The Chinese government has granted preliminary approval for nine Donald Trump trademarks it had previously rejected, in whole or in part, The Associated Press found, a turn that is likely to fuel further allegations that Beijing may be giving the US president’s family business special treatment.
Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his global branding empire has sparked criticism over perceived conflicts of interest and three lawsuits, including one filed on Wednesday by nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers, which allege violations of a constitutional prohibition against accepting gifts from foreign governments.
Trademarks lie at the heart of these complaints because they are granted by foreign states and can be enormously valuable — whether they are intended as groundwork for future business activity or defensive measures to protect a brand from squatters.
Publicly available records do not indicate why the nine applications were initially rejected, or why the trademarks were then granted provisional approval eight to 15 weeks later.
“The speed with which these appeals were decided is mind-blowing,” said Matthew Dresden, an intellectual property attorney at Harris Bricken in Seattle. “I have never seen any decisions made that quickly. That suggests special treatment. But that’s just procedural. Substantively, it’s impossible to say whether any of this is unusual.”
The Chinese Trademark Office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
The new provisional approvals further shore up the US president’s brand in China, conferring potential rights to the use of Chinese versions of his name for beauty salon services, socks, human resources consulting and advertising, among other things, and the Trump brand, in English, for jewelry and watch repair.
If there are no objections, the marks will be formally registered after 90 days.
China has also granted formal approval for dozens of Trump trademarks in the past few weeks, bringing to 39 the total number of official registrations China has given the Trump family business since he took office, according to records from the Trademark Office.
Those marks include branded spa and massage services, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real-estate companies, restaurants, bars, and a trademark class that covers bodyguards, social escorts and concierge services, Chinese records show.
It is not unusual for trademark rejections to be overturned on appeal, said You Yunting, a partner at DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai.
The Trademark Office database contained no indication Trump’s lawyers had appealed the trademark rejections, but said it can take months for such actions to be publicly noted. If the initial denial was only partial, some elements of the applications can move forward without an appeal, in which case reversals can be swift.
“Considering the political element, the authorities are definitely not going to admit special treatment, but the possibility cannot be excluded,” You said. “Even if the Trademark Office helped Trump, it would be very difficult to find the wrongdoing on the surface.”
China has defended its handling of trademarks belonging to the president and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who has also been expanding her collection of Chinese trademarks , as fair and in line with Chinese law.
Ivanka Trump’s brand has won provisional approval for at least seven new trademarks since she took on an official role at the White House.
The Trump Organization now has at least 125 trademarks in China formally or provisionally approved, according to Chinese public records. Just four were invalidated, back in 2013.
Three more have been rejected, with appeals pending, and one application is dead, the Trademark Office database showed.
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