The Canadian province of Quebec is proudly French-speaking. Yet Quebec is surrounded by large English-speaking populations on all sides. The 9 other provinces of Canada, 3 territories and the United States bordering Quebec to the south, are all English-speaking.

To protect the French language, the government of Quebec adopted the Charter of the French language in 1977. It aims to make French the language of government and law, as well as the common language of work, education and business. It does this, among other measures, by imposing a series of requirements on the use of the French language.

On May 24, 2022, the National Assembly of Quebec passed Bill 96 implementing far-reaching amendments to the Charter of the French Language (charter), coming into force in installments between June 1, 2022 and June 1, 2025. These include a set of measures that will come into force on June 1, 2025, affecting Australian companies wishing to export their goods or services in Quebec.

Although June 1, 2025 may seem a long way off, it is an imminent deadline for Australian businesses wishing to be able to use their trademarks in Quebec, Canada after the Charter is fully implemented. This is because trademark applications take between at least two years and more than three years to register in Canada.

amendments on the language of business and commerce

Even before the amendments to Bill 96, the Charter had imposed requirements on the use of French in commerce. Section 58 requires commercial advertising to be in French. On bilingual signs, French must predominate.

However, as of June 1, 2025, the following two changes will come into force, which will have a significant impact on how companies can use their trademarks in Quebec (incidentally, the French language on packaging, in manuals, warranty documents, etc. is already a mandatory from June 1, 2022).

  1. Trademarks on products and packaging

As of June 1, 2025, all brands affixed to products and their packaging must display these brands in French, except:

  • this brand is registered; and
  • there is no French version of the mark.

In addition, generic terms and product descriptions included in the trademark must also appear in French. For example, Apple Inc’s trademark “APPLE WATCH” should probably appear as “APPLE HORLOGE” or “APPLE MONTRE”, because “watch” is a purely descriptive part of that trademark.

  1. commercial advertising

From June 1, 2025, commercial advertising, public signs and displays must feature all brands in French. Again, there will be an exemption when:

  • the mark is registered; and
  • there is no French version of the mark.

need to register trademarks

Companies that export or intend to export their products to Quebec, Canada should consider whether they need to register their trademarks in Canada. This should not be a problem if the mark is a logo, shape or color mark, or consists only of coined words (eg Exxon, Xerox, etc.). However, if the mark contains words that have a meaning in a language other than French, this mark must be registered to avoid situations like Apple becoming Pomme, or Rio Tinto (meaning “red river” in Portuguese) becoming Rivière Rouge .

urgent reason

As mentioned above, while June 1, 2025 is just under 3 years away, trademark applications filed in Canada are currently experiencing a waiting period of over 39 months before examination. Even if this delay drops to approximately 2 years if the application uses the pre-approved list of goods and services of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, this waiting time remains significant.

This means that if a trademark is not sought protection in Canada until December 2022, it is unlikely to be registered until full implementation of the Charter provisions.

takeaway outlets

Businesses exporting or planning to export their goods or services to Quebec, Canada should urgently consider registering their trademarks in Canada now. Waiting closer to June 1, 2025 probably won’t allow enough time to finalize trademark registrations, which would rather be shit.