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Trademarks: Do your signs and posters comply with the new rules?

Is your business’ trademark in a language other than French? Be careful! You have until November 24, 2019, to adjust your signs and posters to ensure that you are in compliance with a new regulation.

Trademark or business name?

Don’t confuse “trademark” and “business name”.

According to the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), a trademark is a combination of letters, words, sounds, symbols or designs used by a company to differentiate its products and services from those of its competitors.

A business name allows a company to make itself known to the public and distinguish itself from its competitors.

Are my signs and posters affected?

If your business is located in Quebec and you have registered your trademark with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) in a language other than French, your public signs and posters may need to be adjusted.

What are public signs and posters?

Your signs and posters are public if they are located:

  • Outside a building, including on the roof.
  • Outside premises that are part of a shopping centre.
  • Inside a building or premises if the signs and posters are intended to be seen from the outside.
  • On a utility pole or any other independent structure, unless:
    • They are displayed near a building or premises where the same trademark appears outside.
    •  A totem-type structure is used and includes more than two trademarks.

 

The regulation does not apply to signs and posters:

  • On a vehicle
  • On a display rack
  • In a catalogue
What has been changed?

Before the regulation was adopted, you had the right to use your trademark even if it was not in French. If your trademark existed in French, you were, however, required to use the French version in Quebec.

The new regulation provides that public signs and posters featuring an English trademark must be accompanied by a sufficient presence of French.

How can you be sure that you have a sufficient presence of French?

A sufficient presence of French can be ensured by using one of the following:

  • a generic term indicating the company’s activities (for example: In Vêtements Green, “vêtements” becomes the generic term)
  • a description of the company’s products or services
  • a slogan
  • any other indication, preferably one that pertains to the products or services

Here are some examples taken from the OQLF guide: 

exemples de présence suffisante du français

 

There are some text elements that cannot be used to ensure a sufficient presence of French:

  • Business hours
  • Postal and electronic addresses
  • Percentages and numbers, including telephone numbers
  •  A text that is only legible at a distance of one metre or less 

The OQLF has prepared a guide containing all the details you will need for compliance with the requirements, including a number of practical examples. This guide is only available in French; however, CFIB members can also contact a Business Counsellor for further information.