China grants preliminary approval to 38 new Trump trademarks

By: | Updated: March 9, 2017 1:45 AM

China already registered one trademark to the president, for Trump-branded construction services on Feb. 14, the result of a 10-year legal battle that turned in Trump's favor after he declared his candidacy.

Trump’s lawyers in China applied for the marks in April 2016, as Trump railed against China at campaign rallies, accusing it of currency manipulation and stealing U.S. jobs. (Reuters)

China has granted preliminary approval for 38 new Trump trademarks, paving the way for President Donald Trump and his family to potentially develop a host of branded businesses from hotels and golf clubs to bodyguard and concierge services, public documents show. Trump’s lawyers in China applied for the marks in April 2016, as Trump railed against China at campaign rallies, accusing it of currency manipulation and stealing U.S. jobs. Critics maintain that Trump’s swelling portfolio of China trademarks raises serious conflict of interest questions. China’s Trademark Office published the provisional approvals on Feb. 27 and Monday. If no one objects, they will be formally registered after 90 days. All but three are in the president’s own name. China already registered one trademark to the president, for Trump-branded construction services on Feb. 14, the result of a 10-year legal battle that turned in Trump’s favor after he declared his candidacy.

Ethics lawyers across the political spectrum say that if President Trump receives any special treatment in securing trademark rights, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, which bans public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless approved by Congress. Concerns about potential conflicts of interest are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party. Dan Plane, a director at Simone IP Services, a Hong Kong intellectual property consultancy, said he had never seen so many applications approved so expeditiously. “For all these marks to sail through so quickly and cleanly, with no similar marks, no identical marks, no issues with specifications boy, it’s weird,” he said. Given the impact Trump’s presidency could have on China, Plane said he would be “very, very surprised” if officials from the ruling Communist Party were not monitoring Trump’s intellectual property interests.

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“This is just way over your average trademark examiner’s pay grade,” he said. The trademarks cover businesses including branded spas, massage parlors, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, restaurants, bars, and bodyguard and a class of trademarks called “social escort and concierge services” though it’s unclear whether any such businesses will actually materialize in China. Trump has pledged to refrain from new foreign deals while in office, and many companies register trademarks in China only to prevent others from using their name inappropriately.

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