Mar 10, 2017

Trump's Trade Mark Tribulations Take Two

President Trump's apparently insatiable desire to promote and expand the Trump brand has made headlines again with the approval of his outstanding trade mark applications in China. These applications were made whilst President Trump was on the campaign trail and employing strident language towards China and its trade policy.

Trump has of course acquired a fortune worth billions through his international real estate empire. When he was elected President, in order to avoid a conflict of interest, Trump signed his business, including these trade mark applications, over to his sons. At the time of filing these applications however the Trump organisation was still headed by President Trump.

The approval of these trade marks has ruffled feathers amongst the political elite. When the news broke earlier this year that Trump had applied for trade marks in China, many critics argued that if they were granted then they could be seen as an "emolument", something we have previously commented upon here. The US constitution strictly prohibits the Federal Government from receiving emoluments, the term used for a payment or fee received from a foreign government. The Emoluments Clause was brought into the constitution as a way of shielding the government from corrupting foreign influences. Norman Eisen, President Obama's former ethics lawyer previously stated that, "The concern of the constitution is that flows of benefit to presidents from foreign sovereigns will distort their judgment, and trademarks are certainly capable of that".

Intellectual property is a lucrative part of the Trump empire with an estimated third of his claimed wealth coming directly from his trade mark portfolio. Many people are sceptical about the volume of trade marks China has approved for Trump in such a short space of time, taking his trade mark portfolio in China to over 100 marks. It remains to be seen whether, following the approval of these applications, the Trump administration strikes a more conciliatory tone in its rhetoric towards China.

Posted by: in: EU/International, Trade Marks

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