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Title:
MULTI-CHAMBERED CONTAINER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/056173
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A multi-chambered container for storing and dispensing flowable substances and method for using the same. The container includes a plurality of individual chambers (30,40,50) each containing a flowable substance. Each chamber is in fluid communication with a discharge valve assembly (60). The valve assembly selectively dispenses a single one of the flowable substances in response to one of the chambers being pressed or squeezed by a user without simultaneously dispensing the remaining substances. In preferred embodiments, the container includes at least two, and more preferably three or more chambers.

Inventors:
GREER, Les (117 S Lincoln #212, Sandpoint, Idaho, 38364, US)
WORTHINGTON, Brian (314 Walnut Street, Dunellen, New Jersey, 08812, US)
CUMMINGS, Bruce (605 East 14th Street, Apt. 10CNew York, New York, 10009, US)
Application Number:
US2009/063373
Publication Date:
May 12, 2011
Filing Date:
November 05, 2009
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
COLGATE-PALMOLIVE COMPANY (300 Park Avenue, New York, New York, 10022, US)
GREER, Les (117 S Lincoln #212, Sandpoint, Idaho, 38364, US)
WORTHINGTON, Brian (314 Walnut Street, Dunellen, New Jersey, 08812, US)
CUMMINGS, Bruce (605 East 14th Street, Apt. 10CNew York, New York, 10009, US)
International Classes:
B65D35/22; B65D1/04
Foreign References:
US7487888B1
US20060175350A1
DE202005002331U1
DE4003921A1
US4029236A
US7487888B1
US20060175350A1
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FERNANDEZ, Amy, M. (Colgate-Palmolive Company, Patent Department909 River Roa, Piscataway New Jersey, 08855, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A multi-chamber container for selectively dispensing flowable substances, comprising:

a first chamber adapted for storing and dispensing first flowable substance; a second chamber adapted for storing and dispensing a second flowable substance;

a discharge valve assembly in fluid communication with the first and second chambers, the valve assembly being configured and adapted to selectively dispense the first or second flowable substance.

2. The container of claim 1 , wherein the second chamber is di sposed vertically on top of the first chamber.

3. The container of clam 1 , further comprising:

a third chamber adapted for storing and dispensing a third ilowabie substance, the third chamber being in fluid communication with the discharge valve assembly,

wherein the valve assembl is further configured and adapted to selectively dispense the first, second, or third flowable substance.

4. The container of claim 1, wherein the valve assembly further comprises an inlet flow manifold.

5. The container of claim 1 , wherein the valve assembly includes a discharge valve operable to open and close.

6. The container of claim 5, wherein the valve assembly has a common si gle discharge aperture for dispensing the flowable substances from the container.

7. The container of claim 1 , wherein the discharge valve assembly is operable to simultaneously dispense both the first and second fiowable substances.

S, The container of claim 1 , wherein the valve assembly has at least one discharge aperture for dispensing the fiowable substances from the container, the at least one discharge aperture being located at a top or bottom end of the container.

9. The container of claim 1 , wherein the second chamber is disposed laterally adj cent to the first chamber.

I.0. A. multi-chamber container for selectively dispensing fiowable substances, compri ing:

a first chamber adapted for storing a first fiowable substance and a first dispensing flow conduit coupled to the first chamber;

a second chamber adapted for storing a second fiowable substance and a second dispensing flow conduit coupled to the second chamber; and

a discharge valve assembly coupled with the first and second dispensing flow conduits, the valve assembly being configured and adapted to selectively dispense the first or second fiowable substance from the container.

I I , A user selectable multi-chamber dispensing system comprising:

a first chamber adapted for containing a first fiowable substance;

a second chamber adapted for containing a second fiowable substance;

a third chamber adapted for containing a third fi wable substance; and a dispensing system having a separate inlet connection coupled to each of the first, second, and third chambers, and a discharge valve assembly in fluid communication with each of the separate inlet connections to the chambers, the dispensing sy stem being configured and adapted to selectively dispense a single one of the first, second, or third flowable substances in response to a squeezing force applied to at least one of the respective chambers by user without simultaneously dispensing the other remaining substances;

wherein the first, second, and third chambers collectively define parts of a unitary handheld dispensing container.

12. The dispensing system of claim 1 1 , wherein the valve assembly includes discharge valve operable to open and close for controlling the discharge of the flowable substances from the container,

13. The dispensing system of claim 1 1, wherein the container has a discharge aperture in fluid communication with the valve assembly for dispensing the flowable substances from the container.

14. The dispensing system of claim 13, wherein the discharge aperture i located at a top end or a bottom end or a side of the container.

15. The dispensing system of claim 11, wherein the valve assembly includes internal baffles that keep the first, second, and third flowable substances separate to prevent mixing of the substances inside the container.

16. The dispensing system of claim 1 1, wherein the discharge valve assembly is operable to simultaneously dispense two or more of the first, second, and third flowable substances.

17. The dispensing system of claim 1 1, wherein the valve assembly further comprises an inlet flow manifold in fluid communication with each of the first, second, and third chambers.

18. The dispensing system of claim 11, wherein the first., second, and third chambers are vertically stacked on top of each other.

19. The dispensing system of claim 18, wherein the second chamber is disposed between the first and third chambers, and the discharge valve assembly is further operable to selectively simiiitaneously dispense and blend the first and third flowable substances from their respective containers without simiiitaneously dispensing the second flowable substance from the second chamber.

20. A. method for selectively dispensing a flowable substance from a multi -chambered container, compri sing:

providing a container having a first chamber containing a first flowable substance and a second chamber containing a second flowable substance;

squeezing inward on the first or second chamber; and

selectively dispensing the first or second flowable substance corresponding to the chamber being squeezed without dispensing the substance from the remaining chamber.

21 . The method of claim 20, further comprising squeezing inward on both the first and second chambers and dispensing both the first and second flowable substances essentially simultaneously.

