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THE RIGHT MATCH; GOT A LITE, WHICH KEEPS LIGHTERS OUT OF CHILDREN'S HANDS, LANDS A PATENT AND NEGOTIATES A LICENSING AGREEMENT WITH MANUFACTURER.

Series: FROM IDEA TO MARKET Sun Sentinel; Fort Lauderdale; Nov 10, 1998; MARCIA HEROUX POUNDS Business Writer;

Abstract:
The former drummer, manager for the Buddy Rich band and salesman has been in two car accidents that have left him permanently disabled. [Joey] DeNoia has had one spinal operation and has two more to go.

But don't count him out, DeNoia says. He is on a mission. The Pompano Beach resident has invented a locked lighter that can be attached to a user's belt or put out of reach of children. Called Got A Lite, the product is intended to reduce the number of lost lighters, which can get into the hands of children who can harm themselves or set homes on fire.

Even with the rising cost of cigarettes and health warnings about smoking, some people are not going to stop, said DeNoia, who still smokes himself. And lighters get too easily into the hands of children, he said.

Full Text:
Copyright Sun-Sentinel Co. Nov 10, 1998

Third in a series Informational boxes at end of text.

Joey DeNoia doesn't let much stop him or get him down.

The former drummer, manager for the Buddy Rich band and salesman has been in two car accidents that have left him permanently disabled. DeNoia has had one spinal operation and has two more to go.

But don't count him out, DeNoia says. He is on a mission. The Pompano Beach resident has invented a locked lighter that can be attached to a user's belt or put out of reach of children. Called Got A Lite, the product is intended to reduce the number of lost lighters, which can get into the hands of children who can harm themselves or set homes on fire.

He received his patent for the invention in August and is in negotiations for a licensing agreement with a manufacturer.

Even with the rising cost of cigarettes and health warnings about smoking, some people are not going to stop, said DeNoia, who still smokes himself. And lighters get too easily into the hands of children, he said.

"If it's illegal for a 16-year-old to buy a cigarette, why is it perfectly legal for a 5-year-old to buy a lighter?" DeNoia said.

Tears well in his eyes as he shows a videotape of a recent fire in South Florida that claimed the lives of children who had been playing with a lighter. He shows a newspaper article about a 4-year-old boy in Broward County who set fire to his baby sister's playpen with a lighter.

Is this simply emotional wrenching to sell a product? Those who have known him over the years and work with him, say: No, DeNoia's passion for his product goes beyond making sales. At the same time, the new inventor has been smart to surround himself with experienced patent and invention experts.

DeNoia hired Pam Riddle, chief executive of Innovative Product Technologies in Gainesville, to do market research of smokers or people in smokers' families in target cities in Florida: 74 percent said they would buy his product; 87 percent said the smoker in the home used lighters; 99 percent said they tended to lose their lighters one or more times per day.

Producing a prototype and getting a patent has been an enormous financial burden for DeNoia, who now sells real estate from his home, which he also is trying to unload to keep his personal finances afloat.

But DeNoia's strength as an inventor may be his selling ability. David Ryan, his sales trainer at former employer Vacation Break USA, is now an investor in DeNoia's Got A Lite venture.

"He was one of the top sales people at Vacation Break. We had given him a number of awards and had promoted him into management," Ryan said.

Ryan said he signed on to DeNoia's project because of his enthusiasm for it and the purpose behind it. "I thought it would be a great idea. I'm a smoker and I have a lot of kids in the family -- nephews and nieces."

DeNoia came up with the idea for the lighter when he was with the Buddy Rich band. He had one tied to his wrist so he could have it ready for Rich when he got off stage. Then at Vacation Break USA, a time-share company in Fort Lauderdale, he tied one to a wall and "everyone used it," DeNoia said.

Guitarist-vocalist Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad rock band said he has known DeNoia for years and is supporting his venture any way he can. "I think it's a great idea, so simple. It's one of those things, 'Why didn't I think of that?'"

Farner said he has four young sons and when he was growing up his brother set fire to the couch with a lighter. "Any smoking} parent could relate to some incident," he said.

DeNoia's partner in the business is Michael Anthony, a Coral Springs engineer and inventor who said he has 25 patents. The most well-known of those is the self-cooling beverage container, which has patents in several countries, he said.

"There's a higher level to the project, a human aspect to the project in saving lives," Anthony said. "Insurance companies would love this product. There are many homes lost due to cigarette fires and children who are burned."

DeNoia also has enlisted the help of Michael Cerisano, a Boca Raton strategic and financial consultant who usually works with companies in later stages of development. He said the challenges with Got A Lite will be getting the product off the ground and into the right marketing channels.

"I think it's very commercially viable, at the proper price point. What's really interesting is this product might be very interesting to tobacco companies and lighter companies," Cerisano said.

The inventor and his ability to champion a product are as important as the invention itself.

Riddle said every one of the successful inventors she has worked with has suffered in some way; struggles are part of being an inventor.

Despite his many obstacles, she said of DeNoia: "I'm betting on his sales ability, his tenacity and his} selling skills."

This week Sunday: Invention may be the spirit of America, but the American patent system presents serious challenges to any inventor.

TODAY: What you need to know about patents and trademarks, how to license your product, and price and market your invention.

Tuesday: A former band manager is on the verge of success with a simple locking cigarette lighter.

Wednesday: A Boca Raton pharmaceutical saleswoman hopes she can make it big with a versatile dining chair cover.

Thursday: A couple moves their company from Connecticut to Florida to develop a bionic dolphin.

Friday: Two brothers and a father-son inventing team come together to sell a digital sound-enhancing system for movies, Internet and CDs.

How to apply Here are steps and options in applying for a patent with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: Disclosure: Good for two years; this establishes a time precedent for the invention with the Patent Office. Provisional patent: Gets an inventor's idea on record at the patent office and gives him one year to file his patent application. Patent pending: Application is made for a patent; while it is being reviewed no public information is available on the invention. Patent: Protects the embodiment of an idea. A patent gives the holder the right to stop others from manufacturing, using or selling the product for the 20-year life of the patent, as long as fees are paid by the inventor. SOURCES: U.S. Patent & Trademark Office; Pam Riddle, Innovative Product Technologies. Internet Edition Have any concerns with patents and trademarks? Go to www.sun-sentinel.com/money and share your opinions with other readers. To ask questions and learn more about the patent process, join Business Writer Marcia Heroux Pounds in an AOL chat on Monday at 8 p.m. AOL Keyword: Sofla Chat

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