Use of English in French Adverts – how a trademark could save you from a fine

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 Use of English in French Adverts – how a trademark could save you from a fine

In France, there exists a rather quirky, yet strict, law regarding the use of foreign languages by businesses, covering all activities targeting end-users, consumers and any documents concerning employees.  Known as the “Toubon Law”, it requires that the use of a foreign language, e.g. English, is only permitted when accompanied by a French translation, and the translation must be as legible, audible and intelligible as the foreign version.  Failure to adhere to this law can result in substantial fines.

However, there are some important exceptions to this law, such as products and specialties of foreign origin, (e.g. “jeans”, “tweed”, “t-shirt”, “kilt”, “smoking”, “stilettos”) or foreign names protected in France pursuant to international agreements.  Importantly, business name and registered trademarks do not fall within the scope of the Toubon Law.  This means that if any slogans have been registered as a trademark by a business, there is no need for this to be translated – an important point to bear in mind for companies wishing to advertise internationally with a unique slogan..

Registered trademarks, therefore, do not need to be translated.  This exception to the Toubon Law also means that companies like Nike (“Just Do It”) or Coca Cola (multiple slogans over the years) that have registered famous slogans as international trademarks may find their campaigns as exempt as their brand names.

It is therefore imperative that when advertising your brand or products in France, you consider the wording that is to be used and whether it would benefit from registered trademark protection in order to avoid either arranging the appropriate translations or risking a fine!

If you require any further information on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact one of our advisers, either by email at mail@bailey-walsh.com, or by telephone on 0113 2433824.

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