China has preliminarily given the green light to President Donald Trump and his family to develop branded businesses ranging from hotels, restaurants and spas to golf clubs and bodyguard and escort servicesafter approving nearly 40 eponymous trademarks recently.
The president's lawyers applied for 38 trademarks in April 2016, as the billionaire Republican railed against China in campaign speeches. China's Trademark Office published the provisional approvals on Monday and Feb. 27.
Trademarks will be formally approved after 90 days if there are no official objections.
While there's no evidence Trump plans to develop any business ventures in the industries in which he applied for trademarks, the approval has raised red flags about potential conflicts of interest.
There's also no evidence that the applications were expedited as a special favor to Trump, or that the president received any other special favors fromBeijing. If such evidence emerges, however, Trump could be in violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits public servants from receiving gifts or money from foreign governments unless approved by Congress.
Experts have commented on how quickly and cleanly the trademark applications passed through the office.
Dan Plane, an intellectual property expert in Hong Kong told the Associated Press that it's puzzling.
"For all these marks to sail through so quickly and cleanly, with no similar marks, no identical marks, no issues with specifications — boy, it's weird," Plane said.
But Spring Chang, a founding partner at the Beijing law firm that represented the Trump Organization, said she doesn't see "any special treatment" toward her client.
"I think they're very fair and the examination standard is very equal for every applicant," she told the AP.
After a decadelong battle, Trump won control of his brand for construction services in China last month against a trademark squatter, a man named Dong Wei. In China, the president's name appears on everything, from toilets to condoms, but none of the products belong to him.
Three of the trademarks approved are for Scion, an offshoot of the Trump hotel chain registered under DTTM Operations LLC, to which The Trump Organization transferred ownshership of dozens of trademarks sinceJanuary 2016.
While Trump's eldest sons helm the family business, Trump said ahead of his inauguration that he wouldn't fully divest of his holdings, but would instead maintain an ownership stake in The Trump Organization.