Trump's Trademark Win in China Meets Foreign Emoluments Clause
China's Trademark office on Tuesday makes effective U.S. President Donald Trump's longstanding petition to trademark his name about a wide variety of goods and services in China. Trump's mark was published in China's Trademark Gazette less than a week after he won the presidential election with 49 new trademark applications still pending.
Trump applied for a trademark with his name in 2006 but was rejected by China's Trademark Office because someone else filed a similar application and had priority under China's first come first served trademark rule, as per the Washington Post.
Apparently, more than 200 Trump marks were registered ranging from Trump toilets to Trump pacemakers and even Trump International Hotel, all of that claimed by persons other than Trump. Due to this, Trump appealed the ruling but was rejected at every turn, however, the Trademark Office took a reversal late last year as it finally approved Trump's trademark case.
The question now is whether Trump's trademark win violates the foreign emoluments clause - a constant argument between ethics lawyers that say it poses conflicts of interest. Under the Constitution, persons holding an Office of Profit or Trust are prohibited from accepting emoluments or title of any kind from a foreign state without the consent of Congress.
Ethics lawyer Norman Eisen views Trump's trademark win as a terrible idea and concludes "this is an effort to influence Mr. Trump that is relatively inexpensive for the Chinese, potentially very valuable to him, but it could be very costly for the United States," he said.
Richard Painter agrees and says foreign governments know Trump cares deeply about his family business, as per the Associated Press. "They will give him what he wants and they will expect stuff in return," he said. Both Eisen and Painter are involved in a lawsuit alleging Trump's foreign business dealings as a violation of the foreign emoluments clause but Trump has dismissed it.
Meanwhile, Alan Garter, chief legal officer, says Trump's trademark for several products sold in China were done before the election and as such he has turned the management of his company over to his children.
If true, it still doesn't rule out the fact that Trump's elevated profile in China will make it easier for him to protect his brand. The outcome of his pending trademark cases could also depend on Trump's relationship with China. Yes, he is legally entitled to the trademark but it seems like China is doing Trump a big favor that will probably force the president, in the future, to act the same.