Trump’s China trade­marks risk con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis

Enterprise - - International news -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has at least 4R trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tions pend­ing in China, each of which could po­ten­tially vi­o­late the Amer­i­can con­sti­tu­tion -- un­der­lin­ing pos­si­ble con­flicts of in­ter­est in his re­la­tions with the Asian gi­ant.

Since his elec­tion, Trump has an­gered Bei­jing by reach­ing out to Tai­wan, ap­point­ing China scep­tics and threat­en­ing puni­tive tar­iffs on the coun­try ´s ex­ports.

But that has not stopped him from qui­etly work­ing to se­cure the rights to his name in the world´s sec­ond largest econ­omy, fil­ing trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tions as re­cently as June 2016. The busi­ness­man turned politi­cian al­ready holds at least 72 marks in China, part of an ex­ten­sive, in­ter­na­tional port­fo­lio that forms a cen­tral pil­lar of his enor­mous wealth.

He filed for an ad­di­tional 42 in April last year, al­most a year af­ter declar­ing his pres­i­den­tial run, Chi­nese gov­ern­ment data shows, and three more around two months later, hav­ing ef­fec­tively clinched the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

All were filed in his own name and reg­is­tered at his Trump Tower ad­dress in New York. The ap­proval process typ­i­cally takes 12 to 18 months, so Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties will only make their de­ci­sion long af­ter he takes of­fice.

Ex­perts from across the US po­lit­i­cal spec­trum said the ap­pli­ca­tions could put Trump on a col­li­sion course with the US con­sti­tu­tion ar­ti­cle 1, sec­tion 9, clause 8 for­bids fed­eral of­fi­cials from re­ceiv­ing a gift or “emol­u­ment” -- a salary, fee or profit -- from a for­eign gov­ern­ment.

“Grants of trade­marks, per­mits, etc. could be deemed to be priv­i­leges be­stowed by a for­eign gov­ern­ment that are cov­ered by the clause,” said Robert Painter, a for­mer White House ethi­cist for Repub­li­can pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Barack Obama ´s for­mer ethics lawyer, Norman Eisen, agreed “Each of these trade­marks is a po­ten­tial emol­u­ment.” The “con­cern of the con­sti­tu­tion is that flows of ben­e­fits to pres­i­dents from for­eign sov­er­eigns will dis­tort their judgement, and trade­marks are cer­tainly ca­pa­ble of do­ing that”. The con­sti­tu­tion has no “spec­i­fied rem­edy” for a breach, added Jay Wexler, a con­sti­tu­tional law scholar at Bos­ton Univer­sity.

How­ever, he said “in my view, im­peach­ment would be the proper rem­edy for a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion”. A lawyer for the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Alan Garten, asked for a list of ques­tions then did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple emails.

Dur­ing his White House bid, Trump fre­quently ex­co­ri­ated China, ac­cus­ing it of “rap­ing” the US with un­fair trade and fis­cal poli­cies. But that has not stopped the pres­i­dent -- known for his hard­ball ne­go­ti­at­ing tac­tics -qui­etly pur­su­ing busi­ness deals in the coun­try, in­clud­ing with its gov­ern­ment.

Trump has claimed his in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty (IP) is worth $3.3 bil­lion, ac­count­ing for roughly a third of the $10 bil­lion-plus for­tune he re­ported in a July 201R state­ment. Trade­mark pro­tec­tion is cru­cial to li­cens­ing the Trump name on prod­ucts from ho­tels to neck­ties, and his ex­ist­ing rights give him ex­clu­sive control over it in English and Chi­nese in China for a va­ri­ety of busi­ness “classes” rang­ing from “ho­tels and restau­rants” to “med­i­cal, beauty and agri­cul­ture.”

He also holds at least five Chi­nese trade­marks on the name of his ex-wife Ivana -- the first of them reg­is­tered in 200R, more than a decade af­ter their di­vorce. The new ap­pli­ca­tions claim the right to the words “Trump” and “Don­ald Trump” in a va­ri­ety of busi­nesses, as well as sev­eral vari­a­tions of his name in Chi­nese.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty lawyers, the new ap­pli­ca­tions may be in­tended to pro­tect against IP “squat­ters” in a coun­try where trade­marks are typ­i­cally granted to the first ap­pli­cant. IP en­force­ment in China is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered weak, and the sys­tem has left com­pa­nies from New Bal­ance to Ap­ple un­able to fend off spec­u­la­tors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.