Shopping cart handle sanitary protector and coupon
Shopping Cart Abstract
Shopping Cart Claims
1. A handle shield for protecting a shopper from contact with the cylindrical handle of a shopping cart when in use in a retail store, comprising: a sheet of material having a length for extending along the length the handle of the cart and a width greater than the circumference of the handle, said width being sufficient to wrap around the handle and connect to itself and form a sleeve to cover the handle and to form a hang tag extending from the sleeve, a connector applied to the sheet for holding the sheet to itself in the form of the sleeve with the sleeve wrapped around the handle, and advertisements of goods in the store and a coupon redeemable for the advertised goods carried by the tail of the sheet.
2. The shield of claim 1, wherein said coupon and barcode are adhesively attached to said hang tag.
3. The shield of claim 1, wherein said coupon is printed on said hang tag.
4. The shield of claim 1, wherein said sheet of material includes a body portion that wraps about the handle and end portions that form said hang tag, said body portion including a weakened score line along the length of said sheet of material for separating said body portion and removing said sheet material from the handle of the shopping cart.
5. The shield of claim 1, wherein the sheet includes a weakened score line in the hang tag of the sheet adjacent the coupon for tearing the coupon from the rest of the sheet.
6. The shield of claim 5, wherein the connector comprises a line of adhesive applied to the hang tag of the sheet.
7. The shield of claim 6, wherein said line of adhesive is applied to the back of said coupon.
8. The shield of claim 1, wherein said shield comprises a plurality of duplicate shields formed in a connected series with a weakened score line between adjacent ones of the shields.
9. The shield of claim 8, wherein said connected series of duplicate shields is formed in a reel for pulling from the reel and applying one at a time to the handles of shopping carts, with said connectors of each shield aligned with the connectors of adjacent ones of the sheets.
10. The shield of claim 1, wherein said sheet of material includes a body portion that forms said sleeve that wraps about the handle and end portions at opposite ends of said body portion that form said hang tag, said advertisements of goods in the store and a coupon redeemable for the advertised goods carried by both end portions of said sheet of material, such that the advertisements and coupon are displayed on opposite sides of the tail of the shield.
11. The shield of claim 1, wherein an antiseptic is applied to the reverse surface of said sheet.
12. A handle shield for protecting a person from contact with the handle of a shopping cart when in use in a retail store, comprising: a sheet of material having a length for extending along the length the handle of the cart and a width greater than the circumference of the handle, said width being sufficient for the sheet to wrap around the handle and to cover the handle, a line of adhesive applied to the sheet, an advertisement of goods sold in the store applied to the sheet, a coupon redeemable for discount of the price of the goods advertised by the sheet, and a bar code applied to the sheet that corresponds to the product advertised on the sheet, such that the sheet is applied to the handle of the cart and shields the hands of the person using the cart from contacting the handle of the cart and the advertisements applied to the sheet are presented to the user of the cart.
13. The handle shield of claim 12, wherein said sheet of material is formed with duplicate sheets of material in overlying tablet form with each sheet having said line of adhesive applied to one edge and clinging to an adjacent sheet.
14. The handle shield of claim 12, wherein said sheet of material is formed with duplicate sheets attached to one another in end-to-end series with weakened lines of separation between them.
15. The handle shield of claim 12, and further including the handle of said cart being cylindrical and said line of adhesive directly applied to said handle and said sheet forming a hang tag suspended from said handle, with said advertisement, coupon and bar code applied to said hang tag.
16. The handle shield of claim 12, wherein said sheet includes a body portion for engaging the handle of the cart and a hang tag for extending away from said body portion, with said advertisement visible on both sides of said hang tag.
17. The handle shield of claim 12, and further including a separable score line between the coupon and the rest of the sheet.
18. The handle shield of claim 12, and further including a separable score line formed in said body portion for releasing said handle shield from the cart handle.
19. A method of applying a shield to a handle of a grocery cart while shopping comprising: providing a sheet of material having a front surface and an reverse surface, coupons applied to said front surface and adhesive applied to the reverse surface, forming the sheet in a U-shape and extending the sheet in its U-shape about the handle with the legs of the U-shape straddling the handle, connecting the sheet about the handle with the adhesive to form a sleeve about the handle and a hang tag with the coupons exhibited on the hang tag hanging from the handle, shielding the handle of the cart with the sleeve from contacting the user of the cart, placing goods in the cart, and redeeming the coupons for some of the goods placed in the cart at a check out station.
