Trademarks that have no registered French version may be
displayed on public signs and advertising in Quebec. In a unanimous
ruling, five judges of Quebec's Court of Appeal have confirmed
an elaborate Superior Court judgment that reasserts the traditional
interpretation of Quebec regulations that expressly allow
trademarks to be displayed on commercial signs and advertising. The
language of the trademark is not an issue unless a French version
of the trademark has been registered, in which case it must be used
wherever the law requires French.
In recent years, the Office québécois de la langue
française has taken the position that when a trademark is
displayed on a business storefront or inside a business
establishment, it is used as a business name. Consequently, it
argued, the trademark must comply with rules applicable to business
names. Those allow a non-French word to be part of the name but
require that it be accompanied by a general descriptive term in
French. The oft-repeated example is Café Second Cup. Quebec
courts have now rejected that position and reaffirmed the right to
post only the trademark, unaccompanied by a generic
The Attorney General has not yet announced her decision on whether
to seek leave to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court of
Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP represented Magasins Best
Buy Itée, Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., Gap (Canada) Inc.,
Old Navy (Canada) Inc., La Compagnie Wal-Mart du Canada, Toys
"R" Us Canada ltée, Curves International, Inc. and
the Retail Council of Canada in this case.
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