Québec's Bill 96: analyzing its impact on businesses, commerce, and intellectual property rights

Smart & Biggar lawyers discuss Québec's proposed language reforms and its potential impact on IP law

This article was written by Christian Bolduc and Stéphanie Girard of Smart & Biggar LLP.

On May 13, 2021, the government of Québec introduced Bill 96 with an intent to “strengthen” the provisions in the Charter of the French language (the French Charter). We do not know whether Bill 96 will be adopted and, if so, whether it will be passed in its current form. An amendment to the Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business (the Regulation) is also expected. In the meantime, the current texts of the French Charter and Regulation continue to apply.

This article provides an overview of some of the changes proposed by Bill 96, notably those related to the language of commerce and business, the handling of complaints by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) and its powers, and the sanctions for violating the French Charter. Though Bill 96 may significantly influence the French language laws in Québec, we will only be able to evaluate the true impact of this reform when the Bill and the anticipated changes to the Regulation are adopted in their final form.

Language of commerce and business

Contracts of adhesion and contracts containing standard clauses 1

Bill 96 provides for civil penalties in case of non-compliance with the language of contracts, including the cancellation of the contract or the reduction of the obligation of the person who suffers harm2, as a result of the non-compliance with this new provision.

Also, in any contract of adhesion or consumer contract, it is necessary for the adherent or the consumer to have expressly requested for the contract to be in a language other than French. Otherwise, any clause in a language other than French is deemed incomprehensible, which may cause the clause to be void and of no effect.3

The provisions relating to this requirement would come into effect on the day Bill 96 receives approval.4

Read more about the ongoing debate over Bill 96 on the Smart & Biggar website.


1. French Charter, section 55 and Bill 96, section 44.

2. Bill 96, section 114 (204.19).

3. Bill 96, section 114 (204.25) and Civil Code of Québec, section 1436.

4. Bill 96, section 201.


Christian Bolduc is a partner in Smart & Biggar’s Montréal office. With 25 years of experience across all stages of the trademark life cycle, Christian is passionate about helping clients generate ROI and value from strategically developed IP assets. Christian’s trademark practice consists primarily of procurement, oppositions and cancellation proceedings, management, strategic counselling and enforcement. He routinely prepares and prosecutes trademark applications and prepares opinions on availability, registrability, validity and infringement.


Stéphanie Girard is an associate in Smart & Biggar’s Montréal office. As a lawyer, trademark agent and copyright specialist, Stephanie is a valuable resource through her ability to listen to clients’ needs, understand their business, know their competition and find the best possible solution to leverage the potential of their brands. Stéphanie has worked with small and mid-sized businesses across North America as well as international associate firms seeking counsel in trademark law. She covers all industry areas, including fashion, cosmetics, and food and beverage.