Is Your Business Ready for “La Rentrée”?

This week marks the end of summer, as the new school year begins.

It reminds me of the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and the appearance of school buses, filled with eager(ish) kids with their clean haircuts and crisp new clothing. This is a time for renewed focus and new beginnings.

(Actually, my kids went back to school a few weeks ago, as many districts here in the United States start their academic year in August. Yet the “back to school” feeling is still fresh.)

The French approach this transition with particular gusto, enthusiastically announcing C’est la rentrée! There is a contagious excitement in the air, as la rentrée applies not just to school children, but to the country as a whole. This marks the end of les vacances of July and August. Businesses reopen. The government is in session. Cultural events are back in full swing.

With restored energy and renewed motivation, now is the time to get back to work. Time to focus. Time to regain clarity.

Now is the time to deliver on this year’s goals and plan ahead for next year. Are you ready?

With just four months remaining in the calendar year, is your business on track to meet its goals for the current year?

What can be done to position your business for what you aim to accomplish in the next year? Plan now, and start taking action.

If your business goals involve an updated website, marketing materials, or technical documentation, remember to include enough time in your schedule to have your texts translated into the languages of your target markets by professional translators.

The summer has been restful, but now it’s time to concentrate on our goals. Make the most of this optimism and opportunity. Bonne rentrée!

 

Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks… Oh My!

You’ve worked hard to develop an innovative idea. The last thing you want is for someone else to steal your intellectual property or take credit for it themselves, whether it is your brand, an invention, a design, or any other creation.

When expanding your European business into North America, there are a number of options for protecting your intellectual property in the United States.

Patents

Patents protect inventions, including methods and apparatus implementing such methods.

Patented inventions must be novel, useful, and non-obvious, and the process of obtaining a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is costly and time-consuming. Once approved, patents remain valid for 14 or 20 years, depending on the specific type of patent. Due to the necessity for uniqueness, it is important not to publicly disclose ideas that you intend to patent. If another inventor (individual or legal entity) applies for the patent before you do, you may lose your rights to the intellectual property.

Copyrights

Copyrights protect written or published works, such as books, songs, films, online content, and artistic works.

The good news is that such works are automatically protected by copyright, provided that they are original (no copies please!) and fixed over time. Copyrights do not need to be registered, but it may be a good idea to register yours anyway, depending on what your works entail. Registering a copyright establishes a public record of ownership and helps protect your rights in court.

If the owner is an individual, a copyright is valid for the life of the author plus 70 years. If the owner is a business or legal entity, a copyright is valid for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation.

Trademarks

Trademarks protect signs, symbols, logos, words, or sounds that uniquely distinguish your products and services.

Trademarks must be registered in order to be protected, but that’s not enough. You must also actually use the trademark as intended in order to protect your ownership of it. Unlike patents and copyrights, there is no time limitation on trademarks. As long as you continue to use your registered trademark, it will remain yours.

Lawyers…. Who Needs ‘Em!

You do.

Sure, I can translate your patent from French or Spanish into US English, no problem. But when it comes to legal advice, you’d better hire an attorney in the United States who specializes in intellectual property.

An IP attorney can explain the details of the law, help prepare your patent application, help you register your copyright or trademark, and represent you in any disputes involving intellectual property protection or infringement.

Innovative markets move quickly. You need to keep up, while also maintaining a firm grip on protecting your intellectual property.

Alternatives to Silicon Valley for Your North American Headquarters

Congratulations! You’re ready to establish the North American headquarters of your Europe-based business! But what city should you choose?

Silicon Valley is a natural choice. It’s filled with startups, but it’s SO EXPENSIVE! The same is can be said about New York City. Entrepreneurs need to consider a number of factors when selecting a location for their business, and cost is certainly one of them!

Thankfully, there are plenty of other attractive and more affordable cities that boast tons of tech talent and even have direct flights to and from Paris-CDG! Here are just a few of the stand-outs:

Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia is enjoying lots of momentum these days, with a 21% growth in tech talent since 2010. Home of Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt University, Atlanta offers a low overall cost of living and a low cost of doing business.

Washington, DC

Known more for its lobbyists and politicians and crowded with government contractors, Washington offers loads of tech talent from its many local universities, including those in nearby Virginia and Maryland. With its prime mid-Atlantic location, Washington is home to several well-known educational companies, including Rosetta Stone and Blackboard.