Description:
MULTI-CHAMBERED CONTAINER

FIELD OF INVENTION

jOO l] The present invention relates to containers for storing and dispensing fiowa fe substances, and more particularly to such containers having multiple product storage compartments or chambers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

0002J There are many flovvabie packaged substances or products on the market today offering many choices to consumers for personal care, oral care, and home care products. Such products may include without limitation body washes, liquid soap, body lotions, shampoos, conditioners, household cleaners, etc. Products within the same category are often available in a variety of formulations, colors, and/or fragrances adding to the type and number of products available. However, products are often packaged alone in a single container. Currently, if consumers want to experience more than one product at any time, several individual containers or bottles of products must generally be purchased and stored so that the desired product is available when needed. The purchase of many individual separate contai ners to obtai n the variety of products desired may become a costly proposition and cumbersome to store.

100031 An improved container is desired thai provides multiple dispensable products or substances in a single convenient container.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0004] A container according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention allows a user to have choice of multiple products in single convenient bottle and dispense only the desired product in lieu of purchasing multiple separate product bottles, in one embodiment, the container incorporates a plurality of individual compartments or chambers into a single unitary structure configured to separately store and selectively dispense multiple flowable products or substances. According to some embodiments, the multi-chambered container preferably provides for the simultaneous storage and dispensing of at least two, and more preferably more than two different types and/or variations of flowable substances from the single contai ner.

[0005] A dispensing system incorporated in a multi -chambered container according to embodiments of the present invention, as further described herein, allows the user to selectively dispense the contents of only a single chamber at a given time while precluding products/substances being simultaneously dispensed unintentionally from the other non-selected chambers. In one embodiment, the container includes a flexible sidewall, and is configured and adapted to allow the user to dispense the contents of a single chamber by applying an inward squeezing or pressing force on the container preferably with the hand, thumb, and/or fingers, in some preferred embodiments, the chambers are arranged and stacked vertically when the multi-chambered container is viewed oriented in a lengthwise vertical or upright standing position. This arrangement facilitates user dispensing one flowable substance from one of the chambers by squeezing the desired chamber at the exclusion of dispensing the remaining substances from the non-selected chambers. Embodiments of the multi -chambered container may also be configured and adapted to allow the chambers to be refi liable by the use

0006] According to one embodiment, a multi-chambered container for selectively dispensing flowable substances includes a first chamber adapted for storing and dispensing a first flowable substance, and a second chamber adapted for storing and dispensing a second flowable substance. In preferred embodiment, the first and second chambers include flexible sidewaiis. The container further includes a common discharge valve assembly in fluid communication with the first and second chambers. The valve assembly is preferably configured and adapted to selectively dispense a single one of the first or second fiowable substances in response to application of an inward pressing force on the first or second chamber sidewaiis without, simultaneously dispensing the

remaining substance, in one possible embodiment, the container further includes a third chamber adapted for storing and dispensing a third fiowable substance; the third chamber being in fluid communication with the common discharge valve assembly. In this embodiment, the valve assembly is further configured and adapted to selectively dispense a single one of the first, second, or third fiowable substances without simultaneously dispensing the remaining substances. In other embodiments, the valve assembly further includes an inlet flow manifold fiuidly coupled to each of the chambers and a flexible discharge valve.

[0007] The multi-chambered container described herein may be used to store and dispense any fiowable substance including liquids or fluids of any viscosity so Song as the substance is able to flow. Accordingly, the term "fiowable substance" shall be construed to mean any product or material capable of flowing including, but not limited to paste, soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, perfume and the like.

fOGOS) The foregoing and other aspects of exemplary embodiments formed according to principles of the present invention are further described herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] The features of the preferred embodiments will be described with reference to the following drawings where like elements are labeled similarly, and in which; £001.0] FIG 1 i s a front elevation view of a multi-chambered container closure

according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

11 J FIG. 2 is a longitudinal frontal cross section taken along line 2-2 in FIG. 3;

{0 12] FIG. 3 is a side view of the container of FIG. I ;

[0013] FIG 4 is a perspective view of the container of FIG. 1 ;

[0014] FIG. 5 is a botiom view of the container of FIG. 1 ;

[0015] FIG. 6 is an exploded perspective view of the container of FIG. I ;

[0016] FIG. 7 is a detailed cross-sectional view of the container of FIG. 1 taken along line 7-7 in FIG. 5 showing a lower portion of the container and bottom ciosure including an exemplary discharge valve assembly;

[0017] FIG. 8 is a top cross-sectional view through an exemplary inlet flow manifold of the container of FIG. I ;

[0018] FIG. 9 is a side or elevationai cross-sectional view thereof taken along line 9-9 in FIG. 8 showing an exemplar}' connection of a chamber flow conduit to the manifold;

[0019] FIG 10 is an isometric view of the inlet flow manifold of FIG. 8 showing one exemplary arrangement of chamber flow conduits to the manifold;

[0020] FIG. 11 is a detailed cross-sectional view of the container of FIG. 1 taken along line 7-7 in FIG. 5 showing a lower portion of the container and bottom closure including an alternate embodiment of an exemplary discharge valve assembly; and

[0021] FIG. 12 is a flow chart showing steps of an exemplary method of using the container of FIG. I . £0022] All drawings are schematic and not actual phy sical representations of the articles, components or systems described herein, and are further not drawn to scale. The drawings should be interpreted accordingly,

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVE TION

100231 This description of illustrative embodiments according to pri ciples of the present invention is intended to be read in connection with the accompanying drawings, which are to be considered part of the entire written descripti on, in the description of embodiments of the invention disclosed herein, any reference to direction or orientation is merely intended for convenience of description and is not intended in any way to limit the scope of the present invention. Relative terms such as "Sower," "upper,"

