 10. The dispensing machine includes a disposable tip 1101 that penetrates the one way (for example, a diaphragm) valve included in port 1107 (the diaphragm valve is not shown in the drawing, but is well-understood in the art). Also, the dispensing machine includes a sanitary filter 1105 with associated penetrating tip for accessing the infill port 30, which may include a diaphragm valve, a ball valve or other one-way valve for filling fluid into the sports bottle.
 Although the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to certain embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
Patent applications by Fadi Ibsies, Tigard, OR US
Patent applications in class Combined or convertible
Patent applications in all subclasses Combined or convertible