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Title:
FLAMELESS LIGHTER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2007/022057
Kind Code:
A3
Abstract:
A lighter includes (1) a housing; (2) a rechargeable electric power source contained in the housing; (3) a heating element operatively connected to the power source; (4) an actuator for selectively connecting the heating element to the power source resulting in electricity being delivered to the heating element to cause heating thereof; and (5) a first feature for indicating a charge level of the power source and for indicating when the heating element is at an optimal temperature for igniting an object. The first feature can also indicate the charge level when the device is being charged.

Inventors:
FISHER, Gary (Flat 10 E, Dynasty Heights2 Yin Ping Road,Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong, Kong, CN)
NEWCOMB, Fernando, Jose (9C Marco Polo Mansion, 10 Cleveland StreetCauseway Bay, Hong Kong, Kong, CN)
Application Number:
US2006/031586
Publication Date:
December 06, 2007
Filing Date:
August 14, 2006
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ONEWORLD ENTERPRISES LIMITED (1601 Enterprise Square Two, 3 Sheung Yuet RoadKowloon Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, Kong, CN)
FISHER, Gary (Flat 10 E, Dynasty Heights2 Yin Ping Road,Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong, Kong, CN)
NEWCOMB, Fernando, Jose (9C Marco Polo Mansion, 10 Cleveland StreetCauseway Bay, Hong Kong, Kong, CN)
International Classes:
F23Q7/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCHECHTER, Peter, C. (Darby & Darby P.C, P.O. Box 5257New York, NY, 10150-5257, US)
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Claims:

What is claimed is:

1. A lighter comprising: a housing; a rechargeable battery contained in the housing; a heating element operatively connected to the battery; and an actuator that selectively connects the heating element to the battery resulting in electric current being delivered to the heating element to cause heating thereof.

2. A lighter comprising: a housing; a rechargeable electric power source contained in the housing; a heating element operatively connected to the power source; an actuator that selectively connects the heating element to the power source resulting in electric current being delivered to the heating element to cause heating thereof; and an indicator that selectively indicates a charge level of the power source and selectively indicates when the heating element is at an optimal temperature for igniting an object.

3. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the rechargeable power source comprises a rechargeable battery.

4. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the housing comprises a hollow structure that includes a first compartment for the rechargeable electric power source and a second compartment that contains the heating element.

5. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the heating element is recessed relative to a wall of the housing such that an exposed portion of the heating element is recessed relative to the wall.

6. The lighter of claim 5, wherein the heating element is surrounded by insulation so as to thermally insulate the heating element and other portions of the housing.

7. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the heating element has an auto shut-off feature such that after actuating the actuator and after the heating element reaches its optimal temperature, the heating element automatically shuts off by preventing flow of the electric current to the heating element, thereby resulting in cooling of the heating element.

8. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the indicator comprises a power level indicator in the form of a plurality of LEDs and a controller, wherein the number of LEDs that are illuminated corresponds to a level of charge left in the power source after the heating element is fully energized, the controller being configured such that the more LEDs that are illuminated represents a greater charge left in the power source.

9. The lighter of claim 8, wherein the plurality of LEDs comprises more than 4 LEDs with each LED representing that 1/x charge remains in the power source with x being the number of LEDs.

10. The lighter of claim 8, wherein after the heating element shuts off and the lighter is in a power down mode, one or more LEDs blink simultaneously to indicate a relative strength of the power source, wherein a greater number of LEDs that blink indicate a greater stored charge of the power source.

11. The lighter of claim 2, further including: one or more female sockets that are operatively coupled to the power source, with each socket being configured to receive a charging element that is operatively connected to a source of electricity for recharging of the power source.

12. The lighter of claim 11, wherein the one or more female sockets are disposed along one wall of the housing and are accessible by a user, with each female socket being associated with a different charging element for recharging of the power source.

13. The lighter of claim 12, wherein the charging element comprises a cellular phone charger.

14. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the indicator comprises a plurality of LEDs that illuminate successively to indicate an increasing temperature of the heating element.

15. The lighter of claim 14, wherein illumination of all of the LEDs indicates that the heating element is at the optimal temperature and is fully energized.

16. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the heating element comprises one of a wire coil and a ceramic heating element.

17. The lighter of claim 2, further including: one or more retractable or insertable jacks that are each operatively connected to the power source to permit the lighter to act as an auxiliary power source when an external object is connected to the jack and electricity is drawn from the power source of the lighter for recharging of the external object.

18. The lighter of claim 17, wherein each retractable jack is a double male jack that includes a first connector and optionally a power cord connected to the power source, the external object having a second connector that is complementary to the first connector to permit electric current to be drawn from the power source to the external device.

19. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the indicator comprises an LCD display.

20. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the actuator includes a first power button and a second safety button, the actuator selectively connecting the heating element to the power

source when the second button is pressed within a predetermined time period after the first button has been pressed.

21. The lighter of claim 2, wherein the actuator includes a first power button having a first value and a second safety button and a second value, the actuator selectively connecting the heating element to the power source when a security code represented by a combination of first and second values is entered using the first and second buttons.

22. The lighter of claim 2, wherein an outer shell of the housing includes conductive elements connected to the power source and adapted to be inserted into an external power source to electrically connected the external power source to the rechargeable power source for recharging thereof.

23. A flameless lighter for igniting an object comprising: a housing; a rechargeable power source contained in a first compartment in the housing; a heating element operatively connected to the power source and contained in a second compartment in the housing that is insulated from the first compartment, the heating element having an exposed surface that is accessible along a surface of the housing to permit contact between the object and heating element for combustion thereof;

an actuator that selectively connects the heating element to the power source resulting in electric current being delivered to the heating element to cause heating thereof; a charging element that is part of the housing and is operatively connected to the power source and is accessible for insertion into a complementary charging base for releasably locking the housing to the charging base; and a release mechanism including a button that is part of the housing for disengaging the housing from the charging base; wherein activation of the actuator causes electricity to be delivered to the heating element until the heating element is fully energized at which time an auto shut-off feature of the heating element causes an interruption in the electricity being delivered to the heating element, thereby resulting in a cooling of the heating element.

24. The lighter of claim 23, further including: a visual indicator for indicating a current charge level of the power source after ignition of the heating element and for indicating when the heating element is fully energized, wherein a display of the current charge level is visually different from a display of when the heating element is fully energized.

25. The lighter of claim 24, wherein the heating element is exposed by an opening formed in a side wall of the housing and the visual indicator is formed in a surface that is angled relative to the side wall.

Description:

FLAMELESS LIGHTER

Cross-Reference to Related Application

The present application claims the benefit of U.S. patent application Serial No. 60/709,084, filed August 16, 2005, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

Technical Field

The present invention relates to a lighter apparatus and, in particular, to a flameless lighter that includes a number of safety improvements and features that expand the scope of use of the lighter.

Description of Related Art

Lighters and the like are used in a number of different applications that require an object to be ignited due to placement of the object in close proximity or in contact with the lighting means of the lighter. One of the most prevalent and common applications is the lighting of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, etc. As is well known, a lighter is most often used to ignite a tip of the tobacco product to permit smoking thereof. Other applications where a lighter is used include but are not limited to the lighting of candle, incense, or other combustible fragrant or luminary object.

