This application claims benefit of the 21 Jun. 2011 filing date of U.S. provisional patent application No. 61/499,179, which is incorporated by reference herein.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
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This invention relates generally to water cooler covers and more specifically to a water cooler cover having adjustable and customizable openings in the various surfaces of the water cooler cover.
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OF THE INVENTION
Water coolers are used in both commercial and residential settings for providing instant filtered hot or cold water. Water coolers typically include an upright base and conventional electric refrigeration and heating systems. The water cooler further comprises a reservoir to receive the mouth of an inverted, three or five gallon water bottle, and a network of outlet pipes and valves that control dispensing of water from the water cooler. The water is heated or cooled, and thus either hot or cold water may be dispensed as preferred by a user.
Water coolers are often seen as eyesores due to their large, bulky and unaesthetic appearance. They are not customizable (as to size, shape, color, finish, etc.) and cannot be modified to blend with a particular style or motif of the setting in which they are placed (home, office, etc.).
Covers for water cooler bottles are known, but they cover only the water bottle. A standard water cooler cover includes at least three adjoining side panels surrounding a space for receiving a water cooler and its associated water bottle. At least one of the panels, typically the front panel, defines a hole through which the functional controls of the water cooler can be accessed and operated and through which water is dispensed.
However, the prior art water cooler covers are available only in a “one size fits all” configuration. The present invention addresses the disadvantages associated with these standard prior art water cooler covers. One disadvantage is that water cooler covers are of a standard shape and size. But water coolers are made in different sizes, with different dimensions and with different locations and configurations for the controls and dispensing outlet. A standard water cooler cover cannot fit all water coolers and as a result, certain water cooler controls are often inaccessible when using such a standard cover.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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The invention is explained in the following description in view of the drawings that show:
FIGS. 1 through 4 illustrate four different views depicting the adjustable features of the present invention.
FIG. 5 illustrates channel for receiving slats forming portions of a front surface of the water cooler cover of the present invention.
FIGS. 6 and 7 illustrate a first retaining mechanism for retaining the slats of the present invention against vertical movement.
FIG. 8 illustrates an alternative slat for use with the water cooler cover of the present invention.
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the water cooler cover.
FIG. 10 illustrates alternative slats for use with the water cooler cover of the present invention.
FIGS. 11 and 12 illustrate second and third retaining mechanism for retaining the slats of the present invention against vertical movement.
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OF THE INVENTION
Before describing in detail the particular method and apparatus related to a water cooler cover, it should be observed that the present invention resides primarily in a novel and non-obvious combination of elements and process steps. So as not to obscure the disclosure with details that will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, certain conventional elements and steps have been presented with lesser detail, while the drawings and the specification describe in greater detail other elements and steps pertinent to understanding the invention. The described embodiments are not intended to define limits as to the structure or method of the invention, but only to provide exemplary constructions. The embodiments are permissive rather than mandatory and illustrative rather than exhaustive.
The inventors have solved the problems of the prior art with a water cooler cover that covers the water cooler and the water bottle (with the exception of the water cooler back and bottom surfaces). A front panel of the water cooler cover defines adjustable/movable openings through which the user can access the cooler controls and the dispensing outlet. The front panel is formed with movable and removable horizontal slats, allowing the openings to be relocated and/or resized by simply moving the slats up or down and adding/deleting slats. The user can thus adjust the size and location of the openings to align them with the controls and the dispensing outlet. In effect, the front panel and the openings defined therein are adjustable.
The adjustable water cooler cover further comprises two side panels, i.e., a left and a right side panel, a front panel and a top panel. The left and right side panels each attach to an edge of the front panel. The side panels may be attached to the front panel edges with hinges, bolts, an adhesive or other attachment devices. The top panel is likewise secured to top edges of the front and the side panels.
The front panel includes a top edge, a bottom edge, a right edge, a left edge, a front surface and a rear surface. Right and left vertically positioned channels are affixed to the rear surface of the front panel extending approximately from the top of the front panel to the bottom of the front panel.
Vertically moveable horizontal slats are disposed within the right and left channels and thus span the interval between the left and right channels. That is, the left edge (when viewing the front panel of the water cooler cover from the outside the cooler cover) of each slat is disposed within the left vertical channel and the right edge of each slat is disposed within the right vertical channel. The front panel is thereby formed by these slats; several slats are stacked vertically in close proximity to create a nearly solid surfaces of the front panel.
Openings in the front panel can be moved and resized by simply relocating the slats, i.e., moving one or more slats up or down to form and relocate the front panel openings. Also, more or fewer slats can be positioned between the channels to create any number of openings. In various embodiments the slats are between about 1 inch and 3 inches wide.
FIG. 1 illustrates an exterior front view of a water cooler cover 10 having a front panel 12 but without slats, i.e., the front panel is open. The open region within the front panel 12 is identified by a reference numeral 13. In one embodiment the water cooler cover 10 comprises a right and left vertical trim piece 14 and 16 along each vertical edge of the front panel 12 to obscure a joint between the front panel 12 and the left and right side panels (the left and right side panels are not shown in FIG. 1). The trim piece may not be present in certain embodiments. The water cooler cover 10 further comprises a top panel 18.
The water cooler cover may further comprise feet 20 at each corner along a bottom surface of the water cooler cover 10. Casters (not shown) for ease in moving the water cooler cover 10 may be used in lieu of the feet 20.
FIG. 2 illustrates an interior view of a rear surface of the front panel 12. This view illustrates respective left and right U-shaped channels 30 and 32 (i.e., viewing the channels from the rear) each for receiving an edge of a slat (slats not shown in FIG. 2). The channels 30 and 32 are attached to the rear surface of the front panel 12 with screws or other attachment devices.
FIG. 3 illustrates a front exterior view of the water cooler cover 10 covering a water bottle 38. Exemplary 1 inch and 3 inch slats 39 are positioned to form an upper access opening 40 to allow access to water cooler controls 44 and a lower access opening 46 to allow access to a water dispensing outlet 48. Of course, with a different water cooler configuration the location of the controls and dispensing outlet may be different thus necessitating placement of the access openings in different locations. Advantageously, according to the present invention the openings (e.g., the lower opening 46 and the upper opening 40) in the front panel 12 can be relocated and/or resized to accommodate any configuration of water cooler controls and outlets by utilizing differently-sized slats and moving the slats vertically upwardly or downwardly to form access openings in different locations.
The openings 40 and 46 can be relocated and/or resized by simply repositioning the 1 inch and/or 3 inch slats (and associated slat locking mechanisms described below) and/or by using differently sized slats. Also top and bottom edges of the slats can be straight, beveled, rounded or curved.
The slats can be formed of various materials, including wood, plastic, metal, glass, rubber or another similar material.