The adoption of the Charter of the French Language (or "Bill 101") in 1977 limited the use of languages other than French in various contexts in Quebec, including commercial signage. As a general rule, all public signage and commercial advertising must be written in French.
An important exception, however, was the use of a trademark ("recognised within the meaning of the Trademarks Act") that could be in a language other than French.
In 2014, in an action for declaratory judgement brought by a few large brands displaying themselves under English-language trademarks, the Superior Court of Quebec concluded that a display consisting solely of a trademark in a language other than French, without generic or descriptive wording in French, was permitted and legal. The following year, the Quebec Court of Appeal unanimously upheld this decision.
In response to these defeats, in 2016, the Government of Quebec adopted the Regulation to amend the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business in order to limit the scope of exceptions for trademarks in commercial signs. Without removing the right to use a trademark in a non-French language, the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business now specifically provides that "Where a trade mark is displayed outside an immovable only in a language other than French [...], a sufficient presence of French must also be ensured on the site" and sets out the guidelines defining "sufficient presence".
These new provisions came into effect on November 24, 2016 and apply to any new or replacement signs. However, the regulation provided for a transitional period (a "grandfather clause") of three years for existing signs.
Although these regulatory amendments received a lot of media attention when they were first adopted three years ago, the subject no longer appears topical and is now largely ignored. It turns out that many business owners have unwillingly omitted to implement the required changes to their signs and are now potentially subject to penalties. The conformity of non-French unilingual signage should therefore be verified.