"horizontal," "vertical," "above," "below," "u ," "down," "top" and "bottom" as well as derivative thereof (e.g.. "horizontally." "downwardly." "upwardly," etc.) should be construed to refer to the orientation as then described or as shown in the drawing under discussi on. These rel ati ve terras are for convenience of description only and do not require that the apparatus be constructed or operated in a. particular orientation unless explicitly indicated as such. Terms such as "attached." "affixed,-" "connected,-"

"coupled," 'interconnected,' * and similar refer to a relationship wherein structures are secured or attached to one another either directly or indirectly through intervening structures, as well as both movable or rigid attachments or relationships, unless expressly described otherwise. Moreover, the features and benefits of the invention are illustrated by reference to the preferred embodiments. Accordingly, the invention expressly should not be limited to such preferred embodiments illustrating some possible non-limiting combination of features that may exist alone or in other combinations of features; the scope of the invention being defined by the claims appended hereto. £0024] FIGS. 1 -6 show views of a multi-chambered container 20 according to the exemplary embodiments of the present invention. In the embodiment shown, container 20 may be fomied of several segmented substance-containing chambers which are joined together by suitable conventional means known in the art (to be further described herein) to form a unitary container. However, other embodiments of container 20 may be provided in which the chambers are formed as integral parts of the container and not as separate components, as further described herein.

[0025] Referring now to FIGS. 1-6, container 20 defines a longitudinal axis LA and includes top end 22, bottom end 23, and generally vertical container sidewall(s) 21 extending therebetween. Also provided are top closure 24 and bottom closure 25.

Bottom closure 25 in one embodiment includes a preferably fiat horizontal end surface 28 to allow container 20 to stand upright on a horizontal surface for storage and an annular side skirt 29 extending therefrom in an axial direction. End surface 28 defines an outlet or discharge aperture 27 for dispensing fiowable substances from container 20. Top closure 24 includes an end surface 38 and annular side skirt 39 extending axially therefrom as shown. In some embodiments, as shown, top closure 24 may serve to close and seal the top end 52 of uppermost chamber 50.

{0026] With continuing reference to FIGS. 1-6, container 20 further includes a first chamber 30, second chamber 40, and third chamber 50 in some embodiments. In some embodi ents, the container may have fewer or more chambers. In thi embodiment, container sidewall 21 is collectively defined by the sidewalls 31, 4 L 51 of chambers 30, 40, and 50 respectively when the chambers 30, 40, 50 are assembled together. Container sidewall 21 may have any suitable and aesthetically pleasing shape or contour. Correspondingly, container 20 may have any suitable cross-sectiona! shape which is collectively formed by the cross-sectiona! sidewall 31 , 41. 51 shapes of the chambers 30, 40, 50 including without limitation circular, oval/ellipsoidal, polygonal (e.g. composed of any number and/or orientation of linear segments defining an enclosed space), and combinations thereof. In preferred embodiments, sidewall 21 has a generally circular or oval/ellipsoidal shape. Accordingly, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the shape of container 20 need not be uniform in sidewall 21 configuration (as shown in the accompanying figures and exemplary embodiment) and may vary in configuration and dimension from top to bottom in various curved or undulating combinations of shapes.

£0027] Each chamber 30, 40, 50 is a generally hollow structure defining an interior space or cavity C providing volumetric capacity for receiving and storing a fJowafaSe substance Si . S2, and S3, respectively. Substances Si , S2, and S3 may be similar or different, and in preferred embodiments comprise at least two different substances. With continuing reference to FIGS. 1 -6 and particularly FIGS 2 and 6, chamber 30 includes a sidewall 31 having a generally vertical sidewall surface, a top end 32, and a bottom end 33, Top end 32 and bottom end 33 may be opened or cl sed, in some embodiments, chambers 40 and 50 may be similarly structured and configured to chamber 30 including, respectively, sidewalls 41 and 51 , top ends 42 and 52, and bottom ends 43 and 53 as shown. In other embodiments, chamber 30, 40, or 50 may have different shapes and/or dimensions with varying volumetric capacities depending on the overal l intended shape of container 20 and contai ner sidewall 21 once al l chambers 30, 40, 50 are assembled together. £0028] The thickness of sidewall 31 , 41 , and 51 ma be uniform or non-uniform along the height and/or circumference of each chamber 30, 40, 50 so long as the overall container 20 is self-supporting when placed on a support surface. Based on the material used for fabricating the chamber sidewalls 31, 41 , 5 ! (to be further described herein) and the material's mechanical properties (i.e. tensile strength, shear strength, modulus of elasticity, etc.), the thickness of the sidewalls is preferably selected so that the chambers 30, 40, 50 may be imvardiy and elasiically deformed for dispensing flowable substances SI , S2, or S3 when pressed/squeezed by a. user, and then return to its original

configuration when released. It is well within the ambit of those skilled in the art to select appropriate combinations of materials and thicknesses without undue

experimentation to achieve the foregoing functionality.

[0029] Referring to FIG. 2 now, container 20 includes generall horizontal or lateral internal partition walls 34 and 44 which divide the container into a plurality of separate isolated chambers 30, 40, 50 each capable of holding a flowable substance SI , S2, or S3. Partition walls 34, 44 also laterally stiffen container sidewall 21 adjacent the walls to resist deformation for reasons which will become apparent as later described herein. Partition walls 34, 44 are coupled to and radially extend from container sidewall 21 inwards in a direction generally transverse (i.e. perpendicularly and/or angularly) to longitudinal axis LA. In the case where container 20 is formed of conjoined separate chamber 30, 40, 50, a in the exemplary embodiment shown, partition walls 34 or 44 may be molded as a separate component part that is attached between adjacent chambers such as partition wall 34 disposed between chambers 30 and 40 as shown (see also FIG. 6). in other embodiments, partition walls 34 or 44 ma be formed and molded as an integral part of one of the chambers such as partition wall 44 of chamber 40 which closes the top 42 of the chamber (see also FIG. 6). Accordingly, any combination of these constructions may be used for the partition walls.

