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Special Alert: Quebec Signage Issue Not Over

May 9, 2014

By Brigitte Chan 

The Quebec government has filed an appeal against the Quebec Superior Court decision that rejected the position taken by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) regarding non-French store signage. 

On April 9, 2014, the Quebec Superior Court decided that non-French trademarks on store-front signage do not need to be accompanied by a French descriptor of the nature of the business to comply with the Charter of the French Language. The decision was the result of an action launched in 2012 by several multinational companies including Best Buy, Gap, Old Navy, Wal-Mart and Costco seeking a declaratory judgment against the interpretation of the OQLF and Quebec’s Procureur général that the display of a trademark on store-front signage is use of a trade name, which according to Quebec’s Charter of the French Language and its regulations, requires the addition of a French descriptor if the name is not in French.  

The Court rejected the OQLF’s interpretation after a careful review of the context, history and intent of the Charter and its regulations, and further held that trademarks and trade names are two separate legal notions. However, the Quebec government has now filed an appeal against this decision, leaving business owners uncertain as to Quebec's signage requirements until the Court of Appeal renders a decision. 

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Brigitte Chan Brigitte Chan
LL.L., LL.B.
514.871.2920  email Brigitte Chan