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Title:
EATING UTENSIL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2014/197946
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A food utensil comprising a handle portion and a food engagement portion, the food engagement portion comprising one or more member(s) disposed about the periphery of the food engagement portion, whereby the one or more member(s) define a food engagement region. The utensil is suitable for use by young children.

Inventors:
MICHAELS, Dannielle Lisa (73 Emo Road, Malvern East, Victoria 3145, AU)
FILER, Monique Miriam (73 Emo Road, Malvern East, Victoria 3145, AU)
Application Number:
AU2014/050064
Publication Date:
December 18, 2014
Filing Date:
June 06, 2014
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
B.BOX FOR KIDS DEVELOPMENTS PTY LTD (73 Emo Road, Malvern East, Victoria 3145, AU)
International Classes:
A47G21/02; A47G21/04; A47J43/28
Foreign References:
US20130125402A12013-05-23
US20090217532A12009-09-03
CN1985720A2007-06-27
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BOROVEC, Steven (Churchill Attorneys, 89-93 High StreetSuite 30, Kew Victoria 3101, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. A food utensil comprising a handle portion and a food engagement portion, the food engagement portion comprising one or more members) disposed about the periphery of the food engagement portion, whereby the one or more member(s) define a food engagement region.

2. The food utensil of claim 1 wherein at least one of the one or more member(s) is/are elongate,

3. The food utensil of claim 1 or claim 2 wherein at least one of the one or more member(s) is/are blunt.

4. The food utensil of any one of claims 1 to 3 wherein at least one of the one or more members) is/are splayed outwardly.

5. The food utensil of any one of claims 1 to 4 wherein at least one of the one or more members) is/are resiliency defonmable.

6. The food utensil of any one of claims 1 to 5 comprising at least two, three or four members.

7. The food utensil of any one of claims 1 to 5 comprising at least four members.

8. The food utensil of any one of claims 1 to 7 wherein the food engagement portion further comprises one or more piercing elements).

9. The food utensil of claim 8 wherein at least one of the one or more piercing elements) terminate(s) below that of at least one of the one or more members

10. The food utensil of claim 8 or claim 9 wherein at least one of the one or more piercing element(s) is/are disposed at or toward the centre of the food engagement region.

11. The food utensil of any one of claims 1 to 10 wherein the handle portion and food engagement portion are relatively disposed such that an axis of the food engagement portion forms an angle with an axis of the handle portion.

12. The food utensil of claim 11 wherein the angle is between about 20 degrees and 40 degrees.

13. The food utensil of any one of claims 1 to 12 wherein the food engagement region has a width of less than about 20 mm.

Description:
EATING UTENSIL

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to eating utensils, including eating utensils for use by young children.

BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION

It is well accepted in the art that children have difficulties in using cutlery. Use of a spoon is typically mastered first, however the adept handling of food with a fork is more challenging and can take some time to accomplish.

In particular, children have difficulties on adequately spearing and retaining food on a fork. Often, the food is pushed about the plate for some time before adequate engagement with food item is achieved. This may significantly delay consumption of the meal, with the child often losing interest in the food as it cools. On some occasions, the child simply looses the resolve to chase the meal about the plate and demands more easily consumed food from the patent, such as a snack food. To overcome these issues, parents and carer's often feed a child. However, this is time consuming and diminishes the child's confidence and progress in mastering the use of cutlery.

A further problem is that even where the child is able to adequately engage a food portion on fork, there can be difficulty in depositing the food into the mouth. Some children have difficulty in rotating a fork inwardly, as required to directly approach the mouth. Often, the fork approaches the mouth at an oblique angle leading to an unacceptably high rate of failure in depositing all food into the mouth. Yet another problem with prior art utensils relates to difficulties in inserting the utensil with attached food into the mouth. Children's mouths are relatively small, and adult-sized utensils often do not fit. While the prior art provides miniature utensils for children, these utensils still have the problems of food engagement (as described supra). Furthermore, these miniature utensils have trouble in handling decent sized food portions. Again, this can make eating slow with the danger of loss of interest.

l Prior art forks may also be inherently dangerous being capable of inflicting puncture wounds and lacerations if pushed against the skin or thrown at a person nearby. This is a problem not only with children, but in situations where the use of conventional forks is contraindicated such as on aircraft or institutions such as prisons.