{0030] With continuing reference to FIG. 2, partition walls 34, 44 may be configured and adapted to provide headspace HS at the top of each chamber 30, 40, 50. in constructions where container sidewal! 21 is made of a transparent or translucent material, any air trapped in the chambers from the initial substance filling process advantageously wi!l be concealed from the user to provide a more aesthetically pleasing appearance rather than creating a line at the air-substance surface visible from the exterior of the coniainer. Partition wails 34, 44 are therefore preferably structured in some embodiments so that a portion of the partition wall defining the headspace S extends above and vertically up into the bottom of the adjacent chamber. This positions the vertically-extended portions of each partition wall above the seams 35, 45 between adjacent vertically stacked chambers (see F G. 2). in some embodiments, partition walls 35, 45 may be configured with a domed portion as shown that provides the headspace HS. The headspace HS for the uppermost chamber 50 may be provided by vertically- extended portion of container top closure 24 as shown,

{0031 ] It will be appreciated that the term "generally horizontal" used herein to describe exemplary orientations of partition walls 34, 44 contemplates that at least portions of and/or the entirety of these walls may be disposed at various angles to container sidewall 3 1 and/or may include a plurality of varying contoured and undulating configurations. This includes allowance for the vertically-extended portions of partition walls 34, 44 that create the headspace HS as noted above. Accordingly, partition walls 34, 44 are expressly not limited to any particular orientation or configuration so long as one chamber 30, 40, 50 may be isolated from the adjoining chamber,

[0032] Referring now to FIGS, 2 and 7, container 20 further includes a radially- extending bottom end wall 37 that closes and seals the bottom end 33 of lowermost chamber 30. In a preferred embodiment, end wall 37 is vertically spaced apart from end surface 28 of bottom closure 25, When bottom closure 25 is seated and attached to container 20, this forms an internal compartment 26 which is bounded by end surface 28 and annu!ar side skirt 29 of bottom closure 23 (see also FIG. 6) and opposing end wail 37. This provides internal space for accommodating portions of a dispensing system for container 20 as further described herein.

[0033] According to another aspect of the invention, a dispensing system is provided that fl idly couples or connects each of the chambers 30, 40, 50 to discharge aperture 27 of container 20. Advantageously, the dispensing system is preferably configured and adapted to allow a user to selectively dispense substances SI , S2, or S3. A user can select either only one substance of S I , $2, S3 at a time, or more than one substance SI , S2, S3 from their respective chambers. The user selects how many of the substances are to be dispensed. If oniy one substance is selected, then it is dispensed without being simultaneously mixed with the remaining substances either internal or external to container 20, If more than one substance is selected by the user, then the selected substances will mix external to the container 20.

[0034] The dispensing system will now be described with initial reference to FIGS. 2, 6, 7, and 10. FIG. 7 is a detailed cross sectional view of the lower portion of container 20 and bottom closure 25 taken through discharge valve assembly 60. FIG. 10 is perspective view of one possible arrangement of flow conduits. The dispensing system includes a plurality of flow conduits 80, 90, 1,00 which fluidly connect chambers 30, 40. and 50 to a common discharge valve assembly 60 disposed in bottom closure 25, which in turn is in fluid communication with discharge aperture 2? in the bottom closure to dispense the selected substance to the user. Accordingly, common discharge valve assembly 60 is in fluid communication with all three chambers, in a preferred embodiment, discharge valve assembly 60 includes an inlet flow manifold 61 (see als FIGS. 8- iO) having a plurality of inlet connections or fittings configured and adapted for coupling to the flow conduits from each chamber, as further described herein. Preferably, the flow conduits are designed to isolate substances S , S2, and S3 from each other when dispensed from their respective chamber 30, 40, 50 so the substances do not mix inside the container.

[0035] With continuing reference FIGS. 2, 6, and 7, flow conduit 80 fluidl couples chamber 40 to discharge valve assembly 60 . In one embodiment, flow conduit 80 ha an upper end connected to an outlet nipple or fitting 46 on chamber 40 and a lower end connected to discharge valve assembly 60, and more specifically to flow manifold 61 in some embodiments, thereby allowing substance S2 to flow through container 20 while remaining isolated from the other substances, in one possible embodiment, as shown, flow conduit SO may be routed internally through chamber 30. in some other possible embodiments, Oow conduit 80 may be routed external to and bypass chamber 30, Either arrangement i suitable and a matter of design and aesthetic preference.

[0036] With continuing reference FIGS. 2, 6, 7, and 10 flow conduit 90 fluidly couples chamber 50 to discharge valve assembly 60 and conveys flowable substance S3 in a ma ner similar to flow conduit 80 described above. Flow conduit 90 has an upper end connected to an outlet fitting 56 on chamber 50 and a lower end connected to discharge valve assembly 60 , and more specifically to flow manifold 61 , Flow conduit 100 (best shown in FIG. 10) similarly conveys ilowable substance SI and has an upper end connected to an outlet fitting 36 on chamber 30 and a lower end connected to discharge valve assembly 60 , and more specifically flow manifold 61 (see FIGS. 6 and 10).

[0037] Similarly to flow conduit 80 described above, flow conduits 90 and 100 may be routed internally through the chambers 30 and/or 40 of container 20 in some

embodiments, and in other possible embodiments flow conduits 90, 100 may be routed external to and bypass chambers 30 and/or 40 as a matter of design and aesthetic preference. Accordingly, it will be appreciated that in some embodiments one or more of flow conduits SO, 90, 100 may be located on the exterior of container 20. The invention is therefore not limited by the placement of flow conduits 80, 90, 100 on either the exterior or in the interior of container 20 so long as the flow conduits preferably may be coupled to discharge valve assembly 60 and more preferably to inlet flow manifold 61 .