While lighter devices have been incorporated into the interiors of vehicle and the like, it is preferred that the lighter be constructed so that it has mobility and can be easily taken

by the user from one location to another location as by simply placing the lighter in a pocket, a bag, etc. The most common type of lighter is a hand-held lighter that contains either an ignition element or means that produces a spark and a flammable fluid that is stored proximate to and in selective fluid communication with the ignition element. The operation of the ignition element causes a spark to be generated and the flammable fluid is placed in fluid communication with the spark so as to cause ignition of the flammable fluid, thereby creating a flame that is used by the operator to ignite the desired object.

For example, the lighter can include a roller element that is frictionally moved against a stationary object so as to cause a spark to be generated. The flammable fluid is most often either a flammable liquid that is stored in a compartment that is part of the lighter housing or a flammable gas that is stored in the compartment. In either instance, the exposure of the flammable fluid to the spark causes an explosive reaction to occur, namely combustion of the flammable fluid, thereby forming a flame as a by-product. The flame extends beyond the lighter housing and is used by the operator to ignite the object.

One of the disadvantages to using a conventional lighter constructed in the manner described above is that the ignition means of the lighter includes a flammable/explosive fluid, such as a gas, and therefore, the explosive nature of the fluid requires a high level of care in both the use, production, shipping, warehouse and sale of the lighter. In particular, the highly flammable nature of the gas makes the item potentially harmful to individuals, especially children who do not understand the potential dangers associated with a highly flammable material. In addition, the special handling of the flammable gas that is required during the production of the lighter increases the costs and complexity of the lighter production.

It is therefore desirable to provide a lighter device that overcomes the disadvantages of the prior art lighter devices and eliminates the need for a flammable fluid and is portable in nature.

Summary

In one embodiment of the present invention, a lighter includes (1) a housing; (2) a rechargeable electric power source contained in the housing; (3) a heating element operatively connected to the power source; (4) an actuator for selectively connecting the heating element to the power source resulting in electricity being delivered to the heating element to cause heating thereof; and (5) a first feature for indicating a charge level of the power source and for indicating when the heating element is at an optimal temperature for igniting an object. The first feature can also indicate the charge level when the device is being charged.

In another embodiment, a flameless lighter for igniting an object includes (1) a housing; (2) a rechargeable battery contained in a first compartment in the housing; (3) a heating element operatively connected to the power source and contained in a second compartment in the housing that is insulated from the first compartment, the heating element having an exposed surface that is accessible yet recessed from one side wall of the housing to permit sufficient proximity between the object and heating element for combustion thereof; (4) an actuator for selectively connecting the heating element to the power source resulting in electricity being delivered to the heating element to cause heating thereof; and (5) wherein activation of the actuator causes electricity to be delivered to the heating element until the heating element reaches an optimal temperature at which time an auto shut-off feature of the heating element

causes an interruption in the electricity being delivered to the heating element, thereby resulting in a cooling of the heating element.

Additional functional features, such as a super bright LED flashlight, and recessed lighting area can be incorporated into the design.

Brief Description of Drawings

The foregoing and other features of one embodiment of the present invention will be more readily apparent from the following detailed description and drawings of illustrative embodiments of the invention wherein like reference numbers refer to similar elements throughout the several views and in which:

Fig. l is a front and side perspective view of a lighter according to one embodiment of the present invention;

Fig. 2 is a rear and side perspective view of the lighter of Fig. 1;

Fig. 3 is a bottom plan view of the lighter;

Fig. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the lighter of Fig. 1;

Fig. 5 is a schematic for an exemplary electronic circuit used in the lighter of Fig.

l;

Fig. 6 is an exploded perspective view of a lighter according to a second embodiment with a charging base;

Fig. 7 is a side view, in partial cross-section, of the lighter of Fig. 6;

Fig. 8 is an exploded perspective view of a lighter according to a third embodiment with a charging base in a first position; and

Fig. 9 is a perspective view of the lighter engaged with the charging base and positioned in a second position.

Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments

A lighter device 100 according to one exemplary embodiment is illustrated in Figs. 1-5. The lighter device 100 is constructed and configured to be portable in nature in that it can easily be placed into a pocket, a bag, etc., of an operator. The lighter device 100 includes a housing 110 that contains the various electronic and mechanical components of the present invention and can be formed of one or more parts that are coupled to one another. The housing 110 can be formed of any number of different materials, such as a metal or plastic or a combination thereof; however, the housing 110 is typically formed of a plastic material.

The housing 110 can have any number of different shapes and can include aesthetically pleasing features. The illustrated housing 110 is generally square or rectangular in shape and is defined by a front wall or face 112; an opposing rear wall or face 114; a first side wall 116 that extends between the front and rear walls 112, 114; an opposing second side wall 118 that extends between the front and rear walls 112, 114, a top wall or face 120; and an opposing bottom wall or face 122. Preferably, the front and rear walls 112, 114 are substantially smooth since these are the surfaces that are most often grasped by the operator. In contrast, the first and second side walls 116, 118 include the interactive and display components of the lighter 100, such as buttons and indicators as described below. The housing 110 is a hollow part in that the walls 112, 114, 116, 118, 120, 122 define an interior (inner) compartment 124 that contains the inner working components of the lighter 100.

Figs. 4 and 5 illustrate the internal working components of the lighter 100. In particular, the lighter 100 includes a power source 130 and a heating element 140 that is operatively connected to the power source 130, as well as an actuator 150, such as an on-off button or the like, for selectively activating the power source 130 for powering the heating element 140.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, the power source 130 is a battery power source and more particularly, the power source 130 is a rechargeable battery pack or a rechargeable capacitor that is securely held within the housing 110. Typically, the power source 130 will be the largest inner component of the lighter 100 and therefore, the power source 130 occupies a significant area of the inner compartment 124. The power source 130 can be any number of different types of rechargeable batteries, such as a lithium ion battery or a nickel metal hydride battery, etc.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, the heating element 140 is of a flameless type as opposed to conventional lighters where a small explosion occurs and a flame is generated for controlled ignition of an object. The heating element 140 is constructed so that it is powered by the power source 130. In other words, operation of the power source 130 causes an electric current to be delivered to the heating element 140 which in turn heats up to an elevated temperature which is sufficient to ignite an object that is placed in contact thereof.

The heating element 140 is in the form of a small module that has a first end 142 and an opposing second end 144, with the first end 142 being the end that is accessible along the front wall 112. The first end 142 is thus constructed so that the object can be placed in sufficient proximity therewith and typically is in the form of an exposed heating surface 145 along the

front wall 112. The second end 144 of the heating element 140 is connected to the power source 130 and in particular, the second end 144 is operatively connected to the power source 130 via an electrical conduit 147, such as a power cord, that is connected to a PCB 149.

