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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
DRINKING STRAW
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/120037
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
A drinking straw that can be easily inserted through a lid or into a beverage pouch or box but that cannot be easily removed, for example, by a child, once the straw is in place. Preferred embodiments of the present invention provide a drinking straw apparatus with a mechanism that makes it difficult to remove a straw once inserted through a lid or opening into a beverage container. One or more retaining integrally formed extensions extending from the straw provide force against the underside of the lid of a container, preventing the straw from being pulled out of the container. Preferred embodiments are also inexpensive to manufacture so that the products are suitable for use as single-use, disposable straws.

Inventors:
WALLACE, Jamie, M. (3221 Pine Needle Cove, Round Rock, Texas, 78681, US)
Application Number:
US2011/030180
Publication Date:
September 29, 2011
Filing Date:
March 28, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
WALLACE, Jamie, M. (3221 Pine Needle Cove, Round Rock, Texas, 78681, US)
International Classes:
A47G21/18
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCHEINBERG, Michael, O. (PO Box 164140, Austin, Texas, 78716, US)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A drinking straw, comprising:

a straw having a body formed from a cylindrical tube, the straw having a top portion adapted for being placed in a person's mouth in order to draw liquid through the straw and a lower end adapted for inserting through an opening in a beverage container; and

at least one retaining extension integrally formed with the straw, retaining

extension extending away from the straw body up toward the top portion of the straw.

2. The drinking straw of claim 1 wherein the at least one retaining extension comprises a plurality of retaining extensions.

3. The drinking straw of claim 2 wherein the straw and retaining extensions when inserted so that the portion of the drinking straw with the retaining extensions passes through an opening in a beverage container will prevent the easy removal of the straw.

4. The drinking straw assembly of claim 2 wherein the straw with retaining extensions can be inserted through an opening in a beverage container using substantially the same force required to insert a straw without retaining extensions.

5. The drinking straw assembly of claim 2 in which the retaining extensions are formed on a lower portion of the straw body so that when the straw is fully inserted through an opening in a beverage container the portion of the drinking straw with the retaining extensions passes completely through the opening.

6. A drinking straw comprising:

a straw formed from a cylindrical tube, the straw having an upper end, a lower end, and a longitudinal axis, the lower end adapted for inserting through an opening in a beverage container; one or more extensions extending from the straw and integrally formed with the straw, said one or more extensions:

(i) positioned on the straw so that the extensions will pass completely through said opening when the straw is inserted into a beverage container;

(ii) formed so that the purely longitudinal force of pushing the straw and sleeve down through the opening will push the extensions against the straw and allow the extensions to easily pass through the opening, but when the straw is then pulled back up, the extensions will contact the beverage container and prevent the straw from being easily removed from the beverage container.

7. The drinking straw of claim 6 in which the one or more extensions have a proximal portion with respect to the main straw body and a distal portion opposite the straw body and formed so that the distal portion that tends to spread out away from the straw so that the distal portion of the one or more extensions has a wider overall diameter than the proximal portion.

8. The drinking straw of claim 2 in which the extensions are formed with longitudinal slots in the extensions.

9. The drinking straw of claim 2 in which the straw body and the at least one retaining extension are formed by injection molding.

10. The drinking straw of claim 2 in which the straw body comprises high density polyethylene.

11. A drinking straw, comprising:

a straw having a body formed from a cylindrical tube, the straw having a top portion adapted for being placed in a person's mouth in order to draw liquid through the straw and a lower end adapted for inserting through an opening in a beverage container; a plurality of retaining extensions integrally formed with the straw, the retaining extension extending away from the straw body up toward the top portion of the straw;

wherein said straw and retaining extensions are formed as a single unit using injection molding.

12. The drinking straw of claim 11 wherein the straw and retaining extensions are formed as a single unit using using a hot runner mold with deep draw injection molding.

13. The drinking straw of claim 11 wherein the straw and retaining extensions are formed using a one-step process.

14. The drinking straw of claim 11 wherein the extensions are less than 0.3 inches in length.

15. The drinking straw of claim 11 wherein the angle between the extensions and the straw body is greater than 30 degrees.

