Bill 96 was tabled today by the Government of Quebec proposing sweeping revisions to the Quebec's Charter of the French Language. Amongst changes to bolster the use of French in education, commerce and workplaces, the 100+ page bill includes significant changes to the trademark exception commonly replied upon by businesses to use English trademarks without translation. 

The current trademark exception, currently found in regulations, will be integrated within the Charter itself. The current exception indicates that a trademark can be in another language only if it is a "recognized" trademark (which has been confirmed by courts to include registered and unregistered marks), unless a French version has been "registered". The proposed amendment says that a trademark can be in another language only if it is a registered mark under the Trademarks Act  and no French version is found on the Trademarks Register. This implies that a pending application for a French version mark could preclude reliance on the trademark exception. The Bill confirms the current rules related to store-front signage in that French has to be clearly predominant if it includes a mark in another language than French. Proposed amendments also contemplate neutrality of medium of commercial publication to capture online publications and adds a prohibition to make available commercial publication, invoices, receipts and other similar documents, in another language if the French version is not available under the same or better conditions.

Other notable proposed amendments relate to enforcement by introducing new legal remedies. According to the Bill, the Office québécois de la langue française  (OQLF) will be able to request an injunction to force compliance with the Charter whereas thecurrent law only provides only for fines and withdrawal of francization certificate, if applicable. Fines could also increase to a range of $700 to $7,000 for individuals, and $3,000 to $30,000 for businesses. Fines double with first recurrence, and triple for any further recurrences. Violations for each day of non-compliance will also be a distinct violation. Furthermore, the OQLF will be able to request that the court orders the withdrawal or destructions within 8 days of signs, ads, billboards and illuminated signs that are not in compliance with the Charter, costs to the owner of the advertising material or whoever installed it.

Within hours of having been tabled, Bill 96 is receiving a mixed reaction across the province of Quebec but confirms the Quebec government's initiatives to improve the use of the French language across its province. For more information, please contact us.

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