Zeus Energy Movement is a charity established last year by four engineers in Texas to develop devices to harness various forms of alternative energy, like a gadget that turns the energy from ocean waves into electricity.

Dennis J. Gray, one of the founders, said the group decided to establish itself as a non-profit organisation because it had trouble attracting federal grant money to support research and development. “We’ve got no revenues, we’re poor, and we’re trying to access funding for these types of devices,” Mr. Gray said. “If we had revenues or some means of income, then we’d be a for-profit.”

He added, “Right now, we’re a scientific group spending our own money and time developing solutions to energy needs and problems that the world has got to figure out.”

It took four or five months to get tax-exempt status approved for Zeus, Mr. Gray said. Eventually, the hope is that Zeus will develop products that will attract interest from major companies, which would buy the patents, Mr. Gray said.

But a pending application for a patent on the wave device makes it clear that Gray, not Zeus, would hold the patent. “Who owns it is irrelevant until someone deems it of value,” he said.

Asked how Zeus differed from Apple and Microsoft when they were just garage operations, Mr. Gray said the comparison was flawed. “Bill Gates and Steve Jobs aren’t good examples of businesses doing social good,” he said, “because computers are not a charitable thing.” — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

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