NL entrepreneur makes case for breakthrough computer solution

Steve M. McHugh

Ralph Belfiglio has run a video-production company in both New York City and New London while often struggling with a problem many professionals run up against: limited laptop computer memory.

Belfiglio’s laptop computer simply didn’t have the storage capacity to hold a bunch of digital video clips, so he had to look for ways to add memory. Unfortunately, the options were not good, involving bulky external drives that proved a nightmare because of their weight and ugly, dangling cords. The situation was so absurd, many blogs have been devoted to coming up with solutions, including installing suction cups and Velcro on the back of machines to hold everything in place.

“I thought ‘This was crazy; there’s got to be a better solution,'” Belfiglio smiled as he described his befuddlement. “There were all these workarounds but no solution.”

Then, one night last year, while trying to solve a similar storage problem on his son’s Apple laptop, it suddenly hit him: Why not construct an external drive that simply slipped over the computer, creating essentially a protective case that doubled as storage.

It seemed too simple. Had to already been tried, right?

But Belfiglio spent many nights researching his idea and could find nothing similar online. Yet with the latest internal solid-state drives now paper thin, he knew it could be done.

Then he went to a patent attorney, Steve McHugh at TCORS in New London, and showed him what he wanted to do. McHugh did what is known as a prior-art search and also found no similar devices.

“You’re clear,” he told Belfiglio. “There’s nothing out there. Let’s go for the patent.”

McHugh suggested going for a utility patent rather than a design patent to fully protect the idea so that others couldn’t reconfigure the case to create legal knockoffs. And Belfiglio, a tinkerer who owns the Astor Place video production company, started working with Diversified Manufacturing Technologies in Middletown to create three-dimensional models required to get a patent, which he eventually received.

He also began researching drives, settling on the idea of marketing models with either 1 or 2 terabytes of memory.

“I wanted it to be super fast,” Belfiglio said. “Everything was coming together. It was so perfect.”

The solution he came up with was an SDD drive encased in plastic that clips to the bottom of a laptop. Cables are hidden within the device, and a wire connects it to the computer by clicking it into a USB drive.

“Just clip, connect and go” became the mantra. “Professional-grade storage that has never been so portable” is another of the one-man company’s taglines.

The name of the company, Case Byte Technology LLC, relates to its elegant storage solution, which will eventually be available in a variety of colors.

Prototypes of the external storage device were created through 3D printing but, once the product is perfected, Belfiglio expects Case Byte will use injection molding in the manufacturing process.

Since the variety of laptops sold in the United States currently is mind-boggling, the potential number of Case Byte products is equally numbing. So at first, Belfiglio expects to produce devices for only the four models currently being manufactured by Apple.

That’s because the majority of professionals using laptops requiring extra storage space prefer Apple, he said.

Belfiglio has been working with Eric Callahan at the Suisman Shapiro law firm in New London to help set up the business, and Eric Knight, entrepreneur in residence at CTNext, had been a great help in mentoring the startup, he said. Belfiglio has carved out separate space for his company from offices previously used by Astor Place in the Harris Place building on State Street.

“We’re hoping to be out by the end of the year,” he said. “We’re going after the creative market.”

Adding to Belfiglio’s excitement over the product is the fact he believes he will be able to sell Case Byte products for about $250, roughly half the price of other top external drives.

If his product takes off, Belfiglio said he hopes to open up a manufacturing site in New London, a city for which he has a firm fondness.

“My whole life I’ve always wanted to have some kind of product to sell,” he said. “This is the only one I’ve ever felt sure about.”

By Lee Howard, The Day staff writer

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