The heating element 140 is preferably contained in one section (compartment) of the housing 110 that opens out to the front wall 112. Any number of different heating elements 140 can be used so long as the heating element 140 operates in a flameless manner and in particular, the heating element 140 can be either in the form of a wire coil that heats up when an electric current is passed therethrough, or the heating element 140 can be in the form of a ceramic element that heats up when an electric current is passed therethrough. One exemplary heating element 140 is a heating element that is formed of Nichrome and preferably, a reflector (not shown) is disposed behind the heating element 140 to focus the heat. The length of the heating filament 140 and the current supplied to it is tuned in order to provide the best battery life/number of lights ratio. Additionally, the heating element 140 can be supplied with a grill (not shown) to hold the object, such as a cigarette tip, fractionally away from the heating filament 140 in order to avoid the object (e.g., tobacco) from getting stuck and continuing to burn and smoke after the object (cigarette) is lit.

Preferably, the heating element 140 can be isolated from the other parts of the inner compartment 124 by using a barrier or the like. For example, an insulator 190, such as insulation, can surround the heating element 140 so as to separate the heating element 140 from the rest of the working components, including the power source 130. The insulator 190 protects the rest of the lighter 100 from the heat generated by the actuation of the heating element 140.

The power source 130 can be of a rechargeable type and a charger input module 160 is provided and disposed within the interior compartment proximate the bottom wall 122.

As shown in the Figures, the charger input module 160 preferably is at least partially accessible along the bottom wall 122 of the lighter to permit the operator to operatively connect an external member to the charger input module 160 to enable recharging of the power source 130. For example, the charger input module 160 can include one or more male or female ports or sockets 170 which are complementary to and configured to mate with a charging device 180 to permit charging of the power source 130. Preferably, there is a plurality of mating features 170 to permit any number of different charging devices to be connected to the lighter 100.

For example, in the illustrated embodiment of Fig. 3, the input module 160 includes a plurality of female sockets 170 that enable recharging with different charging devices that each has a complementary male pin that plugs into one female socket 170 at one end and into a electric outlet at the other end to supply electricity to the power source 130 for recharging thereof. Advantageously, the charging devices can be some of the most popular cellular phone chargers, such as chargers that are commercially available from Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG Electronics, SonyEricsson, etc. In this way, the operator of the lighter can simply use the cellular phone charger that he or she likely has since the inclusion of five female sockets 170 from the above companies presently covers approximately 80% of the cellular phone market. In other words, to charge the power source 130, the operator simply gets his or her cellular phone charging device and plugs it into the complementary female socket 170. The other end of the charger is either inserted into a conventional household electric outlet or into a power source outlet that is provided in some vehicles or other equipment, etc. It will be appreciated that as market trends change in the cellular phone industry, the types of sockets 170 can be changed by simply adding a new socket 170 to the module 160,

The lighter 100 can include a number of features that provide a number of advancements over prior art lighters. In particular, the lighter 100 can include a level indicator, generally indicated at 180, that performs a number of functions including visually indicating the time when the object is to be lighted, the battery level after lighting and the charge level while charging the battery. In the illustrated embodiment, the level indicator 180 is in the form of a plurality of visual indicators 182. More specifically, the level indicators 182 can be a plurality of LEDs that are provided along one of the walls of the housing 110 and in the illustrated embodiment, the LEDs 182 are formed along the front wall 112 below the heating element 140. The operation of the LEDs 182 is described below in detail. It will also be appreciated that instead of using an LED based display, such as the LEDs 182, the indicator can be in the form of an LCD display for any of the embodiments disclosed herein.

In the illustrated embodiment, the actuator 150 includes a safety feature and is formed of a first power button 152 and an adjacent second power button 154. Both of the buttons 152, 154 are formed along the front wall 112 between the recessed heating element 140 and the LEDs 182. The first power button 152, which can be slightly smaller in size than the second power button 154, acts as a safety switch. Pressing the first power button 152 causes the lowest indicator LED 182 to illuminate, thereby indicating that the device 100 is now in an active "awake" mode and ready to be activated. If the second power button 154 is then pressed within a predetermined time period, e.g., 5 seconds, of pressing the first power button 152, then the heating filament 140 is heated. If the second power button 154 is not pressed within this predetermined time period, then the device 100 shuts off and goes back to a "sleep" mode.

In yet another embodiment, the safety mode is in the form of a lock code that is built into and stored in the master controller (PCB) and can be preferably changed. When the

device includes a safety lock code, the user must press the right combination of buttons 152, 154 in order for the device 100 to operate. For example, button 152 can be assigned the value of "1" and button 154 can be assigned the value of "2" and thus any number of different codes can be generated using a combination of these values, such as 1-1-1 or 1-2-1 or 2-2-1 or 2-2-2 or 1-2-2, etc. In order for the device 100 to operate, the user must enter the right code by pressing the right combination of buttons 152, 154. The device 100 can initially come with a default setting, such as 1-1-1, and then the user can set his or her own personal use code by instructive the PCB that the code is to be changed, e.g., by holding both buttons done until an audio tone is hear or a visual indicator is seen and then entering the new code using the buttons 152, 154. The use of a security safety code prevents a child or some other unauthorized person from pressing the two buttons 152, 154 in the correct order to cause ignition of the heating element.

The number of LEDs 182 that are illuminated directly indicates to the operator the relative strength of the heating element 140 and in particular, the LEDs 182 indicate when the heating element 140 is fully energized, as well as when the device 100 is ready to be used (e.g., when the device 100 is at full heat). In the illustrated embodiment, there are five (5) LEDs 182 that indicate the relative status of the heating element 140 and the time at which the object can be lighted by being placed into contact with the heating element 140 and the charge of the battery. The more LEDs 182 that are illuminated indicates that the heating element 140 is at a higher temperature and when all of the LEDs 182 are illuminated, the heating element 140 is ready for use (fully energized) and the object is then placed into contact with the heating element 140 for ignition thereof.

In other words, when the first and second buttons 152, 154 are pressed in succession and within the predetermined time period, the lighter 100 will begin to operate in

start-up (active) mode in that the power source 130 supplies electricity to the heating element 140 causing heating thereof. As the heating element 140 is being heated, the level indicators 182 sequentially light up one after the other from bottom to top to indicate the heating element is heating and is closer to being of sufficient temperature to be used. Thus, in the instance, when there are five LEDs 182, the LEDs light one at a time until all five LEDs 182 are illuminated, thus indicating that the heating element 140 is at full temperature and is ready for use. This entire process only takes a few seconds. In other words, full temperature is reached and all the LEDs 182 are illuminated in about 2 seconds or so.

Once the heating element 140 reaches full temperature (full power), the device 100 continues to heat the heating element (filament) 140 until either the user lets go of the second power button 154 or once a predetermined time period, such as 10 seconds, is up, whichever comes first. In this manner, the device 100 has an auto safety feature in that the lighter 100 will automatically shut off even if the second power button 154 is held down once it goes through its operating cycle. At this point the heating element 140 begins to power down and cool. Thus, when all five LEDs 182 are lit, the heating element 140 is at its highest temperature and after reaching this temperature, power (electric current) to the heating element 140 is stopped and the heating element 140 begins to cool off.

