In the past, China has had somewhat of a reputation for weak protection of intellectual property rights and a large market for counterfeit products. Prominent companies, including Donald Trump’s, have long dealt with Chinese imitators creating knock-offs and using deceptive trade practices. But now it seems that Trump’s election win may be helping his trademark case in China.
While President-Elect Donald Trump’s brand is already well established with many ventures, including real estate holdings, beauty competitions, and reality TV shows, his name and brand are now becoming known to nearly everyone on the planet as he ascends to the most powerful position in American government. This wide-spread recognition may be supporting Trump’s fight over parties who have looked to capitalize on his name in China.
Trump’s group has been very active in seeking trademark protection in China over the past decade. It has filed 126 Chinese trademark applications on the Trump name in all sorts of categories, including 34 applications that have been filed just in 2016. These applications are not alone – there have been a number of third party filings in China that have sought trademark protection on the Trump name as well. There are trademark registrations for Trump toilets, Trump paint, and Trump condoms just to name a few. Some appear to have been attempts to capitalize on the Trump brand and other perhaps just a coincidental use of the word in the context of playing cards.
With such activity around Trump branding in China, Trump recently won a critical trademark battle over the rights to use Trump in the class covering commercial, residential hotels and immovable property. This may be the most important class for Trump as his primary business has been in real estate holdings and hotels. Trump’s initial application for this class in 2006 was rejected because a man named Dong Wei had already received a Chinese trademark registration on Trump in the same category. Trump appealed the rejection all the way up to the Beijing Supreme Court, but lost at every appeal.
But in September of 2016 as the US presidential election was looming, the Chinese Trademark Bureau reversed its course and awarded the trademark to Trump. On November 13, 2016, just days after the US election, the trademark application was accepted, giving the appearance that Trump’s trademark application was assisted by the widespread fame accompanying his election.
It will be interesting to see how President Trump balances his business interests with his political responsibilities as leader of the United States, but it seems that at least for now his international brand recognition will be strengthened. Trademark issues, especially international trademark issues can be tricky. If you have questions about the trademark process, please contact the trademark attorneys at Trademark Access.