W&L student business idea is patent-pending

Jules Seay, ‘24, is applying for a provisional patent for the specialized greenhouses that she designed to help businesses be more sustainable


Seay won the Student Pitch Competition with GOES, and is now patent-pending for the idea. Photo courtesy of The Columns.

Bri Hatch

ules Seay, ‘24, is taking her passion for sustainability to the business sector. Her design for specialized greenhouses, which businesses can use to stop the flow of carbon dioxide, is currently patent-pending. 

“Basically, [businesses] would clip the greenhouses to the sources of carbon dioxide, and instead of the carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, it goes into the greenhouses, and then the greenhouses photosynthesize it into oxygen,” Seay said. 

In late October, Seay won the Student Pitch Competition at Washington and Lee for her idea, officially called the Global Ozone Environmental System (GOES). Now she’s taking GOES to the next level. 

The Ring Tum Phi asked Seay about the patent process and her business aspirations. Here is a condensed version of the interview: 

What does being patent-pending mean?

I filed for a provisional patent. At this point, “patent-pending” gives me a little bit of legal protection, so I can network a little bit but not too much, because if I get denied, then anyone can take [the idea].

So, you file for the provisional patent. And then as your patent is pending, you’re waiting for the government to accept or deny your request. And so patent-pending is you waiting for your date to work on your nonprovisional patent, which is a regular patent. 

How long does this whole process take? 

It’s all up to the government, and with COVID, everything’s delayed. My patent lawyer had said that usually you get denied by the first round so you have to do it again, but I’ve done the research. 

And I’m like, an idea like this would have been publicized at this point, because it’s like a really big solution. So I’m expecting to get accepted. 

What happens after the provisional patent? 

That’s when I start doing feasibility research. Because I haven’t actually built [one of the specialized greenhouses] yet. Conceptually, it makes sense. It’s just like a man-made carbon cycle. So theoretically, it should work, but I do need to test it. But I want to test it by still being protected. 

So once I get the provisional patent, I have a year to file for a nonprovisional patent, which is a regular patent. So you have a year’s worth of legal protection, but a nonprovisional patent is like, you own that patent for the rest of your life until you die. 

So once I get the provisional, I’m going to conduct the research to work on my nonprovisional application, because that application needs everything down to the screw. 

And then once I hopefully receive the regular patent, I could actually start networking to start up the business part. 

How has this process been, given your young age? Have you recieved support from other professionals and professors?

I feel like I’m being taken more seriously for doing it at a younger age, because people think “wow, she has drive, she has initiative, she wants to learn.” 

I’m finding that a lot of [industry experts] are really surprised, but they’re not surprised like, “she’s young and she doesn’t know what she’s doing,” they’re surprised like “wow, you came up with this idea, and really thought it through.” They want to support it and invest in it. And that’s a good sign. 

I’ve been taking this seriously. I’ve been the one driving the idea to get to this point, and a lot of my professors especially are seeing how it progressed. Some of my professors saw it when it was rougher and now that they’ve seen it in a whole pitch competition. 

I think it just adds to the legitimacy [of the project] which is helpful because now even more professors are reaching out like, “how can I help?”

What are your career aspirations? 

The environmental industry is so multifaceted. So, my hope is to use GOES to start up, and then go into different sectors of the environment, like consulting or sustainable fashion. So [GOES] is kind of the basis for the bigger business I would like to start. 

But again, it’s a massive project. I’m going to have to work on it and still work on my expertise in the industry. I want to go into either more research or maybe policymaking while I’m working on it, because I have a feeling that this isn’t going to be just booming right after I graduate. 

The big plan would be for [GOES] to pick up and have it be either a government regulation like carbon credits, or just a business that like other businesses want to use so they can appear more sustainable. 

How did you discover your passion for sustainability?

Growing up, I was always outside. When I lived in Miami, we had a little tiny house, but it was on an acre of land. I was never in the house, I was always running around in the grass and climbing trees and stuff like that. So, I think growing up, I always loved nature. 

And it kind of sparked in physics class, which is funny because I hate physics. But I have to give physics credit. because I think I realized how passionate I was about it when I was reading this book called “Physics for Future Presidents”. And there’s a section on how recycling also contributes to global warming.  

Everyone advocates so much for “reduce, reuse. recycle” that we’re content with what we already have, and no one’s come up with anything new right. So I was like, well, nature is in danger and I really want to keep the trees and I realized how much I love it. 

Environmental stuff is so interesting because there’s not one way to look at it, you can look at it from so many different angles, there’s so many routes you can take. I have a lot of routes that I like. I love fashion. I don’t love politics, but I like how much of a change you can make in politics. I like problem-solving. I love community resilience projects. 

As I got deeper and deeper into environmental issues, I realized how much I had a passion for it.