Concerns have been raised about conflicts of interest in the White House following approval from the Chinese government for 18 trademarks to companies linked to President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump over the past two months.
Public records show China’s Trademark Office granted provisional approval in October for 16 trademarks to the company Ivanka Trump Marks, bringing to 34 the total number of trademarks China has approved this year.
The new approvals cover Ivanka-branded fashion gear including sunglasses, handbags, shoes and jewellery, as well as beauty services and voting machines.
The approvals came three months after Ivanka Trump announced she was dissolving her namesake brand to focus on government work.
China approves 13 new Ivanka Trump trademarks in three months, raising conflict of interest questions
China also granted provisional approval for two “Trump” trademarks to DTTM Operations, headquartered at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York. They cover branded restaurant, bar and hotel services, as well as clothing and shoes.
The trademarks, which were all applied for in 2016, will be finalised if there is no objection during a 90-day comment period.
“These trademarks were sought to broadly protect Ms Trump’s name, and to prevent others from stealing her name and using it to sell their products,” Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer, said in an email.
“This is a common trademark practice, which is why the trademark applications were granted.”
Both the president and his daughter have substantial intellectual property holdings in China.
Critics worry that China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party, could exploit those valuable rights for political leverage.
There has also been concern that the Trump family’s global intellectual property portfolio lays the groundwork for the president and his daughter, who serves as a White House adviser, to profit from their global brands as soon as they leave office.
“Ivanka receives preliminary approval for these new Chinese trademarks while her father continues to wage a trade war with China,” wrote Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group that first published the news about the Ivanka Trump brand’s new Chinese trademarks.
“Since she has retained her foreign trademarks, the public will continue to have to ask whether President Trump has made foreign policy decisions in the interest of his and his family’s businesses.”
Lawyers for Donald Trump in Beijing declined to comment.
Companies register trademarks for a variety of reasons. They can be a sign of corporate ambition, but many companies also file defensively, particularly in China, where trademark squatting is rampant.
Trademarks are classified by category and may include items that a brand does not intend to market. Some trademark lawyers also advise clients to register trademarks for merchandise made in China, even if it’s not sold there.
China has said it handles all trademark applications equally under the law.