 Applicant claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Applications 60/558,002 filed Mar. 31, 2004 and 60/565,701 filed Apr. 27, 2004.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Retail stores that use wheeled shopping carts for the collection of goods from a store, such as a supermarket, usually are pushed from behind. The shopper engages the horizontally extending cylindrical handle of the cart and pushes the cart from place to place about the store. In some instances, a small child, such as a toddler, is placed in the collapsible seat adjacent the handle of the shopping cart so that the shopper can have his or her hands free for shopping while being positioned close to the child.
 Under the above noted circumstances, the hands of the shopper and possibly the hands of the child of the shopper come in contact with the shopping cart handle. Contaminants present on the cart handles are spread by this contact. The spread of germs starts when hands touch the cart handle and the hands are subsequently placed on other surfaces that are touched by others. The contamination path is even more frightening with children that hold onto a shopping cart handle and then bring their hands to their mouths or when a child puts his or her mouth directly on the handle.
 When the cart is later moved to the checkout counter, the goods within the cart are removed, checked out and bagged, and the empty cart is then moved to another area where it is made available for a subsequent shopper. When the next shopper and possibly the shopper's child use the cart, the subsequent shopper and child contact the same handle with their hands and contact the germs, etc. that remain on the handle from the previous shopper.
 Since it is sometimes necessary for a sick person to shop at a retail store, particularly at a supermarket to buy food and where shopping carts are used, the handles of shopping carts are a hazardous place to contact with a person's hands. The shopper, and especially the shopper's child, are subjected to the germs and other undesirable remaining matter of the previous shopper left behind on the handle of the shopping cart, and the subsequent shopper is likely to contact the germs of the previous shoppers that used the same cart and apply his/her own germs and other undesirable matter to the handle for the next shopper.
 It is likely that during the shopping in the store the shopper will handle or touch trays containing raw meat and/or raw poultry while making the decision to buy or select another product. Usually traces of blood and other liquid matter exuded from then raw contents is present on the exterior of the package, but these contaminants on the outside of the trays are difficult to detect and are contacted by the unwary shopper. Shoppers usually touch the outside of the trays, then touch the cart. The germs can remain on the surfaces of the cart, including on the handle of the cart, for hours or even longer. It's common knowledge that raw meat and raw poultry can carry serious pathogens like E. Coli. These bacteria can kill a child or an elderly person whose immune system is underdeveloped or weakened.
 Another path of contaminants is the carts left outside the store. Customers are exposed to potential viruses from birds that perch on the carts.
 Very few supermarkets wash or clean their carts. Recently some stores have provided wipes treated with sterilizing fluid that tend to reduce the contamination of the cart handles; however, a time of about five minutes is required for the sterilizing fluid to become effective. Also, the customer may not want to make direct contact with the sterilizing fluid.
 Except as noted above, the proprietor of the supermarket usually does not provide any means for avoiding contact from one customer to the next of the germs and other matter left by previous customers on the shopping cart handles. In order to avoid the contact of a customer with contaminants present on the handles of a wheeled shopping cart, some customers have worn gloves or have applied some protective surface to the handle, or have wiped the handle clean before contacting the handle with his or her hands. It is believed that the expense and inconvenience of providing such shopping cart handle protectors is a deterrent to the grocery store chain and other retail stores for supplying such handle protectors. However, the health conscious public has become more aware of the compelling scientific evidence that proves shopping carts are a health risk, and the public is looking for an effective solution to reduce of bacterial contact.
 It is to this problem that this invention is directed.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 Briefly described, the present invention comprises a shopping cart handle sanitary protector shield that is conveniently supplied by the proprietor of a retail store, such as a supermarket, for mounting about the handle of the shopping cart. The protector shield that can be conveniently formed into a sleeve functions like a handle shield and is of a length sufficient to span across the major length of the handle of the shopping cart and of a width that is suitable for connecting the sleeve about the handle.
