The Government of Québec has just formally published new regulations on public signage that have major consequences for any foreign or local company doing business in Québec that uses a non-French trademark.

Announced last spring, these rules come into force on November 24. They require that any display of a non-French trademark must now be accompanied by elements to francize the public display of the mark.

These new rules reflect the Québec government's desire to affirm the French face of Québec, and are in response to political pressure from French language activists.

Here are the main effects of the regulatory amendments:

  • Any company doing business in Québec that has a trademark in a language other than French must add a French message to their outdoor signage: a generic term, description, slogan or information about the product or services offered.
  • The types of outdoor signage subject to the regulation include those attached to the outside of a building, outside premises located in a shopping centre, and independent structures such as posts or poles (in these last cases, only if there is no other outdoor signage in which the same trademark appears).
  • The French message must have permanent visibility, similar to that of the trademark, be illuminated if the mark is illuminated, and be in the same visual field as the mark. Note that there is considerable flexibility with respect to the type of French message that complies with the new requirements and the concept of "permanence".
  • Names of people or places, and temporary or seasonal buildings and premises are not subject to the amendments.
  • The new regulations come into force on November 24. Existing businesses have three years to comply with the amendments. New businesses created after the amendments come into force will have to comply immediately.

Despite their apparent simplicity, the new rules present challenges for businesses that must now francize their signage in Québec. However, effective low-cost solutions, can sometimes be implemented. There may also be a legal challenge to these new rules, as was the case with previous rules on French signage in Québec.

For more information please read the full text of the regulatory amendments (PDF - available in French only)