[0038] With continuing reference to FIGS 2, 6, and 7, longitudinally-extending tubing channels 1 10 may be molded into or separately attached to the interior of chambers 30 and 40 for organizing and confining flow conduits 80 and 90 to provide a neat appearance when container 20 is made or a transparent or translucent material. Tubing channels 1 10 may have any suitable lateral cross-sectional shape (viewed perpendicular to longitudinal axis LA) so Song as tlow conduits 80 and or 90 may fit and be routed inside. Preferably, channel 1 10 disposed in chamber 30 has a larger cross- sectional area than the channel i chamber 40 to accommodate both flow conduits SO and 90 inside and route both conduits through chamber 30 to discharge valve assembly 60 positioned below.

[0039] It should be noted that the flow conduits of the di spensing sy stem in some embodiments may comprise both soft flexible and/or relatively rigid plastic tubular conduits and relativel rigid flow fittings including combinations of all of the foregoing types of tubular conduits and fittings. In one possible embodiment, for example without limitation, flow conduits 80, 90, and 100 may be made of a suitable flexible plastic tubing which can be readily shaped and curved in a routing path between their respective chambers and inlet flow manifold 61 of discharge valve assembly 60 . The flow fittings, such as chamber outlet fittings 36, 46, 56 for example, are preferably made of a suitable plastic harder and more rigid than the tubing in a conventional manner for securing the tubing thereto. Additional intermediate fittings (i .e. fittings other than those thai ma also be used at the termination points of the flow conduits) may also be used. These may- include, for example, 30, 45, or 90 degree tubing elbows or straight tubing connectors as commonly used in tubing systems to allow efficient routing of the flow conduits in container 20. in some other possible embodiments, flow conduits 80, 90, and 100 may be formed of a rigid plastic tube that may be integrally molded as part of a chambers 30, 40, 50 or as a separate component.

10040) The coupling between tubing and/or fitting connections may be made b any suitable technique commonly used in the art such as without limitation mechanical couplings (e.g. friction fit, threaded, etc.), ultrasonic welding, adhesives, etc. so long a relatively leak resi tant joint is formed. 0041J With continuing reference FIGS. 2, 6, and 7, the dispensing system will now be further described. In one embodiment, discharge valve assembly 60 may be disposed in internal compartment 26 and supported by bottom closure 25. Discharge valve assembly 60 preferably communicates with discharge aperture 2? for dispensing user-selected substances SI , S2, or S3 and may be positioned in any suitable location with internal compartment 26 of bottom closure 25. Discharge valve assembly 60 includes an inlet flow manifold 61 and a preferably elastomeric valve 63 disposed above and

communicating with discbarge aperture 27. In one possible embodiment, valve 63 is made of silicon; however, any suitable resiliency flexible elastomeric material may be used. In one possible configuration, vaive 63 may have a circular shape in top view and includes an arcuate! shaped cross-sectional portion as shown (see FIGS. 6 and 7) defining opposing outer concave and inner convex surfaces. The arcuately shaped portion includes a flexible si it or slits 1 5 of any suitable configuration thai form flaps capable of resiliency opening to dispense one of the substances S I, S2, or S3

therethrough, and then returning to a closed position for stopping flow and reducing suckback (i.e. uptake of air back into the container when the user-applied inward pressing or squeezing force is removed from the container). Accordingly, di charge valve 63 preferably functions similarly to a check valve. In one possible embodiment, slits 1 15 may be X-shaped in confi uration.

|0042] With continuing reference to FIGS. 2, 6, and 7, discharge valve 63 preferably is positioned proximate to and communicates with discharge aperture 27 to minimize any accumulation of substance or product in the container beyond valve 63, Discharge valve assembly 60 defines an internal flow mixing reservoir 320 (see FIG. 7) in some embodiments which allows two or more flowable substances SI , S2, and S3 to be simtiltaneousiy blended or mixed together prior to dispensing through, valve 63, as further described herein eisewhere. In one embodiment, valve 63 may secured in position by integral radially-extending flanges 68 which become compressed between a shoulder bushing 62 (preferabl made of an elastomeric or rigid plastic material) and a portion of bottom cl sure 25 as shown in FIG. 7 when the bottom closure 25 is assembled to container 20. Bottom closure 25 may include an annular raised seating surface i 1 1 (best shown in FIG. 7) to receive and retain the bushing 62.

[0043] Preferably, as best shown in FIGS. 5 and 7, valve assembly 60 including inlet flow manifoid 61 may be concentrically aligned with discharge aperture 27. in preferred embodiments, valve assembly 60 and discharge aperture 27 are both concentrically and axial I y aligned with longitudinal axis LA of container 20 as shown. In other possible embodiments, valve assembly 60 and discharge aperture 27 may be positioned off axis with respect t longitudinal axis L A of the container depending on the intended design. Preferably, i let flow manifold 61 and discharge valve 63 are closely coupled to minimize the length of the flow path therebetween which might otherwise allow for an excessive amount of residual substance or product to accumulate. However, it is possible to separate inlet flow manifold 61 from, discharge valve 63 by some distance to accommodate the configuration of the container to be provided.

[0044] FIGS. 8-10 show additional views of inlet fl w manifoid 61 generally disembodied from container 20 for clarity and including flow arrows showing the direction of flow for substances SI, $2, or S3 through the manifold. FIG. 8 is a top cross- sectional view through inlet flow manifold 61. FIG. 9 is a side or elevationai cross- sectional view thereof taken along line 9-9 in FIG.. 8 showing the connection to flow conduit 100 which would he located towards the front of container 20 in the embodiment described herein (discharge valve 63 omitted for clarity). FIG, 10 is an isometric view of inlet flow manifold 61 showing one possible arrangement of flow conduits 80, 90, and 100 coupled to the manifold. A portion of container 20 and chamber 30 are shown in dashed lines to better illustrate one possible placement of outlet fittiiig 36 on chamber 30 and flow conduit 100 (located towards the front of the container) which is not as readily visible in the other figures.