16. The drinking straw of claim 11 in which the extensions are:

(i) positioned on the straw so that the extensions will pass completely through said opening when the straw is inserted into a beverage container;

(ii) formed so that the purely longitudinal force of pushing the straw and sleeve down through the opening will push the extensions against the straw and allow the extensions to easily pass through the opening, but when the straw is then pulled back up, the extensions will contact the beverage container and prevent the straw from being easily removed from the beverage container.

17. The drinking straw of claim 16 in which the force required to pull the extensions back up out of the beverage container is at least 8 ounces.

18. The drinking straw of claim 16 in which the force required to pull the extensions back up out of the beverage container is at least 1 pound.

19. The drinking straw of claim 11 wherein the extensions are 0.02 to 0.03 inches in thickness.

20. The drinking straw of claim 11 wherein the top edge of each extension extends approximately 0.15 to 0.2 inches from the straw body.

21. The drinking straw of claim 11 in which the overall length of the straw is 4.5 to 6.5inches.

22. The drinking straw of claim 16 in which, when the extensions are bent inward to allow the straw to pass through an opening, the diameter of the straw plus extensions is no more than 150% of the diameter of the straw body alone.

22. The drinking straw of claim 16 in which, when the extensions are

uncompressed, the diameter at the top of the extensions is approximately 250% of the diameter of the straw body alone.

23. The drinking straw of claim 16 in which, when the extensions are spread by contact with a beverage container, the diameter with the extensions completely spread is more than 300% of the diameter of the straw body alone.

24. The drinking straw of claim 11 in which the extensions are formed with slots in the center of each extension.

25. The drinking straw of claim 24 in which the slots are 0.05 to 0.07 inches in width and extend more than half of the length of the extensions.

26. The drinking straw of claim 25 in which the slots do not extend all the way to the straw sidewalk

27. The drinking straw of claim 24 in which the slots formed in the center of each extension allow increased flexure in the center of the extensions rather than at the base of the extensions.

28. The drinking straw of claim 11 in which the extensions are strong enough to withstand tension of at least 10 pounds, both in a direction longitudinal to the main axis straw and in a direction perpendicular to the long axis, for a period of at least 5 seconds without separating from the straw body.

Description:
Drinking Straw

This application claims priority from U.S. Prov. Pat. App. No. 61/318,271, filed March 26, 2010, which is hereby incorporated by reference.

Technical Field of the Invention

[0001] The invention relates to drinking straws, more particularly to a drinking straw with a safety feature to prevent easy removal from a beverage container.

Background of the Invention

[0002] As is commonly known, a drinking straw is a cylindrical tube having two open ends. One end is placed in a beverage and the other end is placed in a person's mouth. By applying suction through the straw, a small amount of the beverage is drawn up through the straw and into the person's mouth. Because a straw allows a person to drink without having to lift a full cup, straws are often provided to children who would have difficulty drinking from a cup or glass without spilling the contents.

[0003] For the same reason, drinking cups for children are often provided with removable lids to help prevent large spills. These lids typically have an opening through which a drinking straw can be inserted.

[0004] It is also common for children to drink beverages from liquid-containing cartons or pouches that provide single servings of noncarbonated beverages such as juice or milk. These containers are commonly referred to as juice boxes or juice pouches. (Hereinafter, the phrase "juice box" will be used to refer to any type of single serving drink container designed to be consumed with an attached straw.) Juice boxes typically come packaged with a straw for consuming the beverage. The straw is typically attached to and removable from the juice box. The attached straw typically has an angle-cut piercing end, while the other rigid section ends in a straight-cut drinking end. The piercing end is designed to pierce the beverage container, for example through a small foil-sealed opening located near the top of the juice box.

[0005] While the drinking lids and the construction of the juice boxes help prevent large spills, parents often struggle with preventing young children from pulling drinking straws out of drink containers at inopportune times and either spilling the drink liquid or throwing the straw down onto a table or floor. The result is often a mess to be cleaned up and/or a straw that is dirtied and soiled and no longer re -usable for its intended purposes. Further, the child is then left without a straw and may be unable to drink any more of the beverage. Beyond that, it is also environmentally unfriendly as the straw is no longer usable and a new, clean one has to be obtained and used. Further, each year a large number of injuries result from children removing drinking straws from containers and stabbing themselves or another child in a sensitive area such as an eye or ear.