The problems and difficulties referred to supra may also apply to the elderly, infirm, and persons having medical conditions such motor disorders or mental retardation. It is an aspect of the present invention to provide a fork-like cutlery utensil that is more easily useable by young children, and others having difficulties in using conventional cutlery or in situations where conventional cutlery presents a danger.

A further problem is that children have difficulties in handling a fork and a spoon.

The discussion of documents, acts, materials, devices, articles and the like is included in this specification solely for the purpose of providing a context for the present invention. It is not suggested or represented that any or all of these matters formed part of the prior art base or were common general knowledge in the field relevant to the present invention as it existed before the priority date of each provisional claim of this application.

SUM MARY OF THE INVENTION

After considering this description it will be apparent to one skilled in the art how the invention is implemented in various alternative embodiments and alternative applications. However, although various embodiments of the present invention will be described herein, it is understood that these embodiments are presented by way of example only, and not limitation. As such, this description of various alternative embodiments should not be construed to limit the scope or breadth of the present invention. Furthermore, statements of advantages or other aspects apply to specific exemplary embodiments, and not necessarily to all embodiments covered by the claims.

Throughout the description and the claims of this specification the word "comprise" and variations of the word, such as "comprising" and "comprises" is not intended to exclude other additives, components, integers or steps.

Reference throughout this specification to "one embodiment" or "an embodiment" means that a particular feature, structure or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, appearances of the phrases "in one embodiment" or "in an embodiment" in various places throughout this 75 specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment, but may.

The present invention is predicated at least in part on Applicant's finding that solid food, or substantially solid food can be manipulated by a cutlery utensil that is devoid of the splines of a traditional fork. It is proposed that food may be manipulated with a utensil having one or

80 more members. Accordingly, in a first aspect the present invention provides a food utensil comprising a handle portion and a food engagement portion, the food engagement portion comprising one or more member(s) disposed about the periphery of the food engagement portion, whereby the one or more member(s) define a food engagement region. It has been found that by pushing the utensil into a food mass, the food mass is retained within the food

85 engagement region as formed by the member(s). The food is then easily releasable into the user's mouth by a sucking motion or by using the tongue.

The present invention is a significant departure from a prior art fork which requires a user to pierce a food mass with the splines. This piercing action is difficult for young children, and

90 requires dexterity in aiming at the centre of the food mass, and also strength to advance the splines into the food. By contrast, the present utensil is configured such that the members guide the food mass into a region where the food is retained by frictional engagement with the members, optionally assisted by engagement with a piercing element disposed within the region. Thus, the child is able to generally advance the utensil toward the desired food mass

95 without so much attention to aiming the miniscule ends of the splines with the food.

Furthermore, the child is not required to coordinate the acts of aiming the utensil and piercing in order to successfully retain the food.

To further facilitate understanding of the invention, reference is now made to the preferred 100 embodiment shown in Fig 1 , having a handle portion 2, a food engagement portion 4, and members 6, defining a food engagement region 8 interior to the members 6.

In one embodiment of the utensil, at least one of the one or more member(s) is/are elongate and/or substantially flat and/or broad. Broad member(s) extending outwardly (i.e. away from 105 the handle portion) facilitate the definition of a food engagement region of reasonable volume. Furthermore a broad inner face of the members (i.e. the face directed toward the food engagement region) act to improve frictional engagement of food within the food engagement region. no In one embodiment of the utensil, at least of the one or more members is blunt. While still capable of engaging food, the member(s) of the present invention are not required to be pointed or sharp as for traditional fork splines. This is of advantage to children, who are known to injure their gums, tongue, or wall of the buccal cavity with fork splines when introducing food into the mouth. Moreover, the use of blunt members provides for a utensil

115 that cannot be used as a weapon of any type. In one embodiment, the terminus of the at least one of the one or more members is rounded.

In one embodiment of the utensil the members are played outwardly. By this arrangement, the members define a substantially funnel-shaped food engagement region whereby a 120 volume of a food mass is pushed into a narrowing region thereby forcing the food against the inner face(s) of the member(s). This assists in the frictional engagement of the food within the food engagement area, and lessens the opportunity for food to drop back onto the plate before entering the mouth.

