On January 10, 2024, the Québec government published draft regulations (the Draft Regulations) that, if passed, will amend the Quebec Charter of the French Language (the Charter) and the current Regulations respecting the language of commerce and business.
In May 2022, the Québec government adopted An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec (Bill 96) which proposed amendments to the Charter to “affirm that the only official language of Québec is French”, as previously reported by the E-TIPS® Newsletter here. The Draft Regulations provide further guidance on the changes introduced by Bill 96, including the following key changes:
Bill 96 specifies that only “registered trademarks” may appear in whole or in part in a language other than French on a product.
The Draft Regulations broaden the scope of the term “registered trademark” to include an applied-for trademark, the application for which is pending as of the filing date. As a result, an organization can display a non-French trademark on its product and packaging if the mark is either pending registration or is registered. The broadened scope of the term “registered trademark” is only with respect to product inscriptions and does not apply to public signs and commercial advertising.
Bill 96 requires that if a registered trademark includes a non-French “generic term” or “description of the product”, this “generic term” or “description” will have to appear in French elsewhere on the product.
The Draft Regulations define a “generic term” as “one or more words describing the nature of a product” and “description” of the product as “one or more words describing the characteristics of the product.”
The Draft Regulations state that no “generic term” or product “description” included in a trademark in another language may be given greater prominence than that in French or be available on more favourable terms.
In the context of outdoor signage, Bill 96 replaced the “sufficient presence of French” requirement with a requirement that non-French trademarks be accompanied by “markedly predominant” French text.
The Draft Regulations clarify that the “markedly predominant” threshold will be met where “the text in French has a much greater visual impact than the text in the other language.” The Draft Regulations state that the French text will have a much greater visual impact, within the same visual field, when the French text is at least twice as large as the text in another language and the French text’s legibility and permanent visibility are equivalent to those of the text in another language.
The trademark-related requirements under Bill 96 are set to come into force on June 1, 2025.
The Draft Regulations introduce a compliance grace period until June 1, 2027. This means that products not meeting the new requirements may still be distributed, retailed, leased, offered for sale or lease, or otherwise offered on the market if the products were manufactured prior to June 1, 2025 and no French version of the trademark was registered as of the date of publication of the new Regulations.
The Draft Regulations are currently subject to a 45-day consultation period ending on February 24, 2024 and may therefore undergo subsequent revisions before they are passed. Please continue to monitor the E-TIPS ® Newsletter for further updates.
Summary By: Victoria Di Felice
Disclaimer: This Newsletter is intended to provide readers with general information on legal developments in the areas of e-commerce, information technology and intellectual property. It is not intended to be a complete statement of the law, nor is it intended to provide legal advice. No person should act or rely upon the information contained in this newsletter without seeking legal advice.
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