Seattle

No surprises here! Seattle makes this list because it is still more affordable than Silicon Valley and the Big Apple. Home to Amazon, Microsoft, Zillow, and many more tech companies, the downside to this city is that you may need to compete for talent. Each year, there is an estimated 3,000-person shortage in filling software development and engineering jobs, according to the Washington Technology Industry Association, so you’ll need to be ready to offer plenty of perks and an amazing company culture to woo prospective talent.

Boston

Home to the prestigious Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston ranks 3rd in startups and 5th in quality of life. It is also home to companies like TripAdvisor and iRobot. In terms of location, Boston is conveniently just a short drive or train ride from New York and a comfortable plane ride from Paris.

Raleigh

This North Carolina city is the tech hub of the Southeast. Its “Triangle” is home to a thriving startup community and tech scene. Raleigh also offers low taxes and a low cost of living, making it especially attractive to cash-strapped startup companies!

Vancouver

Located in Canada, just across the border from Seattle, Vancouver is the home of Hootsuite, as well as satellite offices of Facebook, Apple, and Twitter. Canada ranks among the highest standards of living in the world, easily attracting top talent, some formerly employed by Canada’s lost-but-not-forgotten export BlackBerry. Other great Canadian cities with direct flights from Paris-CDG are Toronto and French-speaking Montreal.

As you can see, North America offers lots of potential to European innovators seeking to grow! Good luck!

The Rise and Fall of Wearable Tech

We’ve witnessed some very high profile product launches in recent years, touting the next big thing in wearable tech.

Yet time and again, they’ve failed to catch on among consumers.

Wearable tech seems like the next logical step for our digital-minded society. So why do they amount to little more than passing fads?

To explore this further, let’s look at two categories of wearable tech: continuous wear and limited scope.

Wearable Tech for Continuous Wear

This category consists of the wearable tech designed for continuous wear by consumers. Examples include smart watches, Google Glass, and Fitbit. These products attract immense curiosity when they are launched and may enjoy significant sales. The true test, however, is whether consumers actually wear the devices as they were designed.

Unfortunately, I can’t point to any exact figures on the extent to which these forms of wearable tech have actually been adapted into everyday life, but as a casual observer, I’d say it’s pretty low. Smart watches are on par with the calculator watches of the 1980s. Google Glass is impractical. And Fitbit trackers have the longevity of a gym membership purchased on New Years Day.

The benefits promised by these products are simply underwhelming. They lack true standalone innovation and frequently require proximity with a smartphone.

Wearable Tech with a Limited Scope

These forms of wearable tech have a limited scope. They are not meant to be worn all day, but rather only for a particular event or situation.

One good example is the GoPro mounted camera, which has a limited use not easily met by any other means. GoPro cameras are often worn to film action-packed events, like skydiving or skiing. They are also gaining popularity among police officers for on-the-job wear.

Another example of limited-scope wearable tech is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset for consumer use. Unlike GoPro, this technology is too new to judge in terms of long-term popularity.

Pagers: The Peak of Wearable Tech for Continuous Wear

Wait… seriously? Pagers?

In a time when cellphones were impractical for the average consumer, it was a truly innovative to be able to receive an instant notification of a call or message, no matter where you were.

Not surprisingly, the popularity of pagers tanked when cellphones hit the mass market, but for a few years, pagers were the golden child of wearable tech, offering a clear benefit to the wearer, at a reasonable cost.

Final word

Wearable tech is not doomed to fail. Consumers love new products, but we also demand practicality. For wearable tech to be innovative (see my blog post on “What Is Innovation?“), it must satisfy a consumer need without being a hassle to wear.

Innovation

What Is Innovation?

These days, the word “innovation” is teetering on buzzword status. We hear about innovative products and companies all the time. But what does it really mean to be innovative?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “innovation” as “A new method, idea, product, etc.”

This definition suggests that “innovative” is synonymous with “new”. But is it really? To truly be innovative, we must go beyond providing something new by providing something better.

“Better” may mean more efficient, less costly, faster, less polluting, more beneficial, and so on…. This is how we have moved from a horse and buggy to gas-burning automobiles and ultimately to vehicles running on clean energy. Innovation has brought us the Internet, inspired space travel, and developed vaccines. Not just change. Progress.

Innovation drives us to figure out how to do things and then find a way to do them better. And then again. And again. And again. It requires creativity, passion, and a hell of a lot of hard work.

As a global society, we must value our innovators in all parts of the world and encourage them to excel. In many ways, our future quality of life depends on it. The innovations of today will be the springboard for the inventions of tomorrow.

Go forth, innovators… We’re counting on you!

If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” -Thomas Edison