The Acting Minister of Culture and Communications, responsible
for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language, Ms.
Hélène David, presented yesterday the proposed
modifications to the Regulation respecting the language of
commerce and business of the Charter of the French
language (the "Regulation").
Historically, the rule from the Charter of the French
language to the effect that public signs have to be in French
(or in French and in another language provided that French is
markedly predominant) benefited from what is known as the
"trade-mark exception", allowing trademarks to be used
solely in English (or any other language other than French) for
public signage if they are recognized within the meaning of the
Trade-marks Act and for which no French version has been
In 2012, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled in favor of a group a
retailers carrying on business in Quebec taking advantage of this
exception, specifying that any attempt to modify the scope of this
exception should be done by way of an amendment to the text of the
Modifications to the Regulation
On May 4, 2016, a draft amendment to the Regulation in question
(attached hereto) was published in the Gazette officielle
for a 45-day consultation period. Pursuant to this draft amendment,
"Where a trade mark is displayed outside a building only in a
language other than French under paragraph 4 of section 25, a
sufficient presence of French must also be ensured on the site, in
accordance with this Regulation". The presence of French
refers to a sign or poster with (i) a generic term or a description
of the products or services concerned, (ii) a slogan or (iii) any
other term or indication, favouring the display of information
pertaining to the products or services to the benefit of consumers
or persons frequenting the site. The newly proposed articles also
include additional guidance with respect to the interpretation of
these new principles.
As a result, any person having as part of its public signage a
trade-mark that is only in English will have to add one of the
three above-mentioned elements to comply with the new rules.
It should be noted that these new measures will not impact the
other trade-mark exceptions available in the Regulation in
connection with inscriptions on a product or commercial
advertising, nor the ability to use any artificial combination of
letters, syllables or figures or the use of pictographs, figures or
initials or a family name, a given name or the name of a
personality or character or a distinctive name of a cultural
Entry into Force and Transitional Measures
The draft of the Regulation provides that the Regulation will
come into force within 15 days of its official publication,
following the consultation period. Its provisions would apply as of
that date to the installation of new signs or posters on which a
trade-mark appears, and to the replacement of existing signs or
posters bearing a trade-mark. Existing signs and posters will need
to be brought into conformity with the Regulation within 3 years
after the entry into force of the Regulation.
We will keep you informed of the publication of the Regulation,
but do not hesitate to inform your clients about this today. We are
of course available to assist with any questions they may have.
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