Trump’s Chinese Trademarks:

conflict of interest or

preventative step?

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President Donald Trump’s intellectual property ownership has been in the news lately.

(We previously discussed how intellectual property law in the US might change under a Trump administration, and candidate Trump’s use of Neil Young songs.)

The New York Times reported that Trump won a preliminary appeal to register 38 new trademarks in China.

Unless there’s an objection, the new marks will be officially registered in 90 days, and will bring the number of Trump-owned marks in China to 115. Most are in the President’s own name; others are registered to a Delaware company.

As the Times reported earlier, Trump and his organizations have registered hundreds of trademarks around the world. The Times found almost 400 Trump trademarks registered in 28 countries since the year 2000.

According to the Times,

The Trump Organization has been filing trademarks for decades, and has said that it has taken out trademarks in more than 80 countries.

The latest Chinese trademark grants have attracted attention for several reasons.

  • They were granted after he assumed office as President.
  • They included trademarks covering massage and escort services.
  • Democrats in Congress "raised questions of conflict of interest and political 0favoritism" in connection with the grants, according to the Times.

A Hong Kong intellectual property lawyer commented in the Times that the handling of the Trump trademarks in China was unusual:

For this many marks to all sail through to preliminary approval this quickly, with nary an issue in sight — that is unheard of to me, and I have been doing this for 16 years. I wish my clients’ applications would be dealt with half as expeditiously and graciously.

Vox and other sources noted that

the fact that Trump has registered a trademark for a certain kind of business in China doesn’t necessarily mean he has any intention of pursuing some kind of enterprise under that trademark in the near future, if at all. It’s not uncommon for businesses to file for trademarks in other countries defensively, to ensure that others don’t use their name for their own enrichment. 

In other word, the President isn’t necessarily planning to establish Trump-branded escort services in China — but he may wish to prevent others from doing so.

As the Times notes,

More than 225 Trump-related marks are held or sought by others in China, for an array of things including Trump toilets, condoms, pacemakers and even a "Trump International Hotel."