[0006] U.S. Pat. No. 5,897,013 to Manganiello for "Straw for Drinking Cup" teaches a reusable straw and lid assembly where the straw is inserted through an opening in the lid from underneath and a retaining shoulder allows only a predetermined length of the straw to extend above the lid. The apparatus taught by Manganiello is not designed to be disposable. The apparatus is too complicated and difficult to manufacture to be suitable for a one time use. Further, the straw and lid are a complete assembly designed to work together. The straw would not be suitable for use with another lid, such as the typical disposable lids placed on drinks in fast-food restaurants. Finally, the Manganiello straw must be inserted from underneath the lid, making more difficult to use for drinking lids and making it impossible to use with juice boxes and the like.

[0007] U.S. Pat. No. 5,114,074 to Frauenthal et al. for "Retraction Resistant Straw" describes a straw with a flexible retaining tab secured to the outside of the straw and extending radially. However, to insert the straw into an opening, the tab must first be wrapped around the straw to allow it to pass through the opening in the lid or juice box. Frauenthal also describes an alternate embodiment where the straw is formed with a truncated cone midway up the length of the straw so that the base of the cone (which is significantly larger in diameter than the straw) is toward the top of the straw. Both of these embodiments, however, would be difficult to use and to manufacture. The tab embodiment requires the user to wrap the tab around the straw before inserting. This would obviously be difficult for an adult and nearly impossible for a small child. The cone embodiment as shown in Frauenthal would make a larger hole in the lid or juice container, requiring more effort to insert the straw and making it more likely that there would be leakage or spilling around the straw. The same would be true for the tab embodiment, especially for foil on beverage boxes or pouches because the tab would tend to slice through the foil unless pre-folded against the straw.

Finally, both embodiments would be difficult and expensive to manufacture and could not be produced using the typical extrusion molders currently used in drinking straw manufacture.

[0008] Accordingly, there is a need for a straw designed to prevent easy removal from a beverage container. Finally, there is a need for such a drinking straw which is inexpensive and easy enough to manufacture so that it may be used as a free, disposable item.

Summary of the Invention

[0009] Preferred embodiments of the present invention provide a drinking straw assembly that can be easily inserted through a lid or into a beverage pouch or box but that cannot be easily removed by a child once the straw is in place. Preferred embodiments are also inexpensive to manufacture so that the products are suitable for use as single-use, disposable straws.

[0010] The foregoing has outlined rather broadly the features and technical advantages of the present invention in order that the detailed description of the invention that follows may be better understood. Additional features and advantages of the invention will be described hereinafter. It should be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the conception and specific embodiments disclosed may be readily utilized as a basis for modifying or designing other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present invention. It should also be realized by those skilled in the art that such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.

Brief Description of the Drawin2S

[0011] For a more thorough understanding of the present invention, and advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0012] FIG. 1 shows a preferred embodiment of a drinking straw according to the present invention as described by Applicant in a previously filed application;

[0013] FIGS. 2A-2B shows a straw sleeve mounted onto a straw according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0014] FIG. 2C shows a side view of a straw of a preferred embodiment fully inserted through a lid;

[0015] FIG. 2D shows a bottom perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention fully inserted through a lid with the finger- like mechanisms fully extended;

[0016] FIGS. 3A and 3B show a straw assembly according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention where the extensions are integral with the straw as described by Applicant in a previously filed application;

[0017] FIG. 4 shows a straw assembly that includes a straw and a cone shaped straw retainer formed as a single piece as described by Applicant in a previously filed application;

[0018] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a drinking straw with retaining extensions according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention; [0019] FIGS 6A and 6B show side views of straw with four retaining extensions according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0020] FIG. 6C is a perspective view of a drinking straw with retaining extensions according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0021] FIGS. 7A-7B show a close up view of the retaining extensions according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

[0022] FIGS. 8A-8C show an exemplary embodiment of the present invention along measurement points for illustrating dimensions;