As the heating element 140 begins to cool, the controller 149, such as a CPLVPCB, of the lighter 100 can be configured so that the LEDs 182 sequentially shut off to show the cooling of the heating element 140. In other words, the LEDs 182 count down from top to bottom to show that the heating element 140 is cooling off and once all of the LEDs 182 are dark and not illuminated, the user may place the lighter 100 back into a storage location, such as a pocket or purse or bag.

The power level indicator 180 also serves another purpose in that it readily permits the user to judge and ascertain the charge strength of the power source 130, e.g., the relative strength of the battery charge. The controller of the lighter 100 is preferably configured such that when the device 100 is in cool-down mode after current is no longer being delivered to the heating element 140, the 5 LEDs will flash for a predetermined time period, such as 5 seconds, to indicate how much charge is left in the battery 130. Depending upon how many LEDs 182 blink, the user can judge the remaining strength of the power source 130. For example, if three out of five LEDs 182 blink, then this indicates that approximately 60% of the charge is left in the power source 130 (battery). The greater number of LEDs 182 that blink indicates a greater charge left in the power source 130 and when only one LED 182 blinks, the operator should seek and take the necessary action to charge the power source 130. Of course and as previously mentioned, the operator can simply charge the lighter 100 using conventional charging means, such as cellular phone chargers, and therefore, does not have to wait for the power source 130 to almost have no charge before initiating the charging process.

It will also be understood that the lighter 100 can be configured so that an additional visual and/or audio indicator is provided for alerting the user that the heating element 140 has reached its full operating temperature and the object should be placed in contact therewith for ignition thereof. For example, the controller of the lighter 100 can be configured so that once all the LEDs 182 are illuminated, after turning on sequentially, the LEDs 182 can then rapidly blink one or more times to indicate that the heating element 140 has reached its full operating temperature. In another embodiment, an audio alert, such as one or more beeps, can be provided to alert the user to the fact that the heating element 140 has reached its full temperature.

The audio alert can be used in combination with the visual alert that is provided by the LEDs 182.

The LEDs 182 serve another purpose in that they indicate the charge level as the device 100 is being charged using conventional means, such as those described above. For example, when the device 100 is plugged into a cellular phone charger, the LEDs 182 flash to indicate the charge level. Similar to the above discussion, if three LEDs 182 flash, the battery 130 has been charged to approximately 60% of full power. When the device 100 is fully charged, all five LEDs 182 are illuminated until the device 100 is disconnected from the charger.

In addition and as is visible in the Figures, the heating element 140 is recessed in that the first end 142 of the heating element 140 is recessed relative to the outer surface of the front wall 112. This provides a safety advantage since the heating element 140 is not a protruding element, as is the case with a flame that can be accidentally touched by the user, thereby causing potential injury and harm. If the user accidentally touches a surface, including human skin, etc., in a location near the heating element 140, the shell of the housing 110 around the second end 144 of the heating element 140 should contact the user's skin as opposed to the skin the user. In this way, the hot surface of the heating element 140 is kept away from the user's skin, etc. In addition, the recessed nature of the heating element 140 also prevents this element from accidentally touching another object, such as clothing, fabric, etc., which could accidentally lead to a fire being caused, etc.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, the lighter 100 can have one or more retractable jacks that can be part of the input module 160 disposed along the bottom wall 122. In contrast to the female sockets 170 of the module 160 shown in Figs. 3-4, the retractable jacks are used so that the unit (lighter 100) can be used to recharge cellular phones

and other electronic equipment via the internal power source 130. In other words, the power source 130 is an auxiliary power source for the external device, such as a cellular phone, etc. In this mode, the power source 130 of the lighter 100 is merely providing a backup emergency charging source and is not intended to supplement the normal charging procedures that are recommended for charging the external devices since the power source 130 only has a limited charge and it not intended to be provide sustained charging to the external device for hours, etc.

In the case when the lighter 100 includes only one retractable male jack, the lighter 100 is marketed and associated with one particular brand of external device, e.g., a Nokia cellular phone, since the male jack is provided to mate with a complementary and specific female socket that is part of the external device. A consumer can therefore purchase the lighter 100 based on the type of cellular phone that he or she carries and uses since the male jack will be specific to such cellular phone. The male jack can be operatively provided in a specific compartment of the housing 110 and is operatively coupled to the power source 130 yet is retractable in that the user can simply pull on the male jack (e.g., provided at end of a power cord, etc.) which causes the power cord and the male jack to extend from the housing 110 to permit it to be mated with the external device. When the user wants to retract the male jack, the user simply detaches the male jack from the female socket of the external unit and then feeds the power cord back through an opening formed in the housing 110 and into the inner compartment in the housing 110 that stores the retracted cord. The opening in the housing 110 that receives the cord is sized so that the male jack has greater dimensions and therefore can not fit through this opening. In this way, once the male jack contacts the housing 110, the power cord is fully retracted into the inner compartment. In order to permit the user to grasp and pull the male jack

from the housing 110, the male jack likely protrudes slightly from the outer surface of the housing 110.

In addition, it will be appreciated that a male jack can be formed by providing and inserting a male/male connector into a female socket 170. The double male connector (male/male) is thus inserted at one end into the female socket 170, while the other end is inserted into a female receptor of a charging device.

In another embodiment, a plurality of retractable male jacks is provided and offers a "universal" auxiliary power source. In this embodiment, the housing 110 is slightly enlarged to make room for a storage compartment for the power cords that are associated with the male jacks when the male jacks are separate jacks that are separately stored in the housing 110. Alternatively, the male jacks can be provided as loose accessories from which the user can select the appropriate male jack and store it inside a compartment inside the lighter 100. The user would thus select the appropriate male jack and then plug it or otherwise place it on the end of the power cord that leads to the power source 130. In this manner, the end of the power cord has a connector or the like which is complementary to the male jack such that the male jack is inserted into the connector portion of the power cord. If the user desires to connect the power source 130 to another external device, the user simply changes the male jack. When it is desirable to store the male jacks in the housing 110 itself, the housing 110 can be constructed to include an openable/closeable door or the like which leads to a small interior compartment that stores the male jacks. This design provides a more universal configuration since it permits the same lighter 100 to be used with a number of different external devices as an auxiliary charger.

In yet another aspect, the lighter 100 can include an illumination means 200 which provides and emits a beam of light from the housing 110. In particular, an LED type

flashlight or the like 200 can be provided along one of the walls of the lighter 100. In the illustrated embodiment, the LED flashlight 200 is provided along the rear wall 114 opposite the front wall 112 that contains the LEDs 182. The LED flashlight 200 is in the form of an LED (super bright LED) that is operatively coupled, as by a wire, to the power source 130 and can be actuated in any number of traditional ways, such as depressing a dome shaped cover hat overlies the LED bulb. In this manner, the user can simply press a convex dome which causes electrical contacts to close and this results in a circuit being closed and the illumination of the LED. To turn off the LED flashlight 200, the user simply presses the dome shaped cover which causes the electrical contacts to separate and break the circuit, thereby causing the LED 200 to shut off.