[0045] The flow manifold 61 will now be further described with reference to FIGS. 2 and 6- 10. in one embodiment, inlet flow manifold 61 may be disc or cylindrieally shaped and includes an internal cavity 65. Manifold 61 includes internal baffles 66 disposed in cavity 65 that function to keep the substances SI, S2, and S3 separated when each of the substances are dispensed from container 20. In this embodiment, baffles 66 partition cavity 65 off into three internal flow compartments 67 as shown. Preferably, the number of interna! flow compartments is equal to the number of chambers provided. Baffles 66 have a sufficient longitudinal extent or height selected to prevent lateral substance or product flow entering the inlet flow manifold 61 from flow conduits 80, 90, 100 from entering another opposing flow conduit inlet to be further described herein. In a preferred embodiment, baffles 66 have height such that the lowest point on the baffle terminates approximately at or below the bottom of i nlet fitti ngs 64 as described herein and best shown in FIG. 9 to avoid the foregoing problem.

10046 J Depending on the viscosity of the flowable substances S I , S2, and S3 provided, each flow conduit 80, 90. 100 or inlet flow manifold 61 may be furnished with a flow restrict d 350 preferably di sposed upstream of discharge aperture 27 to ensure that excessive amounts of the substances from each chamber 30, 40, 50 do not seep into the manifold and eoiningle. In some possible embodiments, the flow restrictor 350 may an openable/closeable one-way flexible valve similar to discharge valve 63 or a fixed permaiiently open reduced diameter flow aperture either of which may be disposed within flow conduits 80, 90, 100 and/or inlet flow manifold 61. In one possible embodiment shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, the flow restrictor 350 may be an orifice such as a partial height wall or conventional circular orifice plate (not shown) disposed in inlet fitting 64 as shown or elsewhere in flow manifold 61. Accordingly, the flow restrictor 350 may be any suitable valve or orifice structure so long as excessive amounts of flowable

substances SI , S2, and S3 are prevented from seeping into inlet flow manifold 6 i . It is well within the ambit of those skilled in the art to select an appropriate one-wa valve and/or orifice size based on the viscosity of flowable substances SI, S2, and S3 to accomplish the foregoing functionality.

£0047] Inlet flow manifold 61 further includes a plurality of inlet connections or fittings 64 as best shown in FIGS. 7-10. Inlet fittinas 64 extend radiallv and laterally outward from inlet fiow manifold 61 and are configured and adapted for coupling to flow conduits SO, 90, and 100. In preferred embodiments, as shown, inlet fittings 64 may be radially aligned with the ow manifold axial centerline CL and perpendicular to lateral side 1 54 (best shown in FIG. 8). However, one or more of inlet fittings 64 may be aligned tartgera liy and/or obliquely to centerline CL and side 1 14 of manifold 61 in other embodiments depending on the routing of flow conduits 80, 90, 100 if more convenient. The foregoing arrangements of the inlet fittings 64 introduces fiow laterally into the flow manifold 61 . Flow manifold 61 has a single flow outlet 69 as shown which communicates with discharge valve 63 which preferably is positioned closely below the manifold outlet in some embodiments (see FIG. 7). The number of inl t fittings 64 preferably matches the number of chambers 30, 40, 50 provided. As shown, inlet flow manifold 61 in this embodiment includes three inlet fittings 64.

[0048] The inlet fittings 64 of flow manifold 61 may be disposed at any suitable position on the outer circumference of inlet flo manifold 61 and separated from each other by any suitable angle dictated at least in part by providing the most efficient arrangement depending on the configuration and routing used for flow conduits 80, 90, and 100. The position of each inlet fitting 64 is also dictated by the baffle 66

arrangement provided so that each titling 64 preferably is located to fJuidly communicate with only one of the internal flow compartments 67 as shown in FIGS. 8-10.

|00491 In other possible embodiments, one or more of the inlet fittings may be located on the top 1 12 of flow manifold 61 in lieu of on the lateral sides 1 14 thereof so that fl w enters info the manifold from the top. These alternate top-entry inlet fittings 64'

(illustrated in dashed lines in FIG. 9) in such an arrangement would be provided such that each inlet fitting still only aligns and communicates with one of the internal flow compartments 67. This alternate arrangement allows for close or direct coupling between the lowermost chamber 30 and inlet flow manifold 61 and may be more desirable and/or convenient for connections to the other flow conduits 80 or 90 in some embodiments. In some erabodiments, therefore, flow conduit 100 may be eliminated and a top-entry inlet fitting 64' (see, e.g. FIG. 9) may be provided to directly connect flow manifold 61 to chamber 30 such as via a flexible elastomeric sealing bushing seated in bottom end wall 37 above the flow manifold inlet fitting 64' (not shown, but readily understandable by those skilled in the art without illustration). Accordingly, the combination of possible inlet fitting 64 and/or 64' positions described herein provide considerable design flexibility for routing flow conduits 80, 90, and 100 through container 20 to the inlet flow manifold 61.

[0050] In one possible embodiment, inlet fittings 64 on manifold 61 may include conventional annular tubing barbs as shown in FIGS. 8 and 9 to help secure the connections to flow conduits 80, 90, 1 0 in the situation where at least the portion of these flow conduits immediately upstream of flow manifold 61 are formed of flexible tubing. Other suitable conventional inlet fitting configurations may be provided depending on the type of flow conduit connections that are required to be made.

[0051] It will be appreciated that flow conduits 80, 90, 100 may be located and routed in any suitable manner through container 20. Accordingly, the invention is not limited to any particular placement or configuration of the flow conduits so l ong as they may ffuidly connect to chambers 30, 40, 50 and terminate at inlet flow manifold 61 of valve assembly 60.