 In one embodiment, the sleeve is of greater width than the circumference of the handle so that it can overlap upon itself, and a connector extends to the overlapped portions of the sleeve, connecting the sleeve about the handle. A message is applied to the sleeve for reading by the shopper that uses the shopping cart. Typically, the message would include an advertisement of goods within the store, so as to provide the shopper with knowledge of the goods and possibly the price, as an inducement to purchase the goods.
 Another embodiment of the invention includes a coupon, or several coupons applied to the sleeve of the handle shield. The coupon would be redeemable at the checkout counter for reducing the price of the goods advertised by the sleeve. The coupons may be printed on the sleeve and the sleeve removed from the cart at the check out counter for redeeming the coupons, or the coupons may otherwise be removably applied to the sleeve, as by serrations between the coupons and the rest of the sleeve, by adhesively attaching the coupons to the sleeve, etc. so that they are easily removable.
 The coupons may also bear a bar code so that it can be easily identified at the checkout counter and the proper credit is redeemed against the advertised product that may have been selected by the shopper.
 In order to provide adequate space for the coupon, advertisement and/or bar code, the handle sleeve may be of a width that is substantially greater than the circumference of the shopping cart handle, so as to form a hang tag that extends from the shopping cart handle. The hang tag bears the bar code, advertisement, coupon, and/or other indicia that the proprietor may approve for presenting to the shoppers of the store.
 Also, the handle shield may be sponsored by the manufacturers of the goods that are to be presented for sale in the retail store. This way, the manufacturers of the goods, not necessarily the proprietor of the retail store, would arrange for the production and distribution of the shields. This provides the customers of the retail store with the sanitary protection that might be highly desired by the customer, and provides the producer of the advertised products with the ability to expose its products to the customer throughout the entire time the customer uses the shopping cart. Moreover, it also provides the producer of the goods advertised on the sleeve with the ability to provide coupons directly to the shopper that uses the shopping cart, increasing the likelihood that the shopper will purchase the goods of the producer of the shopping cart handle sanitary protector sleeve.
 With the advertisements highly visible and coupons positioned directly in front of the customer that identify the goods and possibly the price of the goods during the entire shopping trip, and the immediate physical barrier provided against germs, the sleeve sends a message to the customer that the advertisers are a business that cares about the well being of the customers.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective illustration of the shopping cart, showing the shopping cart sanitary protector sleeve positioned adjacent the handle of the cart, showing how this embodiment of the invention would be applied to the handle.
 FIG. 2 is a perspective illustration of a portion of the shopping cart handle, with the handle shield extending around the handle.
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a layout of the handle shield, showing the printed surface of the handle shield.
 FIG. 4 is a reverse perspective view of a layout of the handle shield, showing how a peel-away strip that may be applied to the line of adhesive and can be removed for the line of adhesive to expose the adhesive of the handle shield.
 FIG. 5 is a reverse perspective view of a layout of a modified handle shield, showing a longer end portion and the adhesive line and peal away-strip displaced from the edge of the end portion.
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the shopping cart handle with a handle shield formed in the shape of the product it advertises.
 FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a connected series of the handle shields formed in a reel for dispensing to a customer.
 FIG. 8 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the invention, showing the shopping cart sleeve extending part way about the handle of the shopping cart and adhered directly to the handle.
 FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a layout of the shopping cart sleeve of FIG. 8.
 FIG. 10 is a view of a connected series of the shopping cart sleeves.
 Referring now in more detail to the drawings in which like numerals indicate like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 1 illustrates a shopping cart 10 of conventional design, which includes a basket 11, front caster wheels 12 and 13, and rear wheels 14. The basket 11 is supported on a framework 16, and a handle assembly 18 extends upwardly and rearwardly from the basket 11. Also, a child's seat (not shown) may be present in the basket 11, with the seat arranged to support the baby in a rearwardly facing direction.
 Handle assembly 18 includes a horizontal handle 20 that is usually located upwardly and rearwardly with respect to the basket 11, and usually comprises a tubular, rectilinear bar.
 When the shopping cart is used in a retail store, such as in a supermarket, the shopper usually grasps the handle 20 with his/her hand so as to push the cart and guide the cart through the premises of the store.
