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Business

Trump's Chinese trademarks scrutinized

The Chinese trademark office has granted preliminary approval for 38 trademarks linked to Donald Trump and his organization. Now American lawmakers are demanding official answers.

The trademarks underline the complexities and potential concerns over conflicts of interest facing Trump, who has a sprawling business empire using his own name around the world.

Intellectual property lawyers said trademark applications were often very broad to give the applicant the most comprehensive protection for their brand. 

In this case the trademarks give the president and his family protection and cover business areas including branded spas, massage parlors, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, retail shops, restaurants, bars and bodyguard services.

Trump's lawyers applied for the trademarks in April last year, mostly registered to "Donald J. Trump" and listing to the address of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Conflicts at home

This is not the first controversial trademark case for Trump in China since being elected president. Last month he received a trademark approval for a Trump-branded construction service, following a 10-year legal battle.

If approved, these new trademarks would again raise potential conflict of interest concerns.

Trump Store - the Trump Tower gift shop in New York City (Getty Images/S.Platt)

"Trump Store" - the Trump Tower gift shop in New York City

Some US lawmakers have raised questions about whether Trump's position as president could prompt preferential treatment of his businesses. Trademark lawyers, however, said that the approval process did not seem that unusual.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking member on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for formal briefings about the Chinese trademark approvals.

In a statement, he said: "It’s clear to me that officials in Beijing have come to appreciate the potential return on investments for China in having a positive, personal business relationship with the President of the United States, who has not taken appropriate and transparent steps to completely sever his relationship from the corporation that bears his name. It is imperative that the State Department, the Commerce Department, and the Justice Department brief Congress, immediately, on these matters."

Who's in charge?

Trump has said he has handed over his business interests to a trust overseen by one of his sons and another executive. He can, however, revoke the trust at any time and, as its sole beneficiary, remains linked to it financially.

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These new trademarks are mostly variations in English and Chinese on the name "Donald Trump." The preliminary approvals are open to be challenged for a 90-day period. Barring objections, they will be formally registered in late May and early June respectively.

The New York Times reports that since 2005 Trump has filed for at least 126 trademarks in China.

tr/hg (Reuters, AP, New York Times)

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