[0052] ft will be appreciated that numerous suitable configurations are contemplated and possible for valve assembly 60 and inlet fl w manifold 61 so long as the flow conduits from each chamber 30, 0, 50 may be fluidly coupled to the valve assembly each corresponding substance S L S2, or S3 may selectively discharged from container 20 without dispensing the non-selected substances. Accordingly, the valve assembly and inlet manifold 61 are not limited to the configurations shown and described herein. £0053] A multi-chambered container 20 according to the present invention is preferably formed of a materia! that is at least partially flexible/resilient with a shape memory so as to be non-permanently and elastically deformable by a user when applying an inward pressing or squeezing force F to dispense the contents of one of the chambers 30, 40, 50. Preferably, the material will then allow the squeezed container to return to its original shape when the force is removed, in some embodiments, preferably, container 20 may be made of any suitable conventional thermoplastic material commonly used in the art so long as the material has the mechanical properties that allow it to deform temporarily when squeezed by a user, and then return to its original undefonrsed shape. Some exemplary embodiments of suitable thermoplastics that may be used include, without limitation, poly propylenes (PP), poly ethyl ones (PE), polyethylene terephthalate

(PET/PETE), polystyrenes (PS), polycarbonate, etc. In some preferred embodiments, the materia! selected for the multi-chambered contai ner has properties of being transparent or translucent t allow the product and its color stored inside to be seen by the user.

£0054] Multi-chambered container 20 may be constructed in various suitable manners. In some possible embodiments, chambers 30. 40, 50 of the multi-chambered container may each be individually molded separately and then joined together by any suitable means commonly used in the art to form a unitary container such as without, limitation ultrasonic welding, adhesives, mechanical coupling such as snap locking, shrink or press fitting, etc. Alternatively, in other possible embodiments, chambers 30, 40 50 may be molded and formed as integral parts of a single larger container 20 fabricated together i n one or more steps. Accordingly, the present invention contemplates at. least both foregoing possible types of the fabrication techniques for container 20 and chambers 30, 40, 50, and is not limited to either.

[0055] In either of the foregoing fabrication scenarios, the multi-chambered container 20 and chambers 30, 40, 50 may be formed by any conventional suitable means used in the art such as blow molding, injection molding, or vacuum forming as some non- limiting examples.

[0056] Operation of the multi-chambered container 20 according to embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to the figures. Preferably, dispensing of flowable substances SI , S2, and/or S3 from container 20 is actuated by applying an inward squeezing or pressing force on one or more of chambers 30, 40, 50 as described below. FIG. 1 is a flow chart summarizing the flowable substance dispensing steps which follow. A single flowable substance dispensing operating mode of the container 20 is first described. To dispense one of the flowable substance S 1 , S2, or S3 from container 20 (FIG. 14, step 400), a user first selects which substance is desired to be dispensed (FIG. 14, step 402). The user then applies an inward squeezing or pressing force F on the flexible sidewal! of chamber 30, 40, or 50 (FIG. 14. step 404)

corresponding to the selected substance (see, e.g. FIGS. 3 and 5). The inward pressing force F is preferably applied in a direction toward the longitudinal axis LA (or axial ceiiteriine of the container), but need not necessarily be applied precisely in that direction to dispense the selected substance. In the case where the container has a cross-sectional shape (i.e. when viewed perpendicular to longitudinal axis LA) with a larger dimension along one lateral or radial axis (e.g. axis R2 in FIG. 5) than along another second radial axis (e.g. axis Rl in FIG. 5), such as the elii tical/oval container 20 shown (see FIG. 5), the larger container sidewall 21 port on along axis R2 will be somewhat structurally weaker than the shorter container sidewall 21 portion along axis R1 and more flexible. Accordingly, a user may preferably apply the inward pressing force F in the general direction of radial axis Rl by pressing or squeezing somewhere along the larger container sidewall 2.1 side. However, the shorter side of the container along the R ' l axis is

preferably struciured to be sufficiently flexible so that the user may apply a radial inward force F any where along the circumference of sidewall 21 to dispense the selected fiowahle substance. Although a single force F is shown in the figures, it will be appreciated that during use a user may conveniently apply dual inward forces F essentially simultaneously on opposing container sidewalls 21 such as when squeezing container 20 between the thumb and fingers. Accordingly, actuation of container 20 to dispense f!owafale substances SI , S2, and/or S3 may be accomplished by the application of numerous different squeezing or pressing forces F on the container sidewalls 21 so long as one or more of chambers 30, 40, 50 are pressurized.

£0057] It will be appreciated that in some operating methods or modes of using fnu!ii- chambered container 20. a user may select more than one flowable substances S I . S2, S3 for dispensing simultaneously by applying an inward pressing force F on more than chambers 30, 40, 50 at the same time (FIG. 1 , step 408), For example, a user may simultaneously apply a force F on chambers 30 and 40, 30 and 50, 40 and 50, or 30, 40, and 50 to simultaneously dispense multiple substances S I , S2, and S3 (FIG. 14, step 410). In some embodiments of containers having more or l ess than three chambers 30, 40, 50 as shown herein, the same foregoing dispensing methodology may be applied to selectively dispense multiple substances S I , S2, and S3, According, exemplary methods of using container 20 according to present invention advantageously enables a user to create custom mixes or blends of substances SI , S2, and S3. For example, without limitation, if flowable substances SI , S2, and S3 are body washes, SI may contain a skin exfoliating formulation, S2 may contain a vitamin enriched skin-nourishing formulation, and S3 may contain a moisturizing formula. Depending on the user's particular needs or preferences at a given bathing or washing time, a single one of these SI, S2, or S3 formulations may be dispensed (FIG. 14, steps 404 and 406} or custom blends of any two or more of these formulations may be simultaneously dispensed together and blended (FIG. 14. steps 408 and 410) thereby advantageously combining the benefits and properties of each respective formulation selected. Accordingly, this latter multiple substance custom blending and dispensing operating mode is advantageously provided by multi-chambered container 20 according to the present invention.