It will be understood that any number of other conventional actuators, including an on/off button or switch, such as button 210 illustrated in Figs. 1-4, can be used to turn the LED flashlight 200 on and off. In one embodiment, the button 210 is a digital button spaced from the LED 200 and therefore, the user simply slightly touches the button 210 to cause the LED 200 to illuminate and stay illuminated until the user again touches the button 210 to cause the LED 200 to shut off.

In yet another alternative embodiment, the LED light 200 or even the button 210 can signal that the heating element 140 is at full temperature as opposed to indicating this by means of the LEDs 182. More specifically, after the actuator 150 is activated, as by pressing the buttons 152, 154, and the heating element 140 reaches full temperature, the controller of the lighter 100 sends a signal to the LED light 200 causing it to illuminate. The LED light 200 illuminates for a short period of time to indicate that the heating element 140 is of sufficient temperature for igniting the object. As soon as the heating element 140 is deactivated and begins

to cool and reaches a predetermined temperature, the LED light 200 is shut off and the heating element 140 continues to cool.

As shown in Figs. 1-2, the housing 110 can have a number of air intake features 220 formed in the area of the heating element 140 so as permit air to enter into the recessed area of the heating element 140 to provide a good environment for combustion of the object. It will be appreciated that the air intake elements 220 can be disposed in the same location as the insulator 190 (insulation) to permit any heat passing through the insulator 190 to flow out of the air intake elements 220. In the illustrated embodiment, the housing 110 is slightly flared out to form an arcuate rounded section at the location where the heating element 140 is located so as to accommodate the heating element 140 within the housing 110. In particular, the heating element 140 often has a round structure and therefore, the rounded section of the housing 110 permits reception and is complementary to the heating element 140.

The present invention provides an alternative type of lighter that offers a number of safety improvements and features over the prior art since the present invention has a child proof heating element and does not include dangerous flammable fluids, such as explosive gases and flammable liquids. The lighter 100 is more child safe since it is of a flameless design and does not use a flame to ignite an object. Instead, the flameless heating element is used to ignite an object, e.g., a cigarette, using the electrically powered heating element 140.

It will therefore be appreciated that the housing 110 preferably has an aesthetically pleasing shape that is defined by smooth flowing lines and a shape that easily can be grasped and held by the user.

Fig. 5 illustrates an exemplary circuit diagram for the device 100. It will be appreciated that the circuit is configured to provide for the above functionality and features.

A lighter device 300 according to one exemplary embodiment is illustrated in Figs. 6-7. The lighter device 300 is similar to the lighter device 100 and is constructed and configured to be portable in nature in that it can easily be placed into a pocket, a bag, etc., of an operator. The lighter device 300 includes a housing 310 that contains the various electronic and mechanical components of the present invention and can be formed of one or more parts that are coupled to one another. The housing 310 can be formed of any number of different materials, such as a metal or plastic or a combination thereof; however, the housing 310 is typically formed of a plastic material.

The housing 310 can have any number of different shapes and can include aesthetically pleasing features. The illustrated housing 310 is generally cylindrical or oval in shape and is defined by an upper beveled face 312, an opposite bottom face 314 and a side wall 320 that extends between the faces 312, 314. The side wall 320 is preferably substantially smooth since this is the surface that is most often grasped by the operator during use of the lighter 300. The housing 310 is a hollow part in that the faces 312, 314 and side wall 320 define an interior (inner) compartment that contains the inner working components of the lighter 300.

The internal working components of the lighter 300 are similar to the working components of the lighter 100. In particular, the lighter 300 includes a power source, e.g., similar to power supply 130, and a heating element 330 that is operatively connected to the power source, as well as an actuator 340, such as an on-off button or the like, for selectively activating the power source for powering the heating element 330.

According to the present invention, the power source is a battery power source and more particularly, the power source is a rechargeable battery pack that is securely held within the housing 310. Typically, the power source will be the largest inner component of the

lighter 300 and therefore, the power source occupies a significant area of the inner compartment. The power source can be any number of different types of rechargeable batteries, such as a lithium ion battery or a nickel metal hydride battery, etc.

In accordance with the present invention, the heating element 330 is of a flameless type as opposed to conventional lighters where a small explosion occurs and a flame is generated for controlled ignition of an object. The heating element 330 is constructed so that it is powered by the power source. In other words, operation of the power source causes an electric current to be delivered to the heating element 330 which in turn heats up to an elevated temperature which is sufficient to ignite an object that is placed in contact thereof.

The heating element 330 can be similar to the heating element 140 and can therefore be in the form of a small module that has a first end and an opposing second end, with the first end being the end that is accessible along the side wall 320. The first end is thus constructed so that the object can be placed in sufficient proximity therewith and typically is in the form of an exposed heating surface 332 that is accessible along the side wall 320 by means of an opening 334 formed in the side wall 320. The illustrated opening 334 has and is defined by a smooth beveled edge which assists in locating the user's finger and directing it to the heating surface 332.

The second end of the heating element 330 is connected to the power source and in particular, the second end is operatively connected to the power source via an electrical conduit, such as a power cord.

The heating element 330 is preferably contained in one section (compartment) of the housing 310 that opens out to the side wall 320. Any number of different heating elements 330 can be used so long as the heating element 330 operates in a flameless manner and in

particular, the heating element 330 can be either in the form of a wire coil that heats up when an electric current is passed therethrough, or the heating element 330 can be in the form of a ceramic element that heats up when an electric current is passed therethrough. One exemplary heating element 330 is a heating element that is formed of Nichrome and preferably, a reflector (not shown) is disposed behind the heating element 330 to focus the heat. The length of the heating filament 330 and the current supplied to it is tuned in order to provide the best battery life/number of lights ratio. Additionally, the heating element 330 can be supplied with a grill (not shown) to hold the object, such as a cigarette tip, fractionally away from the heating filament 330 in order to avoid the object (e.g., tobacco) from getting stuck and continuing to burn and smoke after the object (cigarette) is lit.

In the illustrated embodiment, the heating surface 332 has a raised spiral pattern to alert the user to the location of the heating surface 332.

Preferably, the heating element 330 can be isolated from the other parts of the inner compartment by using a barrier or the like. For example, an insulator, such as insulation, can surround the heating element 330 so as to separate the heating element 330 from the rest of the working components, including the power source. The insulator protects the rest of the lighter 300 from the heat generated by the actuation of the heating element 330.

Similar to the earlier embodiment, the lighter 300 includes several other buttons formed on the side wall 320. In particular, the side wall 320 includes the actuator 150 and in the illustrated embodiment, the actuator includes a safety feature and is formed of a first power button 342 and an adjacent second power button 344. Both of the buttons 342, 344 are formed along the side wall 320 and are accessible through openings 346, 348, respectively, defined by beveled edges like the opening 334. The openings 334, 346, 348 and the heating surface 332 and

buttons 342, 344 are axially aligned along the side wall 320 and in the illustrated embodiment, the first power button 342 is located between the recessed heating surface 332 and the second button 344. The first power button 342, which can be the same size or a different size than the second power button 344, acts as a safety switch.

