The Chinese have granted the newly elected president, Donald Trump, approval to 38 trade mark applications so that he can potentially look to expand and develop his business interests in the country. Some have questioned the Chinese trade mark system for apparently approving these marks so promptly. They are however still within a 3 month period for any objections to be raised against the applications and that they were filed approximately 9 months before the provisional approvals were granted. Critics of Trump have also pointed to the fact that he has previously had applications refused in China.
There are two significant cases in which Trump was taken to court in China over trade mark conflicts where his case failed. The first was in 2014-2015, where Trump's application for 'TRUMP' was very alike to the mark 'Trump' which was filed by a Chinese individual a few weeks earlier. Since the Chinese individual filed first, it is not unusual that Trump's application was declined as China has a 'first to file' law where priority is given to the first person to file for a mark rather than anybody who may have prior use of the mark. Trump and his team appealed this decision, saying that his mark was distinctive despite the fact that the Chinese only really became aware of him after the start of his 2016 election campaign and his strong rhetoric towards China. A factor that needs to be considered is that the Chinese 'decode' the name of foreign people into a shorter name and then into the Chinese equivalent. 'TRUMP' hadn't been decoded at this time and so remained unspecific within the Chinese language.
The second case regarding Trump and trade mark conflicts was in 2014 where Trump fought against a Chinese company for the combination of Chinese characters which they used. However, his case failed as the combination used was held to be different to any of his previous translations.
Contrary to the two cases where Trump's applications were rejected, since 2006 Trump has in fact had many trade mark applications approved suggesting that it is not just his new found fame in China which prompted the 38 approvals made recently. However, Ben Cardin, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, did imply that previously Trump had little success in trade mark applications but since his heavy media coverage and increased recognition, applications have been more frequently approved. Dan Plane, a director at Simone IP Services, also suggested that it was unusual for the applications to be approved with no problems and so smoothly. The legal status of the approved marks can be followed on the Chinese Trade Mark Office database and it's Gazette. This has once more raised worries about potential conflicts of interest for President Trump in his dealings with China.
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