125 The present utensil may comprise any suitable number of members. In one embodiment, only a single member is present. In this embodiment, the member is substantially continuous about the perimeter of the food retaining region. While this embodiment undoubtedly possesses utility, there may be some difficulty experienced in liberating any retained food within the mouth. Sucking the food engagement portion may lead to formation

130 of a suction within the food retaining region. Moreover, there may be some difficulty in the tongue being used to liberate food. Accordingly, in one embodiment, t he single member is scalloped (or otherwise undulating) at the distal edge thereby providing improved access for the tongue, and also prevent the formation of a suction.

135 In one embodiment of the utensil two members are provided, with two gaps being formed between the two members. The two members will typically be sufficiently wide such that the so-formed gaps are not so great that food is not easily retained. Preferably, the members are dimensioned substantially equally. Moreover, the gaps are preferably dimensioned substantially equally.

140

In one embodiment of the utensil, three members are provided, with three gaps being formed between the three members. The three members will typically be sufficiently wide such that the so-formed gaps are not so great that food is not easily retained. Preferably, the members are dimensioned substantially equally. Moreover, the gaps are preferably 145 dimensioned substantially equally. In one embodiment of the utensil, four members are provided, with four gaps being formed between the four members. The four members will typically be sufficiently wide such that the so-formed gaps are not so great that food is not easily retained. Preferably, the 150 members are dimensioned substantially equally. Moreover, the gaps are preferably dimensioned substantially equally.

In some embodiments (and particularly where three or four members are provided) the gaps between the members are wider than the members. Member width and gap width may be 155 measured at any distance from the base of the food retaining region.

Embodiments having wider gaps allow for greater ease in liberating food within the mouth. Conversely, such embodiments may have a decreased ability in retaining food. Having benefit of the disclosure of the present specification, it is well within the ability of the skilled 160 person to adapt the number and dimensions of the members and so-formed gaps for any given circumstance.

The width of one of the one or more member(s) will typically be less than about 10 mm (when measured at the broadest level), and in some embodiments is less than about 9, 8, 7, 165 6, 5, 4, 3, or 2 mm. Preferably (and particularly for an embodiment having three members) member width is between about 5 and 6 mm.

The length of one of the one or more member(s) will typically be less than about 20mm (when measured from the base of the food retaining region), and in some embodiments is 170 less than about 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11 , 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 or 5 mm. Preferably member length is between about 14 and 15 mm.

The thickness of one of the one or more member(s) will typically be less than about 2.5 mm (when measured at or toward the terminus) and in some embodiments is less than about 175 2.4, 2.3. 2.2, 2.1 , 2, 1.9, 1.8, 1.7, 1.6, 1.5, 1.4, 1.3, 1.2, 1.1 , 1 , 0.9. 0.8, 0.7. 0.6 or 0.5 mm.

Preferably member length is between about 14 and 15 mm. It is contemplated that the member thickness may be significantly greater than that at or toward the terminus for mechanical and/or functional reasons.

180 In one embodiment of the utensil at least one of the one or more members is configured to be resilient deformable by virtue of structure and/or material of fabrication. Such embodiments are advantageous for retaining larger food masses which might otherwise not be admissible into the food retaining region. Thus, the deformability may allow for the members to deflect outwardly to fully enclose the food mass when the utensil is pushed 185 against the mass. The resilient characteristic may then act to urge the members against the food mass, thereby retaining it more firmly as compared with members that are not resilient.

One embodiment of the utensil comprises one or more piercing elements adapted to pierce a food mass. This embodiment provides advantage where the food mass is not easily

190 retainable by a utensil having member(s) only. For example, food masses that are relatively small firm may not be efficiently retained with insufficient frictional engagement being provided by the members. In these circumstances, the members may act to guide the food mass into the food engagement region wherein it is pierced (and retained by the piercing element). Typically, a single piercing element is disposed as toward the centre of the food

195 retaining region, and emanating from the base.

In one embodiment, at least one of the one or more piercing element(s) terminate(s) below that of at least one of the one or more members. Advantageously, the piercing element(s) and (members) are arranged such that contact of the piercing element with the user is 200 prevented, or at least the opportunity is diminished.

