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Trump adds more trademarks in China

People pass by a real estate ad poster with a cartoon image of American president Donald J. Trump along the road on February 22, 2017 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China.
VCG | Getty Images
People pass by a real estate ad poster with a cartoon image of American president Donald J. Trump along the road on February 22, 2017 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China.

President Trump is poised to add six new trademarks to his expanding portfolio in China, in sectors including veterinary services and construction, potentially renewing concerns about his possible conflicts of interest.

The latest trademarks expand Mr. Trump's business interests in China, the world's second-largest economy and a country he frequently blamed during the election campaign for the decline in American industrial jobs. Since taking office, he has softened that rhetoric.

He has nevertheless continued to receive approval in China for new trademarks. The country's trademark office gave the president preliminary approval for six trademarks on June 6, according to the agency's website.

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Under Chinese law, a trademark with preliminary approval is formally registered after three months if the agency receives no objections. If granted, the trademarks could allow Mr. Trump to expand his business interests in scientific and technological services, construction projects and medical and veterinary services.

Mr. Trump applied for the trademarks in April 2016, the same month that, as a presidential candidate, he accused Beijing of launching an "economic assault" against the United States. Since then, Mr. Trump has eased up, particularly after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April of this year.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump made money by licensing the use of his name on an array of products around the world.

He now has at least 123 registered and provisionally approved trademarks in China. Of those, four are registered under DTTM Operations — a holding company — while the rest are registered under his name, according to Chinese data. The Trump Organization, the family company now run by Mr. Trump's two adult sons, said the trademarks registered under his name had been transferred to DTTM.

"All of our marks in China are registered to an affiliate of the Trump Organization and have nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Trump," Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer at the Trump Organization, said in an email.

The latest set of preliminary approvals comes a month after China's trademark office gave Mr. Trump one preliminary trademark for providing catering services, and four to his daughter Ivanka through her trademarking business.

It is unclear how Mr. Trump plans to use his trademarks. He does not have any businesses in China, and the Trump Organization has said it will not do any further international deals.

For Mr. Trump, obtaining trademarks in China could allow him to license his name in the country, potentially giving him a new source of income. It also protects his brand name in a country that is known for counterfeiters.

In China, many celebrities and foreign companies pre-emptively file for trademarks in a wide range of sectors to prevent expensive and time-consuming lawsuits against "trademark squatters" — people who register the names of widely known brands in bad faith.

In Mr. Trump's case, leather goods, toilets and cosmetics bearing the Trump name but trademarked by others have been spotted being sold around China.

Unlike trademarks in the United States, trademarks in China are generally awarded to those who are first to file with the government, and applicants do not have to give a reason for filing.

Because of this, Mr. Garten said that since 2006, "the Trump Organization has been forced to build its trademark portfolio in China to protect its brand and overall intellectual property rights from third-party infringers."

The news of Mr. Trump's new preliminary trademarks in China will give further ammunition to his critics, who allege that his business interests violate the emoluments clause in the United States Constitution that bars presidents from taking gifts or payments from foreign governments.

On Monday, the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit claiming that the president's failure to shed his businesses has undermined public trust and violated constitutional bans against self-dealing.

Zhang Tiantian contributed research from Beijing.