 A handle shield 22 is provided for the shopper that fits over the handle 20. As shown in FIG. 1, the handle shield may be formed of sheet material that can be arranged in a U-shape, which forms it in a curved body portion 23 with a pair of opposed substantially flat end portions 24 and 25. The opposed end portions are moved as indicated by the dash lines 27 into overlapping relationship with respect to handle 20, and the opposed end portions are connected to each other on the far side of the handle. As shown in FIG. 2, this forms a handle sleeve 26 about the handle 20 of the cart and a hang tag 28 that is suspended from the handle of the cart.
 As shown in FIG. 3, the handle shield 22 in its flat, laid out configuration includes the body portion 23 and opposed end portions 24 and 25, with the advertisements 29, coupons 30, and bar codes 31 all applied to one surface of the handle shield. Preferably, the advertisements, coupons, and bar codes are applied to both of the opposed end portions 24 and 25 so that when the handle shield is wrapped about the handle of the shopping cart, the body portion 23 is formed into a sleeve 26, with the opposed end portions gathered together in overlying relationship to form a hang tag 28, with the advertisements, coupons, and bar codes facing in opposite directions where they are visible from both sides of the handle. An advertisement may also be applied to the body portion 23.
 The advertisement 29, coupons 30 and bar code 31 relate to one another so that when the bar code 31 is read at the check-out counter, the goods of the advertisement and the coupon are recognized through the computer system of the grocery store, providing the shopper with a discount or other benefit as advertised on the handle shield or otherwise advertised in the premises of the store. In some instances, the information carried by the opposed end portions 24 will include just the bar code and the advertisement, or just the advertisement and the coupon, or possibly other information, such as a message to the customer concerning local or national affairs.
 As shown in FIG. 4, the reverse side of the handle shield is formed with an adhesive line on one of the opposed end portions such as end portion 24. A peel-away strip 36 may be releasably adhered to the adhesive line to protect the adhesive line before use of the handle shield. When the handle shield 22 is to be applied to the handle of the shopping cart, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, if a peel-away strip 36 is adhered to the adhesive line it is stripped away from the adhesive as indicated by arrow 38. This exposes the adhesive line. The person to use the shopping cart or the store employee that is to prepare the shopping cart then folds the handle shield 22 about the handle 20 of the shopping cart 10 in such a manner that the adhesive line 35 folds into contact with the opposed end portion 25 of the handle shield, making adhesive contact therewith. This connects the handle shield in a sleeve configuration about the handle 20 of the shopping cart, as illustrated in FIG. 2.
 The length of the handle shield may be of a different length than illustrated in FIG. 2 of the drawings and may be of a different shape than illustrated in the drawings to suit the advertisement to be displayed. For example FIG. 5 shows a wider shield in its laid out configuration with the adhesive line and its peal-away strip displaced from the edge of an end portion so that the sleeve my be tightly fitted about the handle of the cart and the end portions that form the hang tag 28 of the shield extend farther away from the handle of the cart. Also, FIG. 6 shows the hang tag 28 in the shape of the product to be advertised, such as a cola bottle or a cereal box, and bears the image of the product to be advertised.
 It will be noted that since the advertisements, coupons, and/or bar codes 29-31 may be applied on the same surface but at opposed ends of the handle shield, the advertisements, coupons, and bar codes will become a part of the hang tag 28 and face in opposite directions, being visible on both sides of the handle.
 The customer using the cart will be confronted with the information applied to the handle shield during the entire time of use of the shopping cart at the supermarket or other type store. This is a constant reminder to the customer of the items advertised on the handle shield, and of the possibility of a discount or two-for-one bargain, etc. that is available to the customer.
 As shown in FIG. 3, a score line 40 may be formed across the handle shield 22 to form a weakened area where the handle shield can be separated away from the cart handle 20. The score line 40 may be formed in the body portion 23 so that when the handle shield is grasped by its opposed end portions and pulled away from the handle at an angle, there is a tendency of the handle shield to separate along the score line 40. This is an easy and neat way of removing the handle shield from the handle of the cart.
