Recently, the Office québécois de la langue française (the Office) issued a press release launching an awareness campaign regarding the posting of trade-marks as the name of a business. The objective of this campaign is to encourage businesses located in the province of Quebec to adhere to the Charter of French Language (Charter). The Office has created a website which provides additional information to businesses regarding this campaign at http://respectdelaloi.gouv.qc.ca/.

The Charter, adopted in 1977, establishes French as the official language of the province of Quebec, and governs its use in a wide range of activities, including in areas such as education, employment and business and commerce. 

With respect to its application to business and commerce, the basic rule is that public signs, posters and commercial advertising must be in French. There are exceptions to the general rule that apply. For example, the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business (the Regulation), provides that a recognized trade-mark within the meaning of the Trade-marks Act (Canada) may appear exclusively in a language other than French on public signs and posters and in commercial advertising, unless a French version of such trade-mark has been registered.

The Office has taken the position that when a trade-mark in a language other than in French is being used as the name of a business on public signs, such signs must be accompanied by a French slogan or by adding a generic French word which describes the business.

In this regard, many businesses have been receiving letters from the Office asking that they adhere to the rules of the Charter and modify their public signs by adding a generic French word to trade-marks posted exclusively in English.  The Office is also offering financial support to businesses which employ five (5) to ninety nine (99) employees to help cover some of the costs associated with making such changes to their public signs, and this, up to seventy five percent (75%) of the costs incurred to make such changes, to a maximum of $50,000.

In light of this campaign being launched by the Office, and its determination to have businesses adhere to their position, businesses who currently post exclusively an English trade-mark can expect to receive this letter from the Office in the near future.