The Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications has announced that proposed amendments to the regulations under the Charter of the French Language will come into force on November 24, 2016. The amendments are intended to ensure the presence of French language on the storefront of businesses that display non-French trademarks on public signs, while purporting to respect the trademark exception.

As reported in our May 9, 2016 IP Update, the amendments provide that where a non-French trademark appears on a public sign, such must be accompanied by a generic term or a description of the products or services concerned, a slogan or any other indication in French informing consumers and passersby of the products or services offered. An appropriate display would give a permanent visibility to French, similar to that of the non-French trademark displayed and also be legible together with the non-French trademark. However, the display in the French language is not required to be at the same place, in the same number, in the same materials or in the same size as the non-French trademark.

Quebec business owners should be aware that while the amendments target public storefront signs, the amendments specifically provide that the language requirements apply to signs and posters “outside an immovable” property, which include:

  • signs or posters related or attached to an immovable, including its roof;
  • signs or posters outside premises situated in an immovable or a larger property complex, such as a mall or shopping centre, underground or not;
  • signs or posters inside an immovable or premises, if their installation or characteristics are intended to be seen from the outside; and
  • subject to certain exceptions, signs or posters appearing on an independent structure near an immovable or premise.

The new regulations will apply to all new signage as of November 24, 2016. For existing signage, the regulations provide a 3-year grace period for business owners to comply.

In parallel, the Office québecois de la langue française has prepared two illustrative guides that will be distributed to all businesses in Quebec. The first guide specifically deals with the display of trademarks, including the obligations with regard to the public display of trademarks exclusively in a language other than French, while the second guide addresses the general linguistic obligations of businesses.