 Also, other score lines 41 and 42 can be formed adjacent the advertisements, coupons and/or bar codes for the purpose of neatly separating these items from the handle shield.
 While the handle shield is shown in FIG. 2 as being applied to the handle with its opposed end portions aligned in an overlying relationship, FIG. 5 shows the opposed end portions may be lengthened so as to extend farther away from the adhesive line 41A, so that they are free of adhesive and are more readily removable from the handle shield at the check-out counter where the bar codes would be read. FIG. 5 also shows the score line 41A is displaced from the edge of the end portion and the adhesive line 35A is further displaced from the same edge.
 The supplier of the handle shield may also desire to have the material of the handle shield receive a light coat of disinfectant 44 on the back of the handle shield, with the disinfectant arranged to face the handle 20 and thereby tending to sterilize the handle. The disinfectant should be chosen so that it will not be exposed to the user of the cart, particularly to a child that occupies the child's seat of the cart, so as to avoid the risk of contact with either the child or the adult using the cart.
 As illustrated in FIG. 7, the handle shields 22 may be formed in bulk for use at the supermarket, etc. One example of the bulk supply of the handle shields is to connect them in end-to-end series, and supply the series in a reel 45. The end-to-end series connected relationship places the adhesive line 35 in alignment from shield to shield, with each layer of the handle shields protecting the adhesive line until the outside shield is pulled away from its underlying shield. A weakened score line 47 is formed between each one of the handle shields 22 so that the user can pay out the end most handle shield and tear it away from the next adjacent handle shield at the weakened score line 47. The reel may be supported by a bracket applied to a wall surface or may be supported on a stand (not shown).
 The material from which the handle shields are formed is optional. It may be made of flexible paper or other cellulose material, polyisobutylene, plastic film, foil, or other suitable materials. Preferably, the material will be substantially waterproof in that condensation of vapor on the handle of the shopping cart would not penetrate through the material to the hands of the user of the cart, and vice versa.
 The adhesive that is applied as the adhesive line 35 is of conventional design so as to make firm contact with the surface of the shield to which it is applied and to adhere to the facing surface of the shield.
 FIGS. 8-10 show another form of the handle shield 50 that has its line of adhesive 52 that directly attaches to the handle 20 of the shopping cart. The line of adhesive is positioned adjacent one edge of the handle shield and the shopper applies the line of adhesive to one side of the handle and drapes the rest of the handle shield offer the handle, with the hang tag 54 suspended below the handle.
 FIG. 10 shows that the handle shields 50 can be manufactured in overlying stacked arrangement that forms a tablet 56 with the lines of adhesive of each shield at one edge of the tablet. This allows the user to grasp the free end of the shield on the top of the tablet, peel the top shield away from the tablet and apply the sheet to the handle of the cart in the manner as shown in FIG. 8.
 The advertisements, coupons, and/or bar codes can be applied to the material of the handle shield by various means such as by printing directly onto the material of the handle shield, or by adhesively applying the advertisements, etc. to the handle shield so that they can be easily removed from the handle shield at the check-out counter. The printing of the advertisements, etc. on the handle shields, such as the handle shield of FIGS. 8-10, may be on opposed surfaces of the shield for displaying the advertisements in opposite directions.
 The handle shield 22 should be of a length that covers a major portion of the handle 20 of the shopping cart so as to adequately cover the handle and protect the user of the cart from direct contact with the handle. Also, the longer the length of the handle shield, the longer the hang tag 28 and the more information concerning advertisements, coupons, etc. can be applied thereto. Also, the tail or hang tag of the handle shield formed by the opposed end portions 24 and 25 can be made longer for more advertising space. The advertising material can be applied to the curved body portion 23 of the handle shield so that the information more directly faces the customer, if desired.
 It can be seen that it is unlikely that the shopping cart handle sanitary protector shield will be discarded within the retail store before the shopper reaches the check out counter because the shield provides the sanitary function that is likely to be desirable to the shopper, and it provides the shopper with immediate information concerning the coupons for the goods that are advertised on the hang tag of the sleeve and the coupons must be redeemed at the check out counter.
 Although preferred embodiments of the invention have been disclosed in detail herein, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that variations and modifications of the disclosed embodiments can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the following claims.
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