Trump trademarks approved by China

A sign in Lioaning ProvinceImage source, AP

China has given US President Donald Trump the chance to expand his brand, after approving dozens of applications to register the Trump trademark.

Many of the requests, for industries from hotels to security, were made during the US election campaign.

President Trump, who already owns about 70 trademarks in China, has pledged not to strike new foreign business deals while in office.

Critics have warned the approvals could breach the US Constitution.

The Associated Press reported that 38 trademark requests had been provisionally given the go ahead.

The approvals still need to be rubber-stamped. If no one objects to them, they will be formally registered in 90 days.

In China it is not uncommon for celebrities or businesses to trademark their name, even if they have no immediate intention of using it, to protect it being used by others.

Conflict risk

Shortly before his inauguration, Mr Trump signed over his business interests to his sons - though critics said this did not go far enough.

When news of the trademark applications emerged earlier this year, experts from across the US political spectrum said granting them could be considered an "emolument" - the term for a fee, salary or profit provided by a foreign government.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Donald Trump has business interests around the world, including this Trump-branded (but not owned) project in Mumbai.

These are outlawed by the Constitution.

Barack Obama's former ethics lawyer Norman Eisen said there was a risk of a conflict of interest.

"The concern of the constitution is that flows of benefit to presidents from foreign sovereigns will distort their judgment, and trademarks are certainly capable of that," he said in January.

Meanwhile Richard Painter, a former chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush, said the volume of new approvals raised questions about whether Beijing was being favourable to the US President.

"A routine trademark, patent or copyright from a foreign government is likely not an unconstitutional emolument, 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," he said.

Recently former US basketball star Michael Jordan won a trademark dispute over the use of his name in China.