The upper beveled face 312 includes the LEDs 182 that act as a heat/charge indicator as described in detail below. Pressing the first power button 342 causes the lowest indicator LED 182 to illuminate, thereby indicating that the device 300 is now in an active "awake" mode and ready to be activated. If the second power button 344 is then pressed within a predetermined time period, e.g., 5 seconds, of pressing the first power button 342, then the heating filament 330 is heated. If the second power button 344 is not pressed within this predetermined time period, then the device 300 shuts off and goes back to a "sleep" mode.

The number of LEDs 182 that are illuminated directly indicates to the operator the relative strength of the heating element 330 and in particular, the LEDs 182 indicate when the heating element 330 is fully energized, as well as when the device 300 is ready to be used (e.g., when the device 300 is at full heat). In the illustrated embodiment, there are five (5) LEDs 182 that indicate the relative status of the heating element 330 and the time at which the object can be lighted by being placed into contact with the heating element 330 and the charge of the battery. The more LEDs 182 that are illuminated indicates that the heating element 330 is at a higher temperature and when all of the LEDs 182 are illuminated, the heating element 330 is ready for use (fully energized) and the object is then placed into contact with the heating element 330 for ignition thereof.

In other words, when the first and second buttons 342, 344 are pressed in succession and within the predetermined time period, the lighter 300 will begin to operate in

start-up (active) mode in that the power source supplies electricity to the heating element 330 causing heating thereof. As the heating element 330 is being heated, the level indicators 182 sequentially light up one after the other from bottom to top to indicate the heating element is heating and is closer to being of sufficient temperature to be used. Thus, in the instance, when there are five LEDs 182, the LEDs light one at a time until all five LEDs 182 are illuminated, thus indicating that the heating element 330 is at full temperature and is ready for use, This entire process only takes a few seconds. In other words, full temperature is reached and all the LEDs 182 are illuminated in about 2 seconds or so.

Once the heating element 330 reaches full temperature (full power), the device 300 continues to heat the heating element (filament) 330 until either the user lets go of the second power button 344 or once a predetermined time period, such as 10 seconds, is up, whichever comes first. In this manner, the device 300 has an auto safety feature in that the lighter 300 will automatically shut off even if the second power button 344 is held down once it goes through its operating cycle. At this point the heating element 330 begins to power down and cool. Thus, when all five LEDs 182 are lit, the heating element 330 is at its highest temperature and after reaching this temperature, power (electric current) to the heating element 330 is stopped and the heating element 330 begins to cool off.

As the heating element 330 begins to cool, the controller, such as a CPU/PCB, of the lighter 300 can be configured so that the LEDs 182 sequentially shut off to show the cooling of the heating element 330. In other words, the LEDs 182 count down from top to bottom to show that the heating element 330 is cooling off and once all of the LEDs 182 are dark and not illuminated, the user may place the lighter 300 back into a storage location, such as a pocket or purse or bag.

The power level indicator also serves another purpose in that it readily permits the user to judge and ascertain the charge strength of the power source, e.g., the relative strength of the battery charge. The controller of the lighter 300 is preferably configured such that when the device 300 is in cool-down mode after current is no longer being delivered to the heating element 330, the 5 LEDs will flash for a predetermined time period, such as 5 seconds, to indicate how much charge is left in the battery. Depending upon how many LEDs 182 blink, the user can judge the remaining strength of the power source. For example, if three out of five LEDs 182 blink, then this indicates that approximately 60% of the charge is left in the power source (battery). The greater number of LEDs 182 that blink indicates a greater charge left in the power source and when only one LED 182 blinks, the operator should seek and take the necessary action to charge the power source. Of course and as previously mentioned, the operator can simply charge the lighter 300 using conventional charging means, such as cellular phone chargers, and therefore, does not have to wait for the power source to almost have no charge before initiating the charging process.

It will also be understood that the lighter 300 can be configured so that an additional visual and/or audio indicator is provided for alerting the user that the heating element 330 has reached its full operating temperature and the object should be placed in contact therewith for ignition thereof. For example, the controller of the lighter 300 can be configured so that once all the LEDs 182 are illuminated, after turning on sequentially, the LEDs 182 can then rapidly blink one or more times to indicate that the heating element 330 has reached its full operating temperature. In another embodiment, an audio alert, such as one or more beeps, can be provided to alert the user to the fact that the heating element 330 has reached its full temperature.

The audio alert can be used in combination with the visual alert that is provided by the LEDs 182.

The LEDs 182 serve another purpose in that they indicate the charge level as the device 300 is being charged using conventional means, such as those described above, For example, when the device 300 is plugged into a cellular phone charger, the LEDs 182 flash to indicate the charge level. Similar to the above discussion, if three LEDs 182 flash, the battery has been charged to approximately 60% of full power. When the device 300 is fully charged, all five LEDs 182 are illuminated until the device 300 is disconnected from the charger.

In addition and as is visible in the Figures, the heating element 330 is recessed relative to the outer surface of the side wall 320. This provides a safety advantage since the heating element 330 is not a protruding element, as is the case with a flame that can be accidentally touched by the user, thereby causing potential injury and harm. If the user accidentally touches a surface, including human skin, etc., in a location near the heating element 330, the shell of the housing 310 around the recessed heating element 330 should contact the user's skin as opposed to the skin the user. In this way, the hot surface of the heating element 330 is kept away from the user's skin, etc. In addition, the recessed nature of the heating element 330 also prevents this element from accidentally touching another object, such as clothing, fabric, etc., which could accidentally lead to a fire being caused, etc.

The beveled nature of the upper face 312 and the placement of the LEDs 182 thereon provide an effective means for displaying information to the user when the user holds the device 300 in his or her hand.

In yet another aspect, the device 300 includes a charging element 350 that is formed at one end of the device 300 and is configured to be releasably coupled with a charging

base 360 as described below. The charging element 350 is in the form of a conductive contact or the like that is operatively connected to the power source (battery) contained in the housing 310. In the illustrated embodiment, the charging element 350 is formed on an underside of the housing 310 and is made from a conductive material, such as a metal.

The housing 310 includes a release mechanism that includes a release button 370 that is accessible through an opening 372 along the side wall 320. It will be appreciated that any number of mechanical based mechanisms can be used in combination and a part of the release button 360 to cause the release of the charging base 360.

The charging element 350 itself is designed to mate with a charging base 360 which is configured to mate with a power source, such as a lighter element in a vehicle, etc. In particular, the end of the housing 310 that includes the charging element 350 is designed to be received in a cavity 361 of the charging base 360. The charging base 360 is in the form of a DC adapter that is particularly configured to be used in a vehicle (12 V socket) or a complementary charging base. For example, the charging base 360 is configured to be plugged into a lighter socket of a vehicle. The illustrated charging base 360 includes a generally hollow shell or body 362 that has the central cavity or compartment 361 for receiving the distal end of the charging element 350. In the illustrated embodiment, the body 362 has a larger diameter end 364 that receives the distal end of the charging element 350 and a smaller diameter end 366 that is designed to be matingly received in the vehicle lighter socket or the like.

