Multi-panel packaging structure that displays visual indication if package tampering has occurred in US patent application approval process; structure suitable for retail gift cards, includes heat-shrunk and sealed stretch film layers, adhesive layers

ATLANTA , October 10, 2013 () – By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Politics & Government Week -- A patent application by the inventors Glinert, Kenneth (Chappaqua, NY), filed on March 11, 2013, was made available online on October 3, 2013, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

Patent application serial number 792685 has not been assigned to a company or institution.

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "In the retail sector and elsewhere, there has been an ongoing and growing need for improved tamper evident packaging. Foods, consumer products, medications, mail and other goods continue to be the object of tampering, whether to taint contents, alter freshness assurances, to gain valuable private and/or confidential information, or for some other purpose. In particular, product packaging is often damaged or compromised. One type of packaging that is particularly susceptible to tampering is that associated with pre-paid gift cards. As an example, it is a common practice in the pre-paid card sector to encode or otherwise load a card e.g., a generally rectangular plastic 'wallet-sized' card, akin to a credit card) with a predetermined cash equivalent value. Upon payment by a consumer for the value on the card, the card can then be used to pay for transactions until the value on the card has been depleted. The cards may not necessarily be registered in the identity of a particular individual, and thus resemble cash, in the sense that it is difficult to trace transactions and correlate them with particular users of the cards. The relative anonymity of the resulting transactions thus makes pre-paid cards attractive theft targets.

"Security features are often employed in the packaging industry in an effort to deter theft and protect legitimate consumers. Unfortunately, many existing security features have been circumvented by individuals involved in retail theft. While many tamper-evident and theft-proof features have been developed, most are cost prohibitive given the low cost requirement for packaging, as the packaging must be provided to a consumer for essentially no cost as an enticement to seek goods or services from a particular retailer or service provider. In pre-paid card packaging, assuming that a consumer is going to purchase a card with a value of $25, the consumer will only expect to pay $25 for the card, with no additional charges. As a result, it has proven particularly challenging to develop security features that effectively prevent and deter theft at a very low cost point.

"A common theft issue with particular relevance to the pre-paid card industry includes the ability to remove a pre-paid card from a retail outlet without activating or purchasing the card. The account information can then be accessed and recorded and the card repackaged either in its original packaging or new packaging which can then be placed back onto a retail outlet shelf. Once the card is activated by a legitimate paying customer, the account information can be used to make purchases without the knowledge of the paying customer. For example, a wrongdoer may have taken a pre-paid card from a retail location, removed the card from its packaging, obtained the code associated with the card, and then carefully re-packaged the card so it appears unused, as if new. The wrongdoer will then enter into a transaction (e.g., on the internet, via mail order, or otherwise) in which the wrongdoer supplies the card code as means of payment. If and when the card is activated by the legitimate user, the transaction of the wrongdoer will be processed. The sophistication of the techniques of the wrongdoers has become so refined in recent years that re-packaging of cards into their original packaging commonly results in little or no evidence to a reasonably observant cashier that the card has been removed from the packing and subsequently repackaged.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,777,305 discloses a packaging assembly that permits remote activation and deactivation of a pre-paid card without removing the card from the packaging. However, the teachings do not appear to address the difficulties in preventing an individual from stealing an unactivated card, removing the unactivated card from the packaging to record any necessary account numbers or codes from the card and placing the unactivated card back into the packaging and subsequently back on a store shelf.

"U.S. Pat. No. 5,667,247 discloses a card package assembly that includes an adhesive placed on an inner wall of the packaging to hold a card in place. However, the packaging does not appear to afford a simple and straightforward approach to determining whether tampering has occurred.

"U.S. Pat. No. 7,000,844 discloses a display packaging for gift cards that includes a personal identification number or 'PIN' obscured by a removable covering. However, one of the problems sought to be addressed by the present teachings does not appear to be solved by teachings of that patent, inasmuch as the disclosure of the patent makes it possible to re-cover the PIN to create the appearance that no tampering has occurred.

"U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2009/0107862 discloses a card and carrier system that shows damage to the carrier when the enclosed card is accessed. However, the card itself shows no indication of tampering and there is no means disclosed to prevent the carrier from being repaired with no indication of tampering.

"Notwithstanding the above, there remains a need for improved packaging that indicates tampering on a carrier so that the carrier cannot be repaired or reproduced with no tamper indication. There is a further need for packaging that includes substrates that are treated to seal about packaging contents so that the packaging cannot be easily recreated. There is a further need for packaging that includes substrates that are formed so that once the packaging is opened, a permanent indication of such opening is formed on the exterior of the packaging. More particularly, there continues to be a need for low-cost tamper-evident packaging that includes an external visual indicator of package damage and does not allow individuals to re-package and re-seal a pre-paid card after accessing and recording the necessary account information from the pre-paid card."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "The present invention addresses one or more of the above needs by providing improved tamper evident packaging and associated methods, in which a package encloses an object in a manner in which the object cannot be removed without substantially irreversibly disrupting an indicator of tampering. For example, the packaging may be formed by a method for forming a tamper evident packaging comprising providing one or more panel structures and one or more stretch film layers. The packaging may be formed by a multi-layer patterned structure.