10058] With primary reference now to FIGS. 2, 3 and 5, and continuing description of the multi -chambered container 20 single substance dispensing operating mode, the flexible sidewall 31 , 41, or 51 corresponding to the user-selected chamber 30, 40, or 50 (respectively) will deform elastically inwards and be pressured by the reduction in volumetric capacity when inward force F is applied by the user. Substance S I, S2, or S3 corresponding to the selected chamber will therefore be selectively discharged and flow into its respect ve flow conduit 80, 90, or 100 without simultaneously dispensing the remaining non-selected substances. The lateral partition walls 34 and 44, which separate the chambers 30, 40, 50 (see FIG. 2), laterally brace and radial stiffen the container which helps to resist the pressing force F and deformation of the adjacent non-selected chamber sidewalls 31 , 41 , and/or 51 to preferably eliminate (or at least minimize) simultaneous dispensing of non-selected substances. With additional reference to FIGS. 8-10, the selected substance S i, S2, or S3 will flow downwards through the container in its respective flow conduit 80, 90, 100 (bypassing the non-selected chambers) and into the corresponding inle fitting 64 on inlet flow manifold 61 . The selected substance S I, S2, or S3 will enter flow manifold 61 (in a lateral direction perpendicular to the longitudinal axi LA in some embodiments), and then change path to flow in an axial direction (see FIG. 9). Substance S I , S2, or S3 will then leave flow manifold 61 through outlet 69 and be dispensed through discharge valve 63 which opens for a period of time corresponding to the application of inward pressing force F on container 20.

£0059] When the user stops pressing or squeezing on the selected chamber (i.e. removes inward force F), the inwardly and temporarily deformed chamber sidewall 3 i , 41 , or 51 (depending on the chamber 30, 40, or 50 selected) will elastic-ally return to its original shape or position which lowers the pressure in the chamber back to its initial pre- deformation state. Discharge valve 63 recloses and the substance SI , S2, or S3 will cease being dispensed.

|0060] FIG. 1 1 shows a variation of a discharge valve assembly 200 for use with multi- chambered container 20 according to princi ples of the present invention. In lieu of a single discharge valve 63 such as shown in FIG. 7, another embodiment of a discharge valve assembly 200 includes separate discharge valves 201 , 202, and 203 as shown, which in one embodiment may be similar to valve 63 already described herein. Flow conduits 80 and 90 from chambers 40 and 50 respectively may be connected to inlet fittings 204, 205 disposed on bottom end wall 37 of container 20. In some embodiments, an orifice 206 may simply be provided in bottom end wall 37 which communicates with chamber 30 allowing the passage of substance S I. directly from the chamber to discharge valve 20.2. Vertically oriented internal baffles 207 are preferably provided to keep flowable siibstances S I , $2, and S3 separate upon discharge from container 20. in some embodiments, baffles 207 may be formed as part of a collar assembly 208 which is a separate unit insertable into and attachable to bottom closure 25. Collar assembly 208 may be of any suitable configuration so long as the flowable substances may be kepi separated without mixing. When a user selects and squeezes one of chambers 30, 40, or 50, the respective flowable substance SI, S2, or S3 is dispensed through its

corresponding valve 201, 202, or 203 as shown (see directional flow arrows).

£0061 J According to other embodiments of the present multi -chambered container 20, it will be appreciated that flowable substances SI, S2, and S3 need not be dispensed or discharged from each chamber 30, 40. 50 at the bottom end 23 of the contaiiier, in a common direction, or from a common end or single location alone as shown and described herein i some embodiments. For example, i other possible embodiments, a valve assembly similar to without limitation 61 or 200 (including three separate discharge valves 63 or 201-203, respectively), or of other suitable similar design, may instead be located at the top end 22 each chamber 30, 40, 50 using a dispensing system including flow conduits such as without limitation those similar to SO, 90, and 100 described herein. According to et. other possible embodiments, at least some of the chambers 30, 40, 50 may dispense their respective flowable siibstances SI, S2, or S3 from different locations and/or in different directions from each other. Such embodiments may include separate discharge apertures 27 each with an associated discharge valve 63 disposed at different locations on container 20 and chambers 30, 40, 50. It is readily within the ambit of those skilled in the art to reverse the location of the di scharge val ve asserabhes to top end 22. or to locate one or more discharge valve assemblies on container 20 based on the description and principles already provided herein without additional discussion,

{0062] Based on th foregoing, it will be readily apparent that numerous variations in dispensing/discharge configurations may be provided according to principles of the present invention so long as a single f!owab!e substance SI , S2, or S3 may be selectively dispensed by a user at the exclusion of the remaining substances.

[0063] it will be appreciated by those skilled i the art that although the dispensing method raav have been described herein for convenience assuming the container 20 is preferably held in a generaiiy vertical orientation, it is possible to dispense substances Si , S2, or S3 with the container held in any suitable position including horizontally if desired. The substances, however, will be most effectively dispensed if the user holds container 20 anywhere from horizontal to vertical, and any positi n therebetween.

Accordingly, the invention is not limited to any particular orientation of the multi- chambered container when the user dispenses the substance or product.

[0064] While the foregoing description and drawings represent the preferred

embodiments of the present invention, it will be understood that various additions, modifications and substitutions may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined in the accompanying claims. In particular, it will be clear to those skilled in the art thai the present invention may be embodied in other specific forms, structures, arrangements, proportions, sizes, and with other elements, materials, and components, without departing from the spirit or essentia! characteristics thereof. One skilled in the art will appreciate that the in ention may be used with many modifications of structure, arrangement, proportions, sizes, materials, and components and otherwise, used in the practice of the invention, which are particularly adapted to specific environments and operative requirements without departing from the principles of the present invention. The presently disclosed embodiments are therefore to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, the scope of the invention being defined by the appended claims, and not limited to the foregoing description or embodiments.