Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation 

How to use your non-French trademarks/brand name in Quebec 

On June 1, 2022, Bill 96 changed the rules surrounding how trademarks are displayed in Quebec. We go over what that means and how your trademark and brand strategies may be affected.


It’s been almost 2 months since Bill 96 received assent and officially became law in Quebec on June 1, 2022. The Bill amends the Charter of the French Language with provisions that relate to language and how it is displayed on public signage and commercial advertising. 

We’re particularly interested in what this means for those outside of Quebec seeking to do business or advertise in la belle province, as this update has specific implications for English language trademarks. 

Qu’est que c’est? 

The purpose of Bill 96 is to significantly overhaul and strengthen Quebec’s Charter of the French Language to further recognize French as the province’s only official language by reinforcing its use in education, business, services, publications, and daily life.  

If you are familiar with language laws in Quebec, you’re likely aware that, generally speaking, public signage and commercial advertising must be in French.  

If there are other words/inscriptions not in French in the commercial advertising or public signage, the French portion must be markedly predominant.  

As for how this affects trademarks, before Bill 96 it was still possible to use a non-French “recognized” trademark on public signage and in commercial advertising without an accompanying French equivalent, provided that a French version of the trademark was not registered. “Recognized” trademarks were interpreted as being registered trademarks as well as common law trademarks.  

You say Potato, I Say Patate 

Once Bill 96 comes into effect (scheduled for June 1, 2025), the rules surrounding the ability to use non-French brand names for establishments in Quebec stricter. 

For a trademark to appear on public signage or in commercial advertising without an accompanying French translation, two things must now be true.  

  1. The trademark must now be registered (as opposed to just “recognized”) 
  2. The trademark must not have a corresponding French version that is applied for or registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) 

If you satisfy the above requirements but wish to use your non-French trademark on a public sign that is visible from the exterior of your place of business, a French generic term or slogan must nonetheless appear on the sign and be “markedly predominant” in relation to the non-French trademark.   

It’s important to note that as of right now, this rule that the French version must be “markedly predominant” is applicable for public signage and in commercial advertising but NOT to websites. As it stands, both registered and unregistered non-French trademarks may continue to appear on websites without a French translation. 

What this means for your business… 

Let’s consider an example. Imagine you have a juice store with the name “Candid Juice” and you’re looking to open your first location in Quebec but since you don’t have a French trademark equivalent, you are unsure how to market yourself with the changes enacted by Bill 96.   

There are two possible outcomes, depending on whether your trademark for “Candid Juice” is registered or common law: 

  • If it’s common law: without a registered trademark for “Candid Juice”, you need to display both “Candid Juice” and “jus de candide” in your public sign and commercial advertising. 
  • If it’s registered: If you have a registered trademark for “Candid Juice” and you did not apply for or register the trademark “Jus de candide” with CIPO, you can use “Candid Juice” on your public sign or commercial advertising.  

However, in this case, if “Candid Juice” is on public signage that is visible from the exterior, you will also need to include a “markedly predominant” generic French term, such as “jus,” or a French slogan such as “le jus qui fait votre journée.” Whichever one you choose; the French words need to be in letters twice as large as “Candid Juice.” 

What steps should you undertake now? 

2025 may seem like a long way off, but if you wish to use a non-French trademark for your commercial establishment in Quebec, we’d recommend applying for trademark applications with CIPO as soon as possible.  

With the backlogs that CIPO is currently dealing with, it may take 3 years to register your trademarks. Acting quickly is of the essence, as the rules relating to the language use in commercial advertising and public signage comes into effect on June 1st, 2025. 

If you need help navigating the trademark requirements for your (future) establishments in Quebec, Stratford Intellectual Property is here for you.  


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