Businesses operating in Quebec that display on outdoor signage a trademark that is not in French and which is not accompanied by a French generic term, slogan or description have until November 24, 2019 to comply with the new rules requiring a “sufficient presence of French”.  A well-known example of this is “Café Starbucks”.

On November 24, 2016, amendments to the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business were introduced by the Quebec Government to regulate non-French language trademarks displayed on outdoor as well as business-front signs. Existing businesses and franchises had a three-year period to comply. This grace period expires on November 24, 2019, date as of which all non-French language signage in Quebec will be subject to the new requirements.

The Regulation will affect all businesses with an establishment in Quebec that display outside their premises a non-French language trademark without a French generic term, slogan or description, including:

  • Signage located inside a building, mall or shopping center, whether underground or above-ground;
  • Signs or posters inside a building intended to be seen from the outside;
  • Rooftop signs; and
  • Storefront signage.

It is important to note that the Regulation does not require that non-French language trademarks be translated to French nor for additional French words attached to such a trademark to be “markedly predominant”.  However, the additional French words must be permanently visible, legible and shown within the same visual field as the non-French language trademark. This means, for example, that a business that displays an illuminated non-French language trademark must ensure that the necessary additional French word(s) must also be illuminated.

Finally, it is important to consider whether the addition of a French language generic or descriptive term or slogan constitutes an alteration to a registered trademark. If so, further trademark protection may be warranted.