On June 1, 2022, Bill 96 An Act respecting French, the official common language of Quebec (the “Act”) came into force in Quebec. The Act brings modifications to the Charter of French Language (the “Charter”), which will impact the use of trademarks on public signage, commercial advertising, labelling and product packaging.
This article outlies the effects Bill 96 will have on public signage, commercial advertising, labelling and product packaging in Quebec.
Public Signage and Commercial Advertising
Prior to Bill 96
Public signage and commercial advertising could display a registered or common law non-French trademark without a French equivalent, if no French equivalent of the mark was registered.
For public signage on the exterior of a building or commercial space within a mall, the above rule applied, provided a French generic term or slogan accompanied the non-French trademark and be “sufficiently present”. However, there were no specifications as to size of the French term or slogan.
Post Bill 96
Starting on June 1st, 2025, only registered non-French trademarks can be displayed publicly without being translated and certain conditions must be met, depending on whether the non-French trademark is visible from the exterior of the building, as described below.
Public signage and commercial advertising not visible from the exterior of a building
With the amendments brought by Bill 96, a business may use a non-French trademark on public signage or displays not visible from the exterior of the building, provided the following conditions are met:
- the non-French trademark must be registered; and
- no application is filed for the French translation of the trademark.
Public signage and commercial advertising visible from the exterior of a building
If a company uses a non-French trademark or business name on public signage or displays visible from the exterior of a building, Bill 96 requires accompanying French language, which is “markedly predominant”.
“Markedly predominant” means the French language has a much greater visual impact than the non-French trademark or business name.
The French language is deemed to have a “much greater visual impact”, if the following conditions are met:
- the space allotted to the text in French is at least twice as large as the space allotted to the text in the other language;
- the characters used in the text in French are at least twice as large as those used in the text in the other language; and
- the other characteristics of the sign or poster do not have the effect of reducing the visual impact of the text in French.
Therefore, if only the non-French mark, name or slogan is on the sign, or if the sign or display does not contain French language that is “markedly predominant”, the sign or display is not in compliance with Bill 96.
Labelling and Product Packaging
Prior to Bill 96
Product packaging and labels could display a registered, applied for or common law non-French trademark without a French equivalent, if no French equivalent of the mark was registered on the Canadian trademark register.
Post Bill 96
Product packaging and labels can display a non-French trademark, without a French equivalent, if the following conditions are met:
- the non-French trademark is registered;
- there must not be a registered or applied for French equivalent of the trademark on the Canadian trademark register; and
- even if the non-French trademark is registered, if it contains a generic or descriptive term e.g., “Tom’s Red Wagons”, the words “Red Wagons” must appear in French on the product packaging or label.
Failure to comply with the above rules after the 3-year transition period, being June 1, 2025, will obligate the business to add a French translation of the mark to its public signage and displays, commercial advertising, labels and packaging and it may be subject to significant penalties and fines.
If you have any questions or would like advice related to Bill 96, how the new legislation may impact your business, or compliance matters, please contact us at 604-688-4900 or by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.