One of the main objectives of the Charter of the French Language is to motivate businesses to use French in their commercial dealings in the province of Québec. The Regulation Respecting the Language of Commerce and Business (the Regulation) exceptionally allows for "recognized trade marks" to be exclusively in a language other than French, unless a French version has been registered. Until recently, both registered and unregistered trade marks have been considered "recognized trade marks." However, while no amendments have been made to the Regulation, the Office Québec de la Langue Française recently issued internal guidelines affirming that unregistered trade marks should no longer benefit from this exception. The Office has also indicated its intent to enforce French requirements more diligently in public signs.
Businesses who wish to avail themselves of the trade mark exception are advised to seek registration of trade marks, particularly where the mark contains descriptive terms. When selecting a trade mark, the choice of coined terms that do not consist of dictionary words in any language is less likely to be problematic. Trade mark owners are also invited to adopt French versions of their trade marks for use in the province of Québec.
Beyond legal considerations, businesses may wish to consider the commercial benefits of marketing products in Québec's official language. Please contact your Gowlings professional should you wish to discuss the impact of the Charter and the Office's new guidelines on your business.
For more information see: