The present application claims priority to Canadian Application No. 2,530,091 filed Dec. 14, 2005, which is incorporated herein in its entirety by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to the field of beverage tray holders for use in automobiles.
When two or more beverages are purchased at a take-out restaurant or coffee shop, a disposable moulded pulp tray holding up to four beverages is often provided. Often the tray is placed in an automobile for consumption of the beverages while driving or for transportation of the beverages to another location. The tray may be placed on a seat or on the floor of the automobile, but since the tray is mainly intended to facilitate carrying the beverages, and is not designed to be particularly stable when placed on an uneven surface such as an automobile seat, the beverages may spill if the automobile comes to an abrupt stop or turns a corner. In addition, the bottom surface of the tray may slide on certain surfaces, increasing the likelihood of spillage. The tray is often made from flimsy paper material that will disintegrate when wet. Thus, if the tray is accidentally exposed to moisture, either by spillage of the beverage, rain or snow, or water on the floor of the car, it will lose strength.
The prior art discloses various cup holders for holding two or more beverage containers.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,718,555 to Amberg discloses a carrying tray for holding cups or beverage containers. It is adapted to hold flat-bottomed or so-called “chime”-bottomed containers, but not to hold a tray of the sort described above. The Amberg carrying tray may be unstable when placed in an automobile.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,713,619 to DuBois discloses a beverage cup carrier with multiple pockets for containing beverage cups, the pockets being interconnected with webbing to strengthen the cup carrier. The carrier is adapted to hold individual cups rather than an entire tray. The DuBois carrier may be unstable when placed in an automobile.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
What is needed, therefore, is a beverage tray holder for use in an automobile that will hold common beverage trays described above in a stable manner without risk of tipping or sliding, and that is easily and conveniently movable within the automobile. Further, a beverage tray holder that can withstand moisture is also needed.
An object of the present invention is to provide a beverage tray holder for use in an automobile that provides a stable platform for a beverage tray so that the tray does not tip or slide when the automobile is in motion.
A further object of the present invention is to provide a beverage tray holder that is easily and conveniently movable.
A further object of the present invention is to provide a beverage tray holder that will remain strong even when wet.
The beverage tray holder comprises a base, a tray-holding member and a spill guard. The base has a contoured bottom surface that prevents slipping of the beverage tray holder along the surface it is resting on. The tray-holding member is shaped to accommodate a disposable moulded pulp beverage tray such as one designed to hold four beverage containers. A spill guard surrounds the tray-holding member to collect small amounts of spilled liquid that may escape from the beverage containers.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The beverage tray holder is sufficiently light to allow for portability, but also heavy enough so that it does not tip or slide. The beverage tray holder is sufficiently rigid to hold a full beverage tray without bending or folding. The beverage tray holder is made from a material that does not disintegrate when wet.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the beverage tray holder.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an the underside of the tray holder of FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of the beverage tray holder, formed in an automobile floor mat.
Referring now to the drawings, FIGS. 1 and 2 show top and bottom views of the tray holder of the present invention. The tray holder 1 is molded in one piece, preferably from a water and stain-resistant material. The tray holder is preferably made from a flexible and resilient material such as rubber or vinyl. The selection of an appropriate material that is flexible, waterproof and stain-resistant will be a matter of choice to one skilled in the art.
The tray holder of the present invention includes a central compartment 2 dimensioned and configured to receive a molded pulp beverage tray. Compartment 2 includes four individual wells 3 dimensioned to accommodate the four cup-holding compartments of a beverage tray. Each of the wells is provided with three flexible pads 4, aligned with the cut-outs of a tray that flex inwardly to hold a cup in place. It will be understood that it is within the scope of the present invention to provide a different number, or configuration, of flexible pads 4, to accommodate any beverage tray being marketed. Moreover, it will be understood that since the pads 4 are flexible, even if they do not align with cutouts on a tray (because of tray design) they will still flex inwardly to grip the tray.
Each pad 4 is formed as a thin-walled convex (when viewed from above) bulge in the wall of a well 3. A small slip 5 is preferably provided at the base of each pad, to permit it to flex easily.
Each well 3 is deep enough to accommodate an individual cup-holding compartment of a beverage tray, and prevent it from slipping. The central area of the central compartment is recessed to accommodate the recessed central portion common in beverage trays. It will be understood, however, that the central portion may be raised or recessed, as a matter of design choice, if a tray without a centrally recessed portion is to be accommodated.
The central compartment of the tray includes a substantially flat upper surface. Along each edge of the upper surface is formed a groove or notch 8 to accommodate the fingers of a person, and thereby simplify the act of removing a beverage tray from the tray holder.
The entire central compartment is surrounded by a spill-containing well molded into the tray holder. Outward of the spill-containing well is formed a base or skirt that goes around the entire beverage tray holder.
As can be seen from FIG. 2, the base is provided with ribs 11 around its entire perimeter to give it structural strength, and to assist in grip. In this regard, the lower surface of the wells 3 and optionally on the other lower surfaces are also provided with short protrusions 12, also for grip. When the tray holder is placed on a surface, then, such as the floor of a vehicle or the upholstered cargo area of an SUV, it will grip the surface, and not slide around. A tray loaded with cups of coffee or another beverage will be firmly gripped in the wells 3 by pads 4, and if any liquid were to spill from a cup, it would be caught in the spill well 9.
Referring to FIG. 3, it will be seen that the tray holder may, for instance, be molded into a rubber or vinyl floor mat 13.