The body 362 of the charging base 360 is similar to typical DC vehicle adapters and includes a pair of flexible conductive prongs 365 that extend outwardly from the body 362 and a retractable distal conductive pin 367. These conductive members (the prongs 365 and pin 367) prove an electrical connection to a power source associated with the vehicle and thus, when

the charging element 350 is plugged into the charging base 360 and the charging base 360 is itself plugged into the vehicle lighter socket, electricity can flow through the charging base 360 and charging element 350 to the power source of the lighter 300 for recharging thereof. For example, the charging base 360 can include a conductive element 351 (a ring) that mates with and engages the charging element 350 when the housing 310 is received in the charging base 360 so as to provide an electrical connection therebetween.

The release mechanism is designed to disengage the housing 310 from the charging base 360 when the user wants to separate the two as in the case where the device 300 is to be operated and is fully charged. For example, pressing the release button 370 can cause movement of a locking tab or pawl from a complementary locking member, such as a recess, formed as part of the charging base 360. The release mechanism can be a biased mechanism (spring biased mechanism) where pressing the release button 370 can provide a force that overcomes the biasing force and causes the locking member, such as the tab or pawl, to disengage the complementary feature that is part of the charging base 360.

As with the other buttons, the release button 30 is recessed relative to the surrounding surface of the side wall 320 and is accessible through the opening 372 formed in the side wall 320. The release button 370, in the illustrated embodiment, is located on the opposite side of the side wall 320 in that the release button 370 is formed about 180 degrees opposite the other buttons. The release button 370 preferably is located separate from the other buttons since the release button 370 is associated with charging of the lighter 300, while the other buttons are concerned with the operation of the lighter 300. Since the two operations are typically not performed concurrently, the associated buttons can be separated from one another as shown.

It will also be understood that instead of using a 12 V vehicle power source, the device 100 can be powered and recharged by connection to a USB port of a computer.

Now turning to Figs. 8-9 in which a lighter 400 according to another embodiment is illustrated. The lighter 400 is similar to the lighters 100 and 300 and therefore, like elements will not be discussed in great detail.

The lighter 400 is constructed and configured to be portable in nature in that it can easily be placed into a pocket, a bag, etc., of an operator. The lighter device 400 includes a housing 410 that contains the various electronic and mechanical components of the present invention and can be formed of one or more parts that are coupled to one another. The housing 410 can be formed of any number of different materials, such as a metal or plastic or a combination thereof; however, the housing 410 is typically formed of a plastic material.

The housing 410 can have any number of different shapes and can include aesthetically pleasing features. The illustrated housing 410 has a generally triangular shape and is defined by a top edge 412, a bottom edge 414, a rear surface 416, a front surface 418 and a pair of opposing side surfaces 420. The side surfaces 420 are angled inward toward the front surface 418 from the rear surface 416 so as to define the triangular shape of the housing 410. The surfaces 416, 418, 420 are preferably substantially smooth since these are the surface that are most often grasped by the operator during use of the lighter 400.

The housing 410 also includes an angled top surface 422 that forms a part of the front surface 418 and is formed between the side surfaces 420. The angled top surface 422 is angled downward toward the bottom edge 414 of the housing 410 so as to be easily viewable by the user when the user grips the housing 410 around the side surfaces 420. As described below

the top surface 422 includes a number of the functional and informative features of the present invention.

The housing 410 is a hollow part in that the surfaces 416, 418, 420 define an interior (inner) compartment that contains the inner working components of the lighter 400. The internal working components of the lighter 400 are similar to the working components of the lighters 100 and 300. In particular, the lighter 400 includes a power source and a heating element 430 that is operatively connected to the power source, as well as an actuator 440, such as an on-off button or the like, for selectively activating the power source for powering the heating element 430.

According to the present invention, the power source is a battery power source and more particularly, the power source is a rechargeable battery pack that is securely held within the housing 410.

In accordance with the present invention, the heating element 430 is of a fiameless type as described above in detail with reference to heating elements 140 and 330. The heating element 430 can therefore be in the form of a small module that has a first end and an opposing second end, with the first end being the end that is accessible along the angle top surface 422. The first end is thus constructed so that the object can be placed in sufficient proximity therewith and typically is in the form of an exposed heating surface 432 that is accessible along the top surface 422 by means of an opening 424 formed in the top surface 422. The illustrated opening 424 has and is defined by a smooth beveled edge which assists in locating the cigarette or the like and directing it to the heating surface 332.

The second end of the heating element 430 is connected to the power source and in particular, the second end is operatively connected to the power source via an electrical conduit, such as a power cord.

As described above, the heating element 430 can be either in the form of a wire coil that heats up when an electric current is passed therethrough, or the heating element 430 can be in the form of a ceramic element that heats up when an electric current is passed therethrough. One exemplary heating element 430 is a heating element that is formed of Nichrome and preferably, a reflector (not shown) is disposed behind the heating element 430 to focus the heat.

In the illustrated embodiment, the heating surface 432 has a raised spiral pattern (similar to a fingerprint) to alert the user to the location of the heating surface 432.

Similar to the earlier embodiment, the lighter 400 includes several other buttons formed one side surface 420. In particular, the side surface 420 includes the actuator 440 and in the illustrated embodiment, the actuator 440 includes a safety feature and is formed of a rocker > switch having a first section 442 at one end and a second section 444 at the other end of the switch. The rocker switch 440 is formed along one side surface 420 and are accessible through an opening 446. In the illustrated embodiment, both the rocker switch 440 and the opening 446 have a triangular shape.

The top edge 412 of the housing 410 includes an information display region 452 that includes the LEDs 182 that act as a heat/charge indicator as described in detail below. Pressing the first section 442 of the rocker switch 440 causes the lowest indicator LED 182 to illuminate, thereby indicating that the device 400 is now in an active "awake" mode and ready to be activated. If the second section 444 is then pressed within a predetermined time period, e.g., 5 seconds, of pressing the first section 442, then the heating filament 430 is heated. If the second

section 444 is not pressed within this predetermined time period, then the device 400 shuts off and goes back to a "sleep" mode.

The number of LEDs 182 that are illuminated directly indicates to the operator the relative strength of the heating element 430 and in particular, the LEDs 182 indicate when the heating element 430 is fully energized, as well as when the device 400 is ready to be used (e.g., when the device 400 is at full heat). In the illustrated embodiment, there are five (5) LEDs 182 that indicate the relative status of the heating element 430 and the time at which the object can be lighted by being placed into contact with the heating element 430 and the charge of the battery. The more LEDs 182 that are illuminated indicates that the heating element 430 is at a higher temperature and when all of the LEDs 182 are illuminated, the heating element 330 is ready for use (fully energized) and the object is then placed into contact with the heating element 330 for ignition thereof.

In other words, when the first and second switch sections 442, 444 are pressed in succession and within the predetermined time period, the lighter 400 will begin to operate in start-up (active) mode in that the power source supplies electricity to the heating element 430 causing heating thereof. As the heating element 430 is being heated, the level indicators 182 sequentially light up one after the other from bottom to top to indicate the heating element is heating and is closer to being of sufficient temperature to be used. Thus, in the instance, when there are five LEDs 182, the LEDs light one at a time until all five LEDs 182 are illuminated, thus indicating that the heating element 430 is at full temperature and is ready for use. This entire process only takes a few seconds. In other words, full temperature is reached and all the LEDs 182 are illuminated in about 2 seconds or so.

