The Office québécois de la langue française
(the Office) has decided to increase pressure on businesses using
English-only trademarks on public signage. According to the
Montréal press, the Office recently ordered several local
and multinational businesses to add a French generic expression to
their English-only trademark. The deadline to comply with the
Office's demands, or to make arrangements for compliance, was
June 20, 2012. It appears that a few dozen businesses received the
Office's demand letter.
In response to formal complaints
from the public, the Office has already demanded several businesses
to add a French generic name to their English-only trademarks.
However, this time, it seems that the Office acted on its own
we announced on June 8, 2012.
According to the Montréal
press, the Office threatened several non-complying businesses with
revocation of their francization certificate and fines for
non–compliance with the Charter of the French
Language (the Charter). Consequences for revocation of the
francization certificate could include losing the privilege of
entering into commercial contracts with the Québec
government and/or receiving subsidies or any other advantages from
the Québec government. Fines under the Charter range from
$1,500 to $20,000 (and double for subsequent offenses).
The Office is interpreting the
Charter and its Regulation respecting the language of commerce
and business to require English-only trademarks posted on
store-front signage to be accompanied by a French generic name
since, it argues, marks on signage function as business names. Only
recognized trademarks, and not business names, may be in another
language than French only.
Based on comments from the Retail
Council of Canada, the targeted businesses intend to contest the
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