To improve safety further, in some embodiments the piercing element is substantially conical or frustoconical thereby avoiding any sharp point or edge.

The length of one of the one or more piercing element(s) will typically be less than about 15 mm (when measured from the base of the food retaining region), and in some embodiments 205 is less than about 14, 13, 12, 1 1 , 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, or 5 mm. Preferably element length is between about 9 and 10 mm.

The handle portion and food engagement portion may be disposed in any operable manner relative to each other, and may in some embodiments comprise an intervening neck region.

210 In one embodiment, an axis of the food engagement portion forms an angle with an axis of the handle portion. Applicant has discovered that use of the utensils by children is facilitated where an angle of between about 20 degrees and about 40 degrees is formed. In some embodiments, the angle formed is at least about 20, 21 , 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 35, 37, 38, 39 and 40 degrees. The axis may be formed greater

215 advantage is provided where the angle is about 35 degrees, and particularly so for embodiments of the utensil having three or four members. In one embodiment, the utensil is dimensioned so as to be usable by an infant, a toddler or a young child. Use is facilitated where the food engagement region is dimensioned so as to 220 comfortably fit into the buccal cavity. The width of the food engagement region will typically be less than about 20 mm (when measured at the broadest level), and in some embodiments is less than about 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, or 5 mm. Preferably the food engagement width is between about 13 and 14 mm.

225 The handle portion is also preferably dimensioned to facilitate use, with the width being between about 8 mm and about 25 mm (when measured at the broadest level). In some embodiments, the width of the handle portion is less than about 24, 23, 22, 21 , 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11 , 19 or 9 mm. Preferably, the handle portion width is between about 11 to about 21 mm (as the broadest dimension), or between about 10 and about 17

230 mm (as the narrowest dimension).

The present utensil may be fabricated form any suitable material, the suitability of any material being apparent to the skilled person having the benefit of the instant specification, and in light of the varying structural and function requirements detailed herein. Typically, the

235 utensil is fabricated from a plastic by injection molding or other suitable technique from commercially-available material such as thermo plastic polyurethane (TPU); ionomer resin; ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA); thermo plastic styrenics (TPS); melt processible rubber (MPR); thermo plastic vulcanate (TPV); thermo plastic olefin (TPO); thermo plastic ester elastomer (TPEE); thermo plastic elastomer (TPE); thermoplastic rubber (TPR); polypropylene (PP),

240 polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC); acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene terpolymer (ABS); a polycarbonate and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer blend (PC/ABS); flexible plastic such as polystyrene sheet or polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA, marketed as "PERSPEX" by ICI Acrylics, Inc.); other acrylics; metal (e.g., stainless steel, aluminium, copper); wood; or any combination thereof. Other suitable materials and forming

245 methods will be apparent to those skilled in the art. It is preferred that the utensil is fabricated from food grade material(s) and be devoid of PVC, a phthalate or bisphenol-A.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention may be more fully described or clearly ascertained by reference to the 250 accompanying drawings which show a number of preferred embodiments, and in which:

Fig. 1 shows drawings of a utensil of the present invention having four members, and devoid of a piercing element. 255 Fig. 2 shows drawings of a utensil of the present invention having three members and a single piercing element.

Fig. 3 shows drawings of a utensil of the present invention having four members and a single piercing element.

260 DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Reference is now made to Fig. 1A which shows an inferior view of a utensil having a handle 2, a neck region 4, and four members 6. The members 6 define an area capable of retaining food 8. A lateral view of the utensil is shown in Fig. 1 B showing a curvature defining an 265 angle (as taken by reference to the axis of the head and the axis of the handle). A superior view is shown in Fig. 1C. Dimensions and angles as numbered are as follows 40, 10.6 mm; 41 , 14.2 mm; 42, 10.7 mm, 48, 35 degrees; 44, 71.4 mm; 46, 11.7 mm.

In use, the utensil is held at the handle 2, with the members 6 being pushed at or into a food 270 mass (not shown) such that the entire food mass (or at least a portion thereof) is caused to enter the region 8. It will be noted that all four members 6 are splayed slightly outwardly such that the region 8 is broader at the terminus of the members 10 and narrower at the base 12. By this arrangement food is pushed into the more narrow part of the region 8 thereby increasing the opportunity for frictional engagement of the food by the members 6 275 and the base 12 of the region 8.

