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Trademarks and Changes to the Charter of the French Language – Be Ready!

Published: Thursday, September 7, 2023

You have probably heard about the statute that will bring important changes to the Charter of the French Language (“Bill 96”) which is gradually coming into force since June 1, 2022. These changes could potentially have an impact on the use of your trademarks in Quebec.

Indeed, as of June 1st, 2025, marks in a language other than French (i.e., not a word or expression in French or an invented expression that does not correspond to any language) will be allowed to be used in Quebec on goods or their packaging or on public signs in Quebec only if they are registered with the Registrar of Trademarks. In addition, generic or descriptive words in a registered trademark used on a product will have to be in French (although this latter requirement raises constitutionality issues). This thus changes the current practice, which allowed the use of any trademark in a language other than French, therefore including unregistered trademarks.

Although 2025 still seems a long way off, obtaining a trademark registration is not always possible and certainly not quick. Currently, the time frame for registering a mark varies between three and four years if everything goes smoothly.

In the event where an application for registration is opposed by a third party, two or three years can easily be added to the registration process if the opposition is finally rejected. It is therefore possible to wait up to seven years to obtain a registration, or ten years if the decision rendered in the opposition proceedings is appealed.

Moreover, for various reasons, an application for registration could be refused, thus denying the possibility of benefiting from the exception provided for trademarks in a language other than French.

Consequently, if you use or intend to use a trademark in a language other than French, it is strongly recommended to start as of now the searches required to assess the chances of obtaining a trademark registration and the necessary arrangements in this regard.

Our trademark professionals are highly experienced and will be pleased to assist you in this matter as well as in the protection of your trademarks in Canada and abroad.

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As the partner in charge of BCF’s Trademark group, Johanne Auger supports businesses of all sizes in developing and supervising national and international trademark portfolios. Her global vision of issues, her excellent listening skills and her personalized approach help her develop protection strategies tailored to the realities and needs of each client, whether in Quebec, Canada or worldwide. With more than 25 years of experience in trademark protection, intellectual property management and litigation, Johanne advises start-ups, SMEs and large companies operating in the technology, agri-food, pharmaceutical, tourism, cultural, finance, manufacturing, textiles and retail industries.  An excellent communicator eager to share her knowledge, Johanne regularly gives trademark lectures to various organizations in Europe, Asia and North and South America. She provides customized training to senior management and marketing teams from several companies.  Johanne Auger will be attending the UNIFAB conference in Paris, FR, March 21st to March 22nd, 2024.  Johanne Auger will be attending the International Trademark Association Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA, May 18th to May 22nd, 2024. 

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