The Québec government announced draft regulations on May
4 that will require businesses to prominently feature "a
sufficient presence of French" on any public signage in which
non-French trademarks appear.1
The new regulations are a response to a 2015 Court of Appeal of
Québec decision in which it was determined that the use of a
non-French trademark on public signage by commercial retailers did
not violate the Charter of the French Language (Charter).
The Court of Appeal ruled that the retailers' use of non-French
trademarks, for which no French equivalent had been registered,
fell under the exception under the Charter that otherwise required
French to appear on all public signs. The Court of Appeal
emphasized that it is up to the government to legislate changes if
a different interpretation of the existing rules is desired.
What You Need to Know
Under the proposed regulations, the presence of French refers
to a sign or poster with: 1) a generic term or a description of the
products or services concerned; 2) a slogan; or 3) any other term
or indication, favouring the display of information pertaining to
the products or services to the benefit of customers frequenting
the site. For example, signage featuring an English trademark for a
bakery business would need to include the term
"boulangerie" ("bakery") next to it.
There is an indication that there may be an exception for
names, meaning the new rules would not apply to
"McDonald's" or "Tim Hortons," for
The regulations require that the French addition have permanent
visibility and be in the same field of vision as the principal
sign—and if the main sign is illuminated, the French addition
must be illuminated as well.
If the proposed regulations come into force, they will apply
immediately upon adoption to new signs; existing signs will have a
three-year transition period. Written comments on the draft
regulations can be submitted until June 18, 2016.
* With assistance from Manpreet Singh, articling
1 The announcement of the draft regulations can be found here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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