Once the heating element 430 reaches full temperature (full power), the device 400 continues to heat the heating element (filament) 430 until either the user lets go of the second power button 444 or once a predetermined time period, such as 10 seconds, is up, whichever comes first. In this manner, the device 400 has an auto safety feature in that the lighter 400 will automatically shut off even if the second power button 444 is held down once it goes through its operating cycle. At this point the heating element 430 begins to power down and cool. Thus, when all five LEDs 182 are lit, the heating element 430 is at its highest temperature and after reaching this temperature, power (electric current) to the heating element 430 is stopped and the heating element 430 begins to cool off.

As the heating element 430 begins to cool, the controller, such as a CPU/PCB, of the lighter 400 can be configured so that the LEDs 182 sequentially shut off to show the cooling of the heating element 430. In other words, the LEDs 182 count down from top to bottom to show that the heating element 430 is cooling off and once all of the LEDs 182 are dark and not illuminated, the user may place the lighter 400 back into a storage location, such as a pocket or purse or bag.

The power level indicator also serves another purpose in that it readily permits the user to judge and ascertain the charge strength of the power source, e.g., the relative strength of the battery charge. The controller of the lighter 400 is preferably configured such that when the device 400 is in cool-down mode after current is no longer being delivered to the heating element 430, the 5 LEDs will flash for a predetermined time period, such as 5 seconds, to indicate how much charge is left in the battery. Depending upon how many LEDs 182 blink, the user can judge the remaining strength of the power source. For example, if three out of five LEDs 182 blink, then this indicates that approximately 60% of the charge is left in the power source

(battery). The greater number of LEDs 182 that blink indicates a greater charge left in the power source and when only one LED 182 blinks, the operator should seek and take the necessary action to charge the power source. Of course and as previously mentioned, the operator can simply charge the lighter 400 using conventional charging means, such as cellular phone chargers, and therefore, does not have to wait for the power source to almost have no charge before initiating the charging process.

It will also be understood that the lighter 400 can be configured so that an additional visual and/or audio indicator is provided for alerting the user that the heating element 430 has reached its full operating temperature and the object should be placed in contact therewith for ignition thereof. For example, the controller of the lighter 400 can be configured so that once all the LEDs 182 are illuminated, after turning on sequentially, the LEDs 182 can then rapidly blink one or more times to indicate that the heating element 430 has reached its full operating temperature. In another embodiment, an audio alert, such as one or more beeps, can be provided to alert the user to the fact that the heating element 430 has reached its full temperature. The audio alert can be used in combination with the visual alert that is provided by the LEDs 182.

The LEDs 182 serve another purpose in that they indicate the charge level as the device 400 is being charged using conventional means, such as those described above. For example, when the device 400 is plugged into a cellular phone charger, the LEDs 182 flash to indicate the charge level. Similar to the above discussion, if three LEDs 182 flash, the battery has been charged to approximately 60% of full power. When the device 400 is fully charged, all five LEDs 182 are illuminated until the device 400 is disconnected from the charger.

In yet another aspect, the device 400 includes a charging element, that can be similar to the element 350, and can be in the form of a conductive contact that is located at the bottom surface of the device 400. The charging element itself is designed to mate with a pivotable charging base 470 which is configured to mate with a power source, such as a lighter element in a vehicle, etc. The charging element can include one or more flexible conductive prongs (e.g., metal prongs or conductive pad) that are biased outwardly but can easily be depressed when a force is applied thereto. The conductive prongs or the conductive pad that is provided on the bottom surface serve as one or more electrical contacts that are connected to the power source of the lighter 400 so that electricity can flow through the conductive contacts along a conductor, such as a wire, and to the power source for the recharging thereof.

The charging base 470 is in the form of a DC adapter that is particularly configured to be used in a vehicle (12 V socket) or a complementary charging base. For example, the charging base 470 is configured to be plugged into a lighter socket of a vehicle. The illustrated charging base 470 includes a generally hollow shell or body that is in the form of charging block 480 that is pivotable connected to a base portion 490. The charging block 480 includes an opening or cavity 482 for receiving the bottom of the lighter 400 so that the charging element is received therein. The charging block 480 is generally in the shape of a cube and includes opposing side walls 484 that are pivotally attached to the base portion 490.

The base portion 490 includes a first section that is generally U-shaped and includes a pair of opposing side arms 492 that are spaced from one another. The charging block 480 is disposed between the side arms 492 and is pivotally attached to the side arms 492.

The charging block 480 is pivotally connected to the base portion 490 and in particular the side arms 492 thereof such that the charging block 480 is pivotable relative to the

side arms 492 that that the lighter 400 received in the charging block 480 can be positioned perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the base portion 490 (side arms 492) as shown in Fig. 9 or the charging block 480 can be positioned in the same plane and along the longitudinal axis of the base portion 490 (side arms 492) as shown in Fig. 8. The flexibility permits the lighter 400 to be positioned in any number of different positions that accommodate the surrounding environment in the vehicle and the preferences of the user. For example, some users might like the lighter 400 to be positioned vertically (at a 90 degree relative to the base portion 490 as in Fig. 9), while other users might prefer the lighter 400 to be extend horizontally within the vehicle as in Fig. 8.

The charging base 470 is in the form of a DC adapter that is particularly configured to be used in a vehicle (12 V socket) or a complementary charging base. For example, the charging base 470 is configured to be plugged into a lighter socket of a vehicle.

The body 472 of the charging base 470 is similar to typical DC vehicle adapters and includes a pair of flexible conductive prongs 474 that extend outwardly from the body 472 and a retractable distal conductive pin 476. These conductive members (the prongs 474 and pin 476) prove an electrical connection to a power source associated with the vehicle and thus, when the charging element is plugged into the charging block 480, an electrical connection is formed with the conductive element in the body 472, in particular, the prongs 474 and pin 476, is itself plugged into the vehicle lighter socket, electricity can flow through the charging base 470 and charging element to the power source of the lighter 400 for recharging thereof.

In yet another embodiment, the lighter itself, such as lighter 300 or lighter 400 can be constructed for insertion directly into the power source, such as a 12 V vehicle power source. In other words, the elements (conductive prongs) of the respective charging base are directly

incorporated into the base of the lighter to permit the lighter to be directly inserted into the power/charging source,

All references, publications, pending and issued patents are herein each incorporated by reference in their entirety.

Thus, while there have been shown, described, and pointed out fundamental novel features of the invention as applied to a preferred embodiment thereof, it will be understood that various omissions, substitutions, and changes in the form and details of the devices illustrated, and in their operation, may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, it is expressly intended that all combinations of those elements and/or steps which perform substantially the same function, in substantially the same way, to achieve the same results are within the scope of the invention. Substitutions of elements from one described embodiment to another are also fully intended and contemplated. It is also to be understood that the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale, but that they are merely conceptual in nature. It is the intention, therefore, to be limited only as indicated by the scope of the claims appended hereto.