[0023] FIG. 9 is a front view of the drinking straw with retaining extensions of FIG. 5;

[0024] FIG. 10 is a back view of the drinking straw with retaining extensions of FIG. 5;

[0025] FIG. 11 is a left side view of the drinking straw with retaining extensions of FIG. 5;

[0026] FIG. 12 is a right side view of the drinking straw with retaining extensions of FIG. 5;

[0027] FIG. 13 is a bottom view of the drinking straw with retaining extensions of FIG. 5;

[0028] FIG. 14 is a top view of the drinking straw with retaining extensions of FIG. 5;

[0029] FIG. 15 is a perspective top down view of the drinking straw with retaining extensions of FIG. 6C;

[0030] FIG. 16 shows an alternative slot arrangement for the retaining according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention; and

[0031] FIG. 17 illustrates an extension bending in the middle rather than at the joint between the extension and the straw body according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. [0032] The accompanying drawings are not intended to be drawn to scale. In the drawings, each identical or nearly identical component that is illustrated in various figures is represented by a like numeral. For purposes of clarity, not every component may be labeled in every drawing.

Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments

[0033] Preferred embodiments of the present invention provide a drinking straw that can be easily inserted through a lid or into a beverage pouch or box but that cannot be easily removed, for example, by a child, once the straw is in place. By "easily inserted," it is meant that the force required will be relatively small but not zero. A drinking straw according to the present invention should be able to be inserted through a lid or into a beverage pouch or box using substantially the same force required by a prior-art straw. Once inserted, as described below, a straw according to the present invention cannot be easily removed. By this, it is meant that the force required to remove a straw according to the present invention will be substantially greater than the force required to remove a prior-art straw. Due to the relatively weak materials typically used in the construction of beverage lids and the preferred materials used for preferred embodiments of the present invention, an adult would certainly be able to remove a drinking straw according to the present invention; for example by pulling hard enough to tear the beverage lid material or the drinking straw. However, in normal use, a drinking straw according to the present invention should be difficult to remove, especially for a child, once inserted through a lid or opening in a beverage container.

[0034] This is accomplished by way of various types of retaining extensions attached to or integral with the straw that will press flat against the straw when passed through a hole in a lid or juice box in one direction, but will catch against the beverage container lid, juice box, or other beverage container when the straw is pulled in the opposite direction. As used herein, the term "integral" is used to mean that the straw and the extensions are formed as one piece, rather than having extensions glued or otherwise attached to the straw. In the embodiments described herein, these extensions can be considered as a type of "straw retainer" that will hold the straw in place. Preferred embodiments are also inexpensive to manufacture so that the products are suitable for use as single-use, disposable straws.

[0035] A preferred method or apparatus of the present invention has many novel aspects, and because the invention can be embodied in different methods or apparatuses for different purposes, not every aspect need be present in every embodiment. Moreover, many of the aspects of the described embodiments may be separately patentable. Although much of this description is directed at a drinking straw for use by children, preferred embodiments would also be suitable for use by the elderly or disabled. Also, drinking straws according to the present invention could be used at zoos or parks where discarded straws may be dangerous to animals or wildlife. Still further, drinking straws according to the present invention may be used ubiquitously as an aid in preventing littering in general. Preferred embodiments of the present invention could also be used simply to prevent straws from accidentally being removed or dropped.

[0036] A preferred embodiment of a drinking straw assembly 10 according to the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. Such a drinking straw is described in Applicant's co-pending U.S. Pat. App. Pub. No. 2009/0256000 to Jamie Wallace for "Drinking Straw" (filed Apr. 13, 2009), which is hereby incorporated by reference. Straw 11 can be manufactured according to any suitable known methods, including extrusion type molders which are commonly used in drinking straw manufacture. Straws of various sizes can be used, including straws of a diameter commonly used, for example, in fast-food restaurants (typically 15 mm in diameter and smaller) and straws of a diameter suitable for use in commercially available juice boxes (typically from 3 to 6 mm in diameter). Straw 11 can be formed from any suitable material, as is known in the prior art, including, for example, polypropylene resin. In some embodiments, the straw can have an angle-cut piercing lower end for penetrating the foil- sealed opening of some beverage containers, while the top section ends in a straight cut drinking end.

