Preparation is key
After a year-long battle with big retailers such as Best Buy, Costco, The Gap, Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’ Us, Curves and Guess, the Quebec government has decided to close an important loophole in the province’s language laws.
The Minister of Culture has announced that, as early as fall 2015, the government will propose legislative amendments that will require retailers to include French inscriptions on their storefront signage, even if they meet the requirements to qualify for the exemption whereby retailers who have registered their trademark only in a language other than French may display signage in that other language alone.
Let’s briefly examine the situation.
On April 9th, 2014, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that, given the current wording of the Charter, the Office québécois de la langue français did not have the right to oblige businesses having registered their trademark only in English to use French signage on their business storefront.
The Quebec government appealed this decision and on April 27th, 2015, the Quebec Court of Appeal confirmed the Superior Court decision, agreeing that the Charter and its regulations do not currently oblige such businesses to use a French inscription when they have not trademarked a French version of their name.
The provincial Justice Minister has confirmed that the government will not seek to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.
So, end of story, right?…Wrong.
The Quebec government has now decided to take legislative action and hopes to amend the regulation to the Charter of the French Language in order to require businesses to include a French inscription in their business signage even when they have a trademark that is registered exclusively in a language other than French.
The current wording of the law
Section 58 of the Charter says that “Public signs and posters and commercial advertising must be in French […] They may also be both in French and in another language provided that French is markedly predominant.”
However, the regulation to the Charter makes an exception to this general rule, stating that, “On public signs and posters and in commercial advertising, [a recognized trademark] may appear exclusively in a language other than French, […] unless a French version has been registered.”
It is on the basis of this exception that retailers such as Best Buy, Costco, The Gap, Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R’ Us, Curves and Guess have advertised in Quebec for numerous years without adding French wording to their business signage.
On June 15th, 2015, Quebec’s Culture Minister said that the new regulation will not require businesses to translate their English-only trademarks into French. Instead, businesses will have the option of adding (1) a French description of their products or services, (2) a French slogan or (3) a French generic term to the name used on their signage, without the need to alter the original trademark.
More information will become available in the coming months.
You may reach Kelly Francis at (514) 802-7736 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: This article merely gives readers an overview of the issues discussed therein and is not legal advice. Please do not take action based on this article alone without first seeking the legal counsel appropriate for your specific situation!