The disposable razor and indestructible ballpoint pens were nifty, but Bic's greatest engineering accomplishment may have been designing the nearest thing to a child-proof lighter.
After five years of research and $10 million in development costs, the French-owned company says the lighter will hit stores next spring.
Equipped with a patented Child-Guard safety latch, the lighter could give Bic, already the country's largest maker of disposable lighters, another notch up on the competition if the federal government adopts child-safety standards for all disposable butane lighters.
Children playing with lighters started more than 7,000 house fires in 1988, resulting in 186 deaths, 990 injuries and $65 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Assn.
"The real challenge, as simplistic as it may sound, was to develop something that was more difficult for children to operate and can also be used by adults," said Sharon DuPuy of Bic.
Before a Child-Guard lighter can be ignited, a safety latch must be moved to the side, then up into a special opening. The latch automatically returns to the lock position after each use.