Businesses have until November 24 to put their French Face Forward 

01 October 2019

As previously reported, Quebec companies that display a non-French trademark on outdoor signage in the absence of a French generic term, slogan or description have until November 24, 2019 to comply with the new rules requiring a “sufficient presence of French”.

On November 24, 2016, the Quebec Government introduced amendments to the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business, CQLR c. C-11, r 9 (the “Regulations”) for non-French trademarks displayed on outdoor and business-front signage in an effort to ensure a French linguistic landscape throughout the province. While the new rules came into force on November 24, 2016, existing businesses and franchises benefit from a 3-year grace period during which to comply. This grace period will expire on November 24, 2019– date as of which all non-French signage in Quebec will be subject to the new requirements. 
As a reminder, the Regulations will affect all companies with an establishment in Quebec who display a non-French trademark in the absence of a French generic term, slogan or description outside their premises, including:

  • Rooftop signs;
  • Storefront signage;
  • Signage located inside a building, mall or shopping center, whether underground or above-ground;
  • Signs or posters inside a building intended to be seen from the outside; and
  • Signs appearing on a terminal or other independent structure (with certain exceptions).

While the Regulations do not go so far as to require the non-French trademark to be translated to French or for the French additional copy to be ‘markedly predominant’, the additional French copy must be permanently visible, legible and shown within the same visual field as that of the sign bearing the non-French trademark. The Regulations also create specific requirements on the distance from which the French copy must be visible; for instance, a French sign requiring the viewer to be within a less than 1-meter radius of the sign in order for it to be legible would be offside. Moreover, businesses that display an illuminated non-French trademark must ensure that the additional French copy is also illuminated. 

Although the Regulations provide various avenues for compliance, the addition of a French generic or descriptive term or slogan may constitute an alteration to a registered trademark. Consequently, consideration should be given as to whether compliance with the new rules requires further trademark protection. 
For further guidance or questions on how these changes may affect your business, please contact Melissa Tehrani, Giovanna Spataro, Sebastien Gardère, Julia Kappler or any member of the Gowling WLG Advertising & Product Regulatory Group or Gowling WLG Intellectual Property Group. 

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