[0037] Sleeve 12 is placed around the exterior of straw 11. The sleeve can also be formed using extrusion type molders to create the cylindrically shaped sleeve with an internal diameter large enough so that the sleeve will fit tightly around the exterior of the straw. Sleeve 12 is preferably formed from the same material as straw 11. A plurality of finger- like extensions 14 will press flat against the straw when passed through a hole in a lid or juice box in one direction, but will catch against the lid or juice box when the straw is pulled in the opposite direction. As shown in FIG. 1 A to 3B, the distal or upper ends of the extensions will preferably tend to spread out away from the straw so that the overall top diameter 16 of the extensions (including the spaces between the extensions) will be larger and wider at the upper end than the bottom diameter 17 where the extensions attach to or join the sleeve base.

[0038] In preferred embodiments of the present invention, the purely longitudinal force of pushing the drinking straw through an opening will push each extension flat against the straw. In other words, the straw and sleeve of the present invention can be inserted straight into a typical beverage container or lid just like a prior art straw, with no twisting or specialized motion required.

[0039] FIGS. 2 A through 2D illustrate the stages of inserting the drinking straw into a standard drink lid 42. The bottom end 44 of the drinking straw (the end opposite the extensions 14) is first passed down through the opening 46 from the top surface 48 of the lid. As the drinking straw 10 passes through opening 46 the downward force will cause the extensions 14 to press flat against the straw 11 and so pass through the opening 46. Once the distal ends of the extensions (the free ends opposite or away from the sleeve) have passed through the opening, however, they will tend to widen away from the straw body, as shown in FIG. 2C. Any attempt to pull the straw back out of the opening will cause the ends of the extensions to contact the container lid or the portion of the juice box surrounding the opening. The extensions will then be pushed out wide, as shown in FIG. 2D, which will prevent the drinking straw from being easily pulled back through the opening. In preferred

embodiments, the extensions themselves will be wide enough to provide sufficient resistance when the straw is pulled in an outward direction. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 2D, the total widths of the extensions pressed against the underside of the lid (not including the spaces between the extensions) will be approximately equal to the diameter of the straw.

[0040] Preferred embodiments of the invention can be applied to any size straw and can be used with any commercially available juice box or pouch. Embodiments of the present invention can be used with openings in beverage containers that are only slightly larger than the diameter of the drinking straw and sleeve. Because the extensions will tend to spread out from the straw when no force is being applied and because the extensions will spread out to a much larger diameter when an attempt is made to remove the straw, embodiments of the present invention can also be used with openings that are substantially larger than the diameter of the drinking straw and sleeve. Thus, the present invention is not limited to beverage containers with standard insertion holes.

[0041] Preferred embodiments of the present invention can be used with any typical beverage containers, and can be used with any beverage or liquid such as Hi-C®, Yoplait® yogurt, Coca-Cola® Products, Dr. Pepper® products and any other soft drink. Preferred embodiments of the present invention can be used with drink containers purchased at a restaurant with a lid, or drink containers used in the home with lids or lid- like devices.

Drinking straws according to the present invention can be single use, disposable items or can be reusable. A drinking straw according to the present invention can be provided with a drink container, such as the straws typically packaged with juice boxes and pouches, or can be provided separately, for example in a box or package of individual drinking straws that can be used with any desired beverage container.

[0042] In other preferred embodiments of the present invention, the straw and at least one extension can be formed as a single unit. For example, FIGS. 3A and 3B show a straw assembly 20 where a plurality of extensions 14 are integral with the straw 11. FIG. 3B is a cross-sectional view showing that the extensions 14 and the straw 11 are formed as one piece. Skilled persons will recognize that different numbers of extensions and different shaped extensions can be formed without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

[0043] Instead of the finger- like extension described above, one or more generally cone- shaped extensions could also be formed. For example, FIG. 4 shows a straw that includes a straw shaft 60 and a straw retainer 62 that are also formed as a single piece (like the embodiment shown in FIGS. 3A-3B). Straw retainer 62 is essentially a thin, cone-shaped material that extends from straw shaft 60. Straw retainer 62 can be formed, for example, as the straw is being extruded by forcing material over a cone-shaped mold. Straw retainer 62 is sufficiently flexible so that it can be compressed against straw shaft 60 to be inserted into a beverage container. The cone portion may have one or more slits substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of straw shaft 60 so as to facilitate compressing the cone when it is inserted into a beverage container.

