Ivanka fights to pro­tect her first name

Business World - - WEEKENDER -

IVANKA TRUMP is one of the most fa­mous women on the planet. She’s cer­tainly the most fa­mous Ivanka. Stand­ing by her fa­ther’s side as he as­cended to the White House, her promi­nence even sparked a swell in the num­ber of ba­bies named Ivanka.

As the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent’s el­dest daugh­ter, she has care­fully sculpted her im­age since first en­ter­ing pub­lic view as a judge on his re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show. Now with a po­si­tion in his ad­min­is­tra­tion, the 35-year-old’s sky­rock­et­ing fame has quickly made her first name a mononym — like Oprah or Cher.

But in this case, all pub­lic­ity isn’t nec­es­sar­ily good. Ivanka, who like her fa­ther is a brand as much as a per­son, has launched an in­ter­na­tional le­gal ef­fort to pro­tect her name. Even her first name. In China, where she’s held up as a model of suc­cess in some quar­ters, lo­cal en­trepreneurs are rush­ing to grab trade­marks for Ivanka Trump. They hope to make a killing on ev­ery­thing from san­i­tary nap­kins to chew­ing gum bear­ing the Ivanka la­bel.

As part of her in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty strat­egy, Trump’s com­pany filed a se­ries of ap­pli­ca­tions to trade­mark just the word Ivanka in China. Abi­gail Klem, pres­i­dent of the Ivanka Trump brand, said that “a surge in trade­mark fil­ings by un­re­lated third par­ties” prompted the com­pany to move quickly to as­sert its rights “in re­gions where trade­mark in­fringe­ment is ram­pant.”

In the US, Ivanka Trump is also mov­ing to block any­one who would seek to profit from her name. In De­cem­ber, her in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty hold­ing com­pany, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, moved to reg­is­ter a trade­mark for “Ivanka” in the US on fash­ion items rang­ing from dresses and skirts to scarves and pon­chos. Over the past five years, the com­pany has sought sim­i­lar first-name trade­marks in cat­e­gories such as jack­ets, hand­bags, eye­wear, and a va­ri­ety of home goods from pil­low shams to cookie jars.

For now, a spokesper­son said the brand has no im­me­di­ate plans to drop the Trump sur­name from her ex­ist­ing prod­ucts in fa­vor of only Ivanka. But ob­tain­ing the trade­mark on just her first name will give her that op­tion.


The “Ivanka” trade­mark was filed as an in­tent to use, which places it off-lim­its to others. Af­ter it’s ap­proved, the holder must even­tu­ally sub­mit proof that it’s be­ing used within a cer­tain time frame.

As her fame in­creases, Ivanka’s abil­ity to de­fend her trade­marks will strengthen. Even if her brand doesn’t drop the Trump name, it will be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for, say, a bud­ding fash­ion de­signer also named Ivanka to sell un­der that moniker.

“We re­ally have never had a first fam­ily so in­ter­ested in ex­ploit­ing their names as a con­se­quence of the in­her­ent ex­po­sure that they get from the pres­i­dency,” said Michelle Man­cino Marsh, an in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty lawyer who spe­cial­izes in fash­ion law at Ar­ent Fox. “Ivanka is now prob­a­bly con­sid­ered a fa­mous brand.”


When Ivanka Trump started her fine jew­elry line in 2007, she and her part­ners de­bated whether to use her first or her full name, she re­called in her 2009 book. “Look­ing back, I think my first name would have worked quite nicely, be­ing that it is very dis­tinc­tive,” she wrote. “But we all re­al­ized that if we were look­ing to ex­pand into an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, it would be a huge missed op­por­tu­nity to leave the Trump name on the cut­ting room floor.”

Soon, her brand be­gan li­cens­ing the full Ivanka Trump name to make a line of work-ap­pro­pri­ate ap­parel, shoes, and af­ford­able leather hand­bags. By us­ing her last name, Ivanka Trump was cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the decades of brand-build­ing her fa­ther had al­ready done. As she saw it, Don­ald Trump was “a name that al­ready rep­re­sented lux­ury, glamor, wealth, and as­pi­ra­tion.” She wanted to cap­ture that for her fledg­ling brand, too.

“There was built-in name recog­ni­tion, so it’d be fool­ish to set my birthright aside in fa­vor of some­thing generic,” she wrote. The brand­ing worked, and the Ivanka Trump la­bel grew to in­clude a $100-mil­lion cloth­ing line man­u­fac­tured by G-III Ap­parel Group, as well as shoes and jew­elry.

But the brassy, big money New York evoked by her fa­ther’s name ceased be­ing a reg­u­lar brand as­set as the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in­ten­si­fied. As pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump fur­ther po­lar­ized opin­ions about his own brand, af­fect­ing his fam­ily, and by ex­ten­sion their busi­ness en­deav­ors. Since the elec­tion, Ivanka’s brand has suf­fered, with or­ga­nized boy­cotts and a steady drum­beat of re­tail­ers drop­ping her lines.

Then there was the ques­tion of con­flicts of in­ter­est. Ivanka Trump is now an of­fi­cial, un­paid fed­eral em­ployee with a West Wing of­fice. In Jan­uary, she an­nounced she was giv­ing day-to-day man­age­ment of her brand to Klem, the com­pany’s pres­i­dent, though she doesn’t plan to di­vest from her brand, says Jamie Gore­lick, Trump’s at­tor­ney (and a former top Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial un­der Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton). In­stead, Trump trans­ferred the brand’s as­sets to a new trust over­seen by rel­a­tives of her hus­band, Jared Kush­ner. She re­tains own­er­ship and re­ceives pay­outs, how­ever.