"The present teachings contemplate a method including providing a first panel having an opening therein, the panel including a first surface and a second surface and locating a first stretch film layer onto the first surface of the first panel so that at least a portion of the first stretch film layer lies in direct planar contact with the first surface and at least a portion of the first stretch film layer covers the opening. The method may further include locating an item within the opening and onto the first stretch film layer so that at least a portion of the item lies in direct planar contact with the first stretch film layer. The method may then include locating a second stretch film layer onto the item so that at least a portion of the second stretch film layer lies in direct planar contact with the item and at least a portion of the second stretch film layer lies in direct planar contact with the first stretch film layer. A heat source may then be applied to the packaging to shrink and seal the first and second stretch film layers about the item.

"The teachings herein further provide for a method including providing a first panel having an opening therein, with the opening optionally extending onto at least a second panel, these panels including a first surface and a second surface, and locating at least a portion of a first stretch film layer onto the first surface of at least one panel so that at least a portion of the first stretch film layer lies in direct planar contact with the first surface and at least a portion of the first stretch film layer covers the opening. The first stretch film layer can also extend onto at least a second panel. Additional stretch film layers may also be used for each panel. The method may further include locating an item within the opening and onto the first stretch film layer so that at least a portion of the item lies in direct planar contact with the first stretch film layer and locating a second stretch film layer or the portion of the first stretch film layer extending onto the second panel onto the item so that the portion of the second stretch film layer or first stretch film layer extending onto the second panel lies in direct planar contact with the item. A heat source may then be applied to the packaging to shrink and seal the stretch film layers about the item.

"The method for forming the packaging may include applying an adhesive layer located between one or more panels and the first or second stretch film layer. An opening may be formed in the second panel so that the item can be viewed within the packaging. After heating, the first and second stretch film layers may not extend beyond any edge of the first and second panel. The item may be located so that it cannot be removed from an assembled packaging without rupturing a surface of the first or second stretch film layer. A third panel may be formed in the packaging. A magnetic stripe may be applied onto the second surface of the first panel. A magnetic stripe may be applied onto the second surface of the second panel. A magnetic stripe may be applied onto the second surface of the third panel.

"The teachings herein further contemplate a packaging comprising a first panel having an opening therein, the panel including a first surface and an opposing second surface. The packaging further includes a first stretch film layer applied onto the first surface of the first panel so that at least a portion of the first stretch film layer lies in direct planar contact with the first surface and at least a portion of the first stretch film layer covers the opening. The packaging may also include an item located within the opening and onto the first stretch film layer so that at least a portion of the item lies in direct planar contact with the first stretch film layer. A second stretch film layer may be applied onto the item so that at least a portion of the second stretch film layer lies in direct planar contact with the item and at least a portion of the second stretch film layer lies in direct planar contact with the first stretch film layer. A second panel may be located onto the second stretch film layer such that the second panel is in direct opposing relationship with the first panel but is not in direct contact with the first panel.

"The teachings herein also contemplate a method for forming a tamper evident packaging comprising die-cutting a first inner layer of a first panel of a packaging, wherein a second outer layer of the first panel remains uncut and die-cutting a first inner layer of a second panel of a packaging, wherein a second outer layer of the second panel remains uncut. An item may be located onto one of the first panel or second panel. The first panel and second panel may be adhered to one another so that the item is located in between the first panel and second panel. The die-cutting of the first inner layers may form a plurality of patterned cuts into the first inner layers. The die-cutting of the first inner layers may form a plurality of patterned cuts that extend to one or more terminal edges of the first layers. The first panel and second panel may be adhered to one another by an adhesive located along one or more terminal edges of the first panel, the second panel, or both. Upon opening an adhered packaging, an imprint of the die-cutting of the first inner layers may be visible upon one or more of the second outer layer.

"Among the various features of the teachings herein are that the layered structure may include at least two panels and at least one stretch film layer bonded to retain an item therein. An opening (e.g., a cut-out window) may be formed in one or more of the panels and the opening may be covered by the one or more stretch film layers.

"Advantageously, the packaging may be formed as a layered structure having one or more panel layers, one or more stretch film layers and one or more adhesive layers. The adhesion layer may be located between the one or more stretch film layers and one or more of the panels. The openings and the stretch film layer located across the openings may be free of any adhesive layer.

"Also contemplated within the scope of the teachings herein is a heating step that shrinks and seals the one or more stretch film layers. Thereafter, any removal of the item from the packaging will require rupture of one or more of the stretch film layers

"Among the various features of the teachings herein are that the layered structure may include at least two panels and each panel may be die-cut so that the panel is only partially cut (e.g., at least 30%, at least 40%, at least 50% or at least 60% through the panel) so that the cuts do not extend through to any external surface of each panel. The cuts extend deep enough into the panel so that the cuts are visible through the external surface of each panel once a previously sealed packaging has been opened.

"Advantageously, the packaging may be formed as a layered structure having one or more panel layers, each panel layer including an inner layer having a die-cut pattern formed thereon and an outer layer that lies in direct planar contact with the inner layer but is substantially free of any cuts.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"FIG. 1 is a top down schematic view of an illustrative packaging in accordance with the present teachings.

"FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an illustrative packaging in accordance with the present teachings.

"FIG. 3 is a top down schematic view of an illustrative packaging in accordance with the present teachings.

"FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an illustrative packaging in accordance with the present teachings.

"FIG. 5 is a top down view of four illustrative packagings in accordance with the present teachings."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: Glinert, Kenneth. Tamper Evident Packaging. U.S. Patent Application Serial Number 792685, filed March 11, 2013, and posted October 3, 2013. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=6557&p=132&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20130926.PD.&OS=PD/20130926&RS=PD/20130926

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