[0044] In preferred embodiments of the present invention, the straw and at least one retaining extension can be formed as a single unit by way of a molding technique, such as injection molding. FIGS. 5-17 show preferred embodiments of straws with four retaining extensions that could be formed, for example, by using a hot runner mold with deep draw injection molding. Preferred embodiments can be formed from any suitable material, including for example high density polyethylene. Simultaneously forming the straw and retaining extension(s) as one piece in this fashion allows the extensions to be made strong enough to resist detaching from the straw under the forces that could be exerted by a child pinching or biting on the extensions. Although the present invention is not intended as a toy, in the event that a child under the age of 36 months is allowed to pull or chew on the retaining extensions, it is highly desirable that the extensions stay attached to the body of the straw to prevent any possible choking or ingestion hazard. The use of a molding technique also allows the straw to be made in a one-step process, which is more economical from a manufacturing standpoint. Applicant is unaware of any other beverage or soft food straw in the prior art that has ever been made using molding techniques such as injection molding.

[0045] FIGS. 6 A and 6B show side views and FIGS. 5 and 6C show perspective views of a straw 100 with four retaining extensions 114 integrally formed with the body of the straw 111 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. FIGS. 7A-7B show a close up view of the retaining extensions 114 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, extensions 114 are formed with a central slot 116 in the center of each extension extending to the joint 117 between the extensions and the straw body.

[0046] Because the retaining extensions are integrally formed with the straw body, they can be made mush stronger and more resistant to being torn or pulled away from the straw body, which could potentially create a choking hazard for very young children. In a preferred embodiment, the retaining extensions will be strong enough to withstand tension of at least 10 pounds, and more preferably 15 pounds, both in a direction longitudinal to the main axis of the straw and in a direction perpendicular to the long axis, for a period of at least 5 seconds. Because making the extensions strong enough to withstand these forces requires the extensions to be relatively thick and stiff, slots 116 can be formed in the center of the extensions 114 to increase flexibility without substantially compromising the strength and integrity of the extensions.

[0047] In some embodiments, it may be preferable to make the extensions thinner than necessary to withstand the tension forces described above. In those embodiments, it is desirable to ensure that the extensions are relatively short (preferably less than 0.3 inches in length, and more preferably less than 0.25 inches) and that they are formed with a smooth surface. In this manner, extensions can be formed so that it is extremely difficult, even for an adult, to get a strong enough grip on an extension to exert the force necessary to separate the extension from the body of the straw, even if the necessary force is less than the 10-15 pounds described above.

[0048] Integrally forming the straw and retaining extension(s) by a molding technique also allows the angle of the extensions to the body of the straw to be strictly controlled. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 5, the angle between the extension and the straw body is approximately 40 degrees, although other angles could be used. A 40 degree angle means that the extension only has to flex by a relatively small amount toward the straw to fit through an opening in a lid (or to be pushed through a foil lid). Also, where extension slots are used, this allows much of the flexure to be in the middle of the extension as shows in FIG. 17, rather than at the joint 217 between the extension and straw. This minimizes stress at the joint, which is a critical area for tension resistance (to prevent the extension from being easily separated from the straw) and for resistance to vertical loading and bending (torque). As a result, the vertical holding strength of the straw is improved, especially for straws that are reused. Preferably, embodiments of the present invention will be able to hold a beverage/food container weighing as much as 8 ounces (provided the lid material holds and the lid remains attached to the container); more preferably as much as 1-2 pounds; even more preferably at least 3 pounds (the approximate weight of a typical extra-large adult fountain drink). [0049] Also, because the extensions are formed at an angle they do not depend upon contact with the underside of a beverage/food container lid to be spread away from the straw as in embodiments described in co-pending U.S. Pat. App. Pub. No. 2009/0256000 by Applicant. This allows embodiments of the present invention to be used with a wider variety of beverage/food containers, including for example, typical soft drink cans.