Fig. 1 D is a perspective view (enlarged with reference to Figs 1A to 1C) showing further detail of the members.

280 Fig 1 E is a sectional view through the line marked P-P on Fig. 1 B showing the base 12 of the food engagement area 8.

Reference is now made to Fig 2 which components are numbered generally consistently with the embodiment of Fig. 1. Fig. 2A shows an inferior view of a utensil having 3 members 285 6 and a single piercing element 14. The utensil is used in a similar manner to that as described for Fig. 1 , except that the food (if sufficiently solid) is pierced by the element 14.

It will be noted that the piercing element 14 terminates below the level of the terminus 10 of the members 6 in this embodiment. This allows for stabilization of the food mass by the 290 members 6 before piercing with the element 14. It will be appreciated that piercing of food by children with a traditional fork requires skill in order to prevent the food from slipping across the plate when a piercing force is applied. The utensil of Fig. 2 requires a lower level of skill given the presence of the members 6 which only need be urged against the food to keep the food stationary on the plate, and therefore more easily pierced by the element 14. 295 Fig. 2B is a lateral view demonstrated the angle 64 made by the food engagement portion 4 and the handle 2.

Fig. 2C is a perspective view of the food engaging portion 4, more clearly showing the centrality of the piercing element 14 with reference to the members 6.

300 Dimensions and angles as numbered in Fig. 2 are as follows: 60, 104.7 mm; 62, 67.7 mm;

64, 35 degrees; 66, 12.4 mm; 68, 1.3 mm; 70, 5.4 mm.

The components of Fig. 3 are numbered generally consistently with those of Figs. 1 and 2. This embodiment includes four members 6 disposed about a central piercing element 14, as shown in the inferior view (Fig. 3A). This food engagement portion 4 in this embodiment 305 forms a more shallow angle with the handle portion 2.

Greater detail of the food engagement portion is shown in the perspective view Fig. 3C, also by reference to Fig 3D which is a section view through the line M-M of Fig. 3C.

Dimensions and angles as numbered in Fig. 3 are as follows: 70, 20.2 mm; 72, 108.3 mm; 74, 13.8 mm; 76, 16.6 mm; 78, 68.2 mm; 80, 14.4 mm; 82, 9.2 mm; 84, 26 degrees.

310 It is proposed that embodiments of the invention having 4 members provides superior control in the manipulation of food by the child, as compared with embodiments having 3 members or less. It will be noted that the rounded shape and small dimensions of the food retaining region of the 3- and 4- membered embodiments facilitates insertion into a child's mouth. By contrast, the food engagement regions of prior art forks are typically flat and wide, providing

315 difficulty for some children in inserting into the mouth.

It is emphasized that any measurements provided in this specification are merely exemplary and should not be used in any manner to restrict the ambit of the present invention. Afforded the benefit of the disclosure of this specification the skilled person is enabled to alter the measurements by a matter of routine only to provide alternative embodiments. For 320 example, while the exemplary measurements provided herein are directed to utensils for use by young children it would involve no more than routine modification of those measurements to confer usability for adults.

The invention may be said broadly to consist in the parts, elements and features referred to or indicated in the specification of the application, individually or collectively, in any or all 325 combinations of two or more of said parts, elements or features. Wherein the foregoing description reference has been made to integers or components having known equivalents thereof, those integers are herein incorporated as if individually set forth.

It should be noted that various changes and modifications to the presently preferred embodiments described herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and 330 modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention and without diminishing its attendant advantages. It is therefore intended that such changes and modifications be included within the scope of the invention.

The above description of the disclosed embodiments is provided to enable any person skilled in the art to make or use the invention. Various modifications to these embodiments

335 will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the generic principles described herein can be applied to other embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Thus, it is to be understood that the description and drawings presented herein represent a presently preferred embodiment of the invention and are therefore representative of the subject matter which is broadly contemplated by the present invention.

340 It is further understood that the scope of the present invention fully encompasses other embodiments that may become obvious to those skilled in the art.