Guest blog post by Steve Katsaros, Founder and CEO, Nokero International Ltd.
Ed note: Nokero (short for "No Kerosene") designs, manufactures and distributes safe, affordable, and environmentally-friendly solar based technologies. The solar lights and solar battery chargers are high-quality and low-cost, eliminating the need for harmful and polluting fuels around the world.
Yesterday, June 30, 2014, was the opening of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Rocky Mountain Satellite Office. We were joined at the opening ceremony by Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Acting U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Andrews, Commissioner of Patents Focarino, U.S. Senators Bennett and Udall, Denver Mayor Hancock, Members of the Colorado Congressional delegation, and others.
I had the privilege of addressing a crowd of more than 200 and share my thoughts as a Colorado entrepreneur and beneficiary of the U.S. patent system.
To introduce my company and my vision, I ask you to imagine life without electricity. Picture yourself in a mud hut with a tin roof --soot so thick that you avoid touching the walls. Picture a lamp burning kerosene, its emissions of black carbon, unburned kerosene and known carcinogens filling the room. Do you smell the burning kerosene and taste the soot as it is pulled into your lungs?
No human should live like this.
Nokero (short for No Kerosene) is a Colorado company that has globalized its inventions to tackle energy poverty.
Our solar light bulb is a small, portable product at a price point that even the poorest people in the world can afford. Sun-charged during the day and light-emitting during the night, this product changes lives.
Nokero has partnered with intergovernmental agencies, governments, nonprofits, humanitarians, and business visionaries to deliver light. Last year, we received the USPTO’s “Patents for Humanity” award. Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy and Development, summarizes the prize best when she said: "Those who look not just to how to grow their businesses, but also to the good their innovations can do for the global community, should be applauded.”
In the United States, we have an unparalleled history of protecting intellectual property. In the developing world, patents might exist but are irrelevant to most. The rule of law is marginalized, and corruption is at every corner. The USPTO’s Office of Policy and International Affairs is assisting international IP protection efforts. Technology adoption is the way to develop a continent, a country, a village and a life—far greater than aid programs. Investment follows opportunity, and opportunity is created where a patent system is functioning.
Four years ago, I had an idea, formed a company, found an investor and we set out to improve the world. Approximately 1.3 billion people without electricity spend $38 billion dollars every year on kerosene for light, which contributes to climate change, limits economic opportunity, damages lungs, and kills.
To date, Nokero has distributed over a million lights across 130 countries. A distribution of 275,000 lights to Indonesia last year created 1 million hours of light every night since, and will for a long time to come.
Backed by the Nokero® trademark and patents, Nokero has protected its invention, its brand, its investor’s money, and our distributor’s efforts. Over 60 percent of the world’s population lives where we have issued or pending patents.
When InventNow awarded me the Collegiate Inventors Competition in 1995, when the USPTO taught me patent rules and laws in 2001, and when Nokero was honored with the “Patents for Humanity” award in 2013, those who live without electricity were able to benefit from an innovative design.
In my closing remarks today, I called on each person in the Denver, Colorado audience to thank a creator, a backer, and a USPTO employee. Without their tireless efforts and the efforts of those that preceded them, millions around the world still be living in mud huts with kerosene lamps.