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Startups Entrepreneur turns 'red square' symbol of Quebec student protests into clothing brand

A young Montreal entrepreneur has trademarked the famous red square, which became the ubiquitous symbol of last year’s student protest movement in Quebec against tuition-fee hikes

A small red felt square held in place by a gold safety pin became the ubiquitous symbol of last year's student protest movement in Quebec against tuition-fee hikes.

Now, it's becoming a brand.

A small-business entrepreneur in the Montreal area has set up shop to market a line of polo shirts and tees sporting the famous red square.

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Raymond Drapeau of Longueuil, Que. says he's not out to make a killing off of the logo but is simply keen to see the design gain more exposure.

"I saw the red felt squares and said to myself, 'we could broaden this a little bit and put it on shirts," said Mr. Drapeau, who has set up a website with the slogan "show your colours" to sell his apparel.

The budding businessman – he has a day job but refuses to disclose what it is – filed a trademark application for the design last year at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and received tentative approval late last month.

Mr. Drapeau says he felt it was important for the commercial rights to be in Quebec and that he had to act before the light bulb went on somewhere else outside the province.

The logo got plenty of exposure last year in different high-profile venues. Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan wore it in his lapel on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival. Members of the popular Montreal-based indie band Arcade Fire had it pinned on while performing with Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Drapeau doesn't want to raise the ire of the student associations that launched the protests – and the emblem – and is interested in eventually working out a deal with them whereby they would receive part of the sale proceeds.

The students did not seem keen on grabbing a trademarketing opportunity, so he decided to plunge in, he said.

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"This is my vision but not that of those who are against commercialization, against capitalism," he said.

"They might think they are the owners of the red square but in fact that is not the case," he said.

"It's unfortunate that an organization would say 'no, no, no, we're not going to get involved.'"

An official with one of the main student groups – Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante – said the matter is being studied and there won't be any comments for the moment.

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