While academic institutions have these resources, individuals looking to apply for patents on their own or through startups may not have access to that kind of institutional knowledge.
Serial social entrepreneur Olin Kealoha Lagon, who is Native Hawaiian, said significant roadblocks exist for minority communities, including high expenses and limited knowledge about how to get started and what specific terminology to use.
Even he found it difficult to operate the PTO’s online portal, Lagon said, despite his experience in the technology sector. Lagon is the cofounder of Shifted Energy, which is assisting lower-income households in Hawaii’s transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2045.
This year, Lagon said he has a goal of submitting 20 patent applications for innovations that balance the electrical grid. So far, he said he’s filed six applications, none of them through the PTO’s pilot program. But he’s considering changing that for future applications.
“I can then now be a coach to others,” Lagon said about his goal of educating his local community on how to file patent applications. “That’s one step. I’m not going to solve their ability to file a correct patent, but I can solve the ability for them to feel confident that they belong in that space.”
He emphasized that no idea is too small. For example, he said, even a patent regarding native potato production in Hawaii to reduce emissions-producing importation from the continental US could help to address the climate crisis.
“Climate change is going to require a million solutions for a million different communities,” Lagon said. “We have to ensure that the ideas from these communities are brought to bear.”
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