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Takeaways from recent Trump-related trademark activity in China

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Although perhaps not as active as President Donald Trump during his first few weeks in the White House, Trump-related trademarks have had an active few months in China, with the China Trademark Office (CTMO) unexpectedly granting a long-sought “Trump” trademark registration while dozens of domestic Chinese firms race to register “Ivanka” trademarks.

Donald and Ivanka Trump

Trump granted long-sought registration

As reported by CNN, the CTMO this past week officially granted the Trump Organization registration of the “TRUMP” trademark for construction services. The Trump Organization had been unsuccessful in securing this trademark registration for more than a decade, due to a prior-filed, third-party trademark application for a similar mark in the same class of goods and services (the third-party application was filed with the CTMO just two weeks before the Trump Organization’s).

The Trademark Review and Appeal Board (TRAB) last September invalidated the third-party application, and in November published for opposition the Trump Organization’s pending trademark application — just after Donald Trump won the United States presidential election.

Some China legal analysts believe that Trump’s political ascendancy likely played a role in the trademark decision. Others believe that the TRAB decision is simply further evidence that China is becoming more responsive to foreign companies seeking cross-border recognition of their trademark rights.

Whichever the case may be, one clear takeaway for everyone dealing with trademarks in China is that the TRAB does not make its decisions publicly available, so it is generally very difficult, if not impossible, to know for certain the basis of TRAB decisions.

Domestic firms seek IVANKA registrations

While the Trump Organization has finally resolved its decade-long fight for the aforementioned trademark registration, Ivanka Trump is facing new challenges to her “Ivanka” brand, for which at least 65 third-party trademark applications have been filed in China since her father was elected president. As reported by the South China Morning Post, dozens of domestic Chinese firms have applied to register the “Ivanka” trademark for products ranging from wallpaper to alcohol.

New York-based Ivanka Trump Marks LCC registered the “Ivanka” trademark in China in 2012 for shoes and clothing, and filed additional China trademark applications for jewellery, bags and other products last year. It remains to be seen whether the CTMO will allow third-party registration of the “Ivanka” trademark for other goods and services, however the CTMO has historically done so for goods and services in sub-classes that do not overlap those of prior-filed applications.

  • Comments

    1. Profile photo of Jeffrey Jue

      Jeffrey Jue

      March 10, 2017

      “The Chinese government has granted preliminary approval for 35 Trump-related trademarks in businesses ranging from mining and construction to restaurants, hotels and golf courses.”

      There is no indication that these trademark registrations should not have been approved as a matter of ordinary business. One additional takeaway is that it appears the CTMO is finally streamlining examinations, and (hopefully) issuing preliminary approval decisions within a year of filing!

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