[0050] Preferred embodiments of the present invention can also be designed and sized for specific applications. For example, the preferred embodiment shown in FIGS. 8A-8C is sized for use by children with smaller "child-sized" beverage cups or with food containers of yogurt, applesauce, baby food, etc. As will be recognized by persons of ordinary skill in the art, the measurements described herein are exemplary and can be varied depending upon the intended use of the straw. The overall length 120 of this embodiment is preferably from 4.5 to 6.5 inches. This shorter size will be safer and easier for children to handle because a smaller amount of the straw body extends above the lid. In the exemplary embodiment of FIGS. 8A-C, the outer diameter of the straw 124 is approximately 0.3 inches and the inner diameter 122 approximately 0.25 inches.

[0051] The extensions are preferably less than 0.3 inches in length 132, and more preferably less than 0.25 inches, to make them more difficult to grip and possible tear away from the straw body. The extensions are preferably approximately 0.02 to 0.03 inches in thickness 125, although they may be considerably thicker to ensure that they are sufficiently strong to satisfy the tension requirements described above. The angle 126 between the straw and the extensions in preferably from 30-45 degrees to make the straw with extensions sufficiently easy to insert through a lid opening while providing sufficient lifting strength and allowing the straw to be used even with containers with wide openings such as soft drink cans. As a result of the angle, the top edge of each extension extends approximately 0.15 to 0.2 inches from the straw body. When pushed through a lid, the extensions will fold inward toward the straw body, the diameter at the top of the extensions is preferably approximately 0.4 inches (only slightly larger than the outer diameter of the straw body). Once inserted through the lid, the extensions will spread back to their original positions with a diameter 132 of approximately 0.65-0.75 inches. Any attempt to pull the straw back out of the opening will cause the ends of the extensions to contact the container lid, which will bend the extensions down making them even wider and preventing the drinking straw from being easily pulled back through the opening.

[0052] Preferably, when the extensions are bent inward to allow the straw to pass through an opening, the diameter of the straw plus extensions is no more than 150% of the diameter of the straw body alone. In the preferred embodiment of FIGS. 8A-8C, the normal diameter at the top of the extensions (before being compressed) is approximately 250% of the diameter of the straw body alone; while the diameter with the extensions completely spread is more than 300% of the diameter of the straw body alone.

[0053] In the preferred embodiment of FIGS. 8A-8C, the extensions are formed with slots 116 in the center of each extension. These slots, approximately 0.05 to 0.07 inches in width 138, can extend all the way to the straw sidewall or can extend only partially like the slots 216 shown in FIG. 16. As described above, in some preferred embodiments, slots can be used to increase flexibility without substantially compromising the strength and integrity of the extensions. The slots can also allow the extensions to flex toward the middle of the extension length, rather than at the base where the extension connects to the straw body. Flexure at the base could weaken the joint 117 between the extension and the straw body and make it more likely that the extensions could tear away from the body, possibly causing a choking hazard. If desired, thicker reinforced areas at the base or along the sides of the extensions (not shown) can be used to make the extensions stronger and more difficult to separate from the body of the straw. [0054] The extensions are preferably formed from 1-2 inches from the base of the straw (shown by reference number 127). The base of the straw is preferably beveled to an angle 130 of approximately 15 to 25 degrees for easier penetration of the foil-sealed lids or openings of some beverage/food containers. Although other angles could be used, the base is preferably not beveled to a dangerously sharp point where the straw will be used by children.

[0055] Although the present invention and its advantages have been described in detail, it should be understood that various changes, substitutions and alterations can be made herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. For example, in some systems, the sample may be fixed and the tools may rotate on a platform. Moreover, the scope of the present application is not intended to be limited to the particular embodiments of the process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, means, methods and steps described in the specification. As one of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate from the disclosure of the present invention, processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps, presently existing or later to be developed that perform substantially the same function or achieve substantially the same result as the corresponding embodiments described herein may be utilized according to the present invention. Accordingly, the appended claims are intended to include within their scope such processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or steps.

[0056] We claim as follows: