Quebec to oblige retailers with English names to add French slogan, descriptor

Quebec is amending its language laws to require retailers to add a French description to go with their commercial trademark English names.

Culture Minister Hélène David hopes to have Bill 101's tighter regulations in effect by 2016

Although major retailers, including Wal-Mart, won a court battle in April allowing them to keep their English names, Premier Philippe Couillard suggested the government would tighten Bill 101 to oblige them to comply.

Quebec has made good on its promise to amend the province's language laws to require retailers to add a French description to go with their commercial trademark English names.

"This fall, our government will propose amendments to the regulations respecting the language of commerce and business," Culture Minister Hélène David said Wednesday.

"This is intended to ensure a permanent and visible presence of French on the exterior of storefronts."

David, who is also in charge of the province's French language charter, said several options will be provided in an effort to better reflect Quebec's French heritage — without altering the original trademark, which comes under federal jurisdiction.

"There will be no requirement to translate the trademark," she said. "It will rather be of adding inscriptions in French which can take the form of a description of products or services, a slogan or if preferred, the addition of a generic word."

David said the additional French descriptor could be anywhere — above, next to or below the trademark.

The Retail Council of Canada said it's satisfied with this measure.

"We welcome the government's decision to protect trademarks. We are pleased with the openness, the will to collaborate and the flexibility on the part of the minister," said Nathalie St-Pierre, vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada.

20 per cent of trademarks English only

Last week, Premier Philippe Couillard had said the government would tighten Bill 101 — the province's language law — to oblige major retailers to comply.

David estimated that about 20 per cent of Quebec enterprises have their trademarks uniquely in English, but the rest have French names or have added a French descriptor.

For example, David cited Starbucks Coffee, which adds "café" to its name in Quebec while furniture store Crate and Barrel adds the word "maison" or house.

David said new rules will hopefully be in place by 2016.

The government will look at possibly providing funds to help companies offset transition costs.

In April, Quebec's Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision and ruled the province's language watchdog could not force companies such as Best Buy, Old Navy and Costco to add a French component to their name.

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said Wednesday the government won't appeal.

With files from CBC News


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