What’s the News?

On May 4, 2016, Quebec’s government published proposed regulations which would require businesses using signage bearing trademarks in languages other than French to incorporate a “sufficient presence of French” on their signs. Quebec’s announcement of the proposed regulations can be found here, and the text of the proposed regulations can be found here. If adopted, companies affected by the regulations would have up to three years to bring existing signage into compliance by displaying a French term or phrase describing the nature of their goods or services.  

Whom Will the Proposed Regulations Affect?

The proposed regulations will apply to all companies operating in Quebec who display their non-French trademark:

  • On the exterior of a building, including the roof;
  • On a façade located inside a building or shopping center;
  • Inside a building where the sign is intended to be seen from the outside; or
  • On an independent structure (e.g., terminal, billboard) unless the trademark is already displayed as described in 1-3, above, and unless more than two marks are displayed on the structure (e.g., totem-type signage structures).

The proposed regulations will not apply to signage displaying non-French trademarks on a temporary/seasonal basis (e.g., on a stand or kiosk).  

What Do the Proposed Regulations Require?

When a sign displays a non-French-language trademark, there must also be a “sufficient presence” of the French. Under the regulations, “sufficient presence” can include:

  • A French generic term or description of the goods or services (e.g., “boulangerie” or pâtisserie” for bakeries);
  • A slogan in French; or
  • Any other term or indication in French providing information about the goods or services to consumers and other persons on the premises.

The use of French must be in the same general field as the non-French trademark, must be continuously present, and must be illuminated at the same time the non-French brand is illuminated. The French presence need not predominate over the non-French mark, however, if there is a message on the sign in both French and a language other than French, the French message must predominate. Quebec’s government gives examples of compliance with the proposed regulation here. Significantly, the draft regulation indicates that it may not apply to signage bearing trademarks that consist of family names.