June 8, 2012
The Office québécois de la langue française (the Office) announced on June 1, 2012, that starting this summer, it would conduct investigations on its own initiative to identify businesses that are non-compliant with the public signage provisions of the Charter of the French Language (the Charter) and request that they make the necessary corrections.
It also indicated that “it was time for the Office to initiate other steps against businesses that refuse to post their trade name in compliance with the Charter.” The Office is referring to its recent campaign to convince businesses operating in Québec that use of English-only trademarks on store-front signage must include a French generic word or expression that describes the business. The Office’s justification is that while the Charter and its Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business provide that a recognized trademark may be exclusively in a language other than French, the Charter also requires that a business name be in French or, if its distinctive feature is in another language, it must be accompanied by a French generic descriptor. It is the Office’s view that store-front signage displays a business name, and must therefore be accompanied by a French generic descriptor if not already French.
In view of this announcement, businesses in Québec posting English-only trademarks on their store-front signage should anticipate more attention from the Office and the risk of a citation requiring changes, even if no complaint from consumers has been filed.
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