China just granted 38 trademarks to Trump, paving the way for a new line of branded businesses

Emoluments clause bans gifts from foreign governments

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping (Credit: Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Xi Jinping (Credit: Getty Images)

China granted 38 trademarks to Donald Trump, in a process that one observer called unusually speedy and that could raise flags over preferential treatment for the U.S. president.

Trump’s lawyers applied for the trademarks – which would allow Trump and his family to develop a line of branded businesses including hotels, insurance, escort services and other business lines – in April 2016. They received preliminary approval in late February and on Monday, Bloomberg reported. The question is whether Trump received these approvals faster than other companies would. That, critics say, could equate to a financial gift from a foreign government, which is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“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,” Dan Plane of Hong Kong-based intellectual property consulting firm IP Services told Bloomberg.

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But Spring Chang, a Beijing-based attorney representing Trump, dismissed the suggestion. “I don’t see any special treatment to the cases of my clients so far,” she told Bloomberg. “I think they’re very fair and the examination standard is very equal for every applicant.”

Former White House ethics counsel Richard Painter said that routine trademarks likely aren’t unconstitutional, but “with so many trademarks being granted over such a short time period, the question arises as to whether there is an accommodation in at least some of them.”

Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner was in the news recently for his own business ties to China. Before leaving his family real estate company to move to Washington, D.C., he reportedly negotiated the sale of a stake in office tower 666 Fifth Avenue to Chinese insurer Anbang.  [Bloomberg]Konrad Putzier