Yesterday, the Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed – from the bench - the Quebec government’s appeal against a lower court decision that rejected the position taken by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF)  on non-French public signage. 

In April of last year, the Quebec Superior Court decided that non-French trademarks on store-front signage do not need to be accompanied by a French descriptor of the nature of the business to comply with Quebec’s Charter of the French Language. The decision was the result of an action launched in 2012 by several multinational retailers including Best Buy, Gap, Old Navy, Wal-Mart and Costco seeking a declaratory judgment against the interpretation of the OQLF, represented by Quebec’s Procureur general, that the display of a trademark on store-front signage is use of a trade name, which according to the Charter and its regulations, requires the addition of a French descriptor if the name is not in French, irrespective of whether it is a trademark or not.  The court had rejected the OQLF’s interpretation after a careful review of the context, history and intent of the Charter and its regulations, and further held that trademarks and trade names are different.

The appeal was heard yesterday morning, and a decision was immediately rendered from the bench dismissing the appeal, without having to hear from the retailers or the interveners, including the International Trademark Association (INTA). A written decision will follow. We are monitoring this matter and will report if leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is sought.