“I have heard the con­cerns some have with my ad­vis­ing the pres­i­dent in my per­sonal ca­pac­ity while vol­un­tar­ily com­ply­ing with all ethics rules,” Ivanka Trump said in a state­ment March 29. “Through­out this process I have been work­ing closely and in good faith with the White House Coun­sel and my per­sonal coun­sel to ad­dress the un­prece­dented na­ture of my role.”

But those aren’t the only con­cerns about how her of­fi­cial role may in­flu­ence her busi­ness ven­tures. Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has filed 173 trade­marks in for­eign coun­tries over the past decade or so, ac­cord­ing to the New York Times. Some were filed af­ter her fa­ther took of­fice. Since then, Ivanka Trump has met with such world lead­ers as Ja­pan’s Shinzo Abe, China’s Xi Jin­ping, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau — all na­tions in which her com­pany has filed trade­marks.


While there are un­prece­dented con­flict of in­ter­est is­sues sur­round­ing the Trump fam­ily, the sit­u­a­tion that gives rise to them is, iron­i­cally, a ben­e­fit to Ivanka’s brand: Her role inside the White House gives her even more am­mu­ni­tion with which to claim exclusive in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights to her name.

If a name has be­come in­grained in the con­sumer mind, it’s more eas­ily pro­tected. If Ivanka Trump wasn’t con­sid­ered fa­mous in 2015, every­one surely knows who she is now. Hav­ing the oc­ca­sional magazine ad and bus shel­ter plas­tered with your face is one thing. Be­ing on net­work news shows ev­ery night is quite an­other. It would be dif­fi­cult to ar­gue she’s not the best­known Ivanka out there — and that’s bad news for less-fa­mous Ivankas.

“There are some reg­is­tra­tions owned by peo­ple named Ivanka,” said Donna Tobin, a trade­mark lawyer at Frank­furt Kur­nit Klein & Selz. If they filed new trade­marks, they would likely get re­jected ini­tially and be forced to ar­gue they’re not try­ing to mislead shop­pers, she said.

Ar­guably, Ivanka’s name is on its way to be­ing as dis­tinc­tive as Beyonce and Madonna. Some­one such as Ivanka Trump’s lit­tle sis­ter, Tiffany, would have a harder time, since her name is so com­mon, used in ev­ery­thing from Tiffany & Co. jew­elry to a brand of ar­ti­fi­cial Christ­mas tree.

But even un­com­mon names can run into trou­ble if the space is al­ready oc­cu­pied. Kylie Jen­ner, the youngest Kar­dashian sis­ter, re­cently lost a bat­tle to trade­mark her first name as it re­lates to ad­ver­tis­ing ser­vices. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Aus­tralian singer Kylie Minogue con­tested the ap­pli­ca­tion, ar­gu­ing it would con­fuse con­sumers and di­lute her brand. Minogue has op­er­ated Kylie.com since 1998 and owns nu­mer­ous trade­marks in­volv­ing the name, in­clud­ing “Kylie” for en­ter­tain­ment and mu­sic.

But un­like the two Kylies, it’s safe to say that, for now, there’s just one Ivanka. And she isn’t just look­ing to pro­tect her name. She’s also taken steps to trade­mark #WomenWhoWork, her per­sonal lifestyle ini­tia­tive and the ti­tle of her next book. And even fur­ther afield, her li­cens­ing com­pany has trade­marked two ver­sions of her oldest son’s name, Joseph Fred­er­ick Kush­ner, to use on clothes and ac­ces­sories.

In­deed, in a weird twist of Trump fam­ily dy­nam­ics, the per­son who could pose the big­gest ob­sta­cle to Ivanka’s trade­mark reg­is­tra­tions is her own mother. Ivana Trump, Don­ald Trump’s first wife, was one of the first in the fam­ily to brand her­self. She owns trade­marks for “Ivana” in con­nec­tion with wine, eye­glasses, and jew­elry, along with IvanaTrump.

com. And the name Ivana looks and sounds a lot like Ivanka, which is an im­por­tant point when it comes to block­ing a trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tion.


But it’s not her mother she has to worry about. China has emerged as Ivanka Trump’s big­gest in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty neme­sis. Ivanka Trump, the per­son, is adored in China. Many see her as smart, beau­ti­ful, and hard­work­ing — and with­out the po­lit­i­cal over­tones that make her so con­tro­ver­sial in Amer­ica. Busi­nesses have filed at least 250 trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tions to use the lo­cal lan­guage ver­sion of Ivanka on ev­ery­thing from di­a­pers to bot­tled wa­ter.

His­tor­i­cally, China pro­vided lit­tle pro­tec­tion for in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. But Trump’s com­pany may soon be the ben­e­fi­ciary of nascent ef­forts to crack down on prof­i­teers. Start­ing in March, pro­vi­sions ap­proved by China’s Supreme Peo­ple’s Court took ef­fect, aim­ing to pro­tect the names of fa­mous peo­ple. So far, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has filed more than 50 ap­pli­ca­tions for trade­marks on vari­a­tions of her name in both English and Chi­nese. And ear­lier this month, on the same day Ivanka Trump and Kush­ner sat down to dine with the pres­i­dent of China at Mar-a-Lago, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment granted her com­pany three new trade­marks for jew­elry, bags, and spa ser­vices.

“She’s got a very large op­por­tu­nity with the Chi­nese con­sumer,” said Brian Buch­wald, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bo­moda, a con­sumer in­tel­li­gence com­pany with a fo­cus on China. But he doubts that Ivanka can rely solely on her first name to win over that mar­ket. For that, she may still need the brand her fa­ther built.

“It’s the Trump name that adds glamor,” he said. —


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