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02 June 2014
The attorney general of Quebec, who represents the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), has filed a notice of appeal of the April 9 2014 Quebec Superior Court decision confirming that businesses can continue using their registered trademarks on public signs outside their premises in the province of Quebec without the need to add French generic language.
This decision was the result of proceedings for declaratory judgment initiated in October 2012 by several well-known retailers (Best Buy, Costco, Gap, Old Navy, Guess, Walmart, Toys "R" Us and Curves) following a change in the OQLF's interpretation of Quebec Charter of the French Language. The International Trademark Association also successfully intervened in this matter to raise important trademark law issues and policies.
At issue in these proceedings was the so-called trademark exception provided for in the French charter regulation, which had allowed businesses, for almost two decades, to display their registered trademarks on public signs in a language other than French without the need to add French generic language. However, the OQLF recently changed its position and now considers that any trademark appearing on a public sign in Quebec is in fact used as a trade name, which requires its translation into French or the addition of French generic language.
The Quebec Superior Court rejected all of the arguments put forward by the OQLF, holding that the French charter and its regulation could hardly be clearer and that there was no doubt as to its proper interpretation.
In its notice of appeal the OQLF alleges three different grounds of appeal:
Once again, retailers will vigorously defend their right to use and maintain the integrity of their trademarks as provided for in the French charter, the Trademarks Act and international instruments.
Unless the parties request and/or the court orders that this matter be fast-tracked, the appeal is unlikely to be heard before the end of 2015.
For further information on this topic please contact Jean-Sébastien Dupont at Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh office by telephone (+1 514 954 1500), fax (+1 514 954 1396) or email (email@example.com). The Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh website can be accessed at www.smart-biggar.ca.
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