Ivanka Trump’s New China Trademarks Bring Ethical Concerns, and Business Opportunities

China approved seven trademark requests it received from Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand this month, including trademarks in cosmetics, snacks, spices, and bleaching preparations. Soon after the trademarks were approved, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intentions to help save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, despite it having flaunted American bans on doing business with Iran and North Korea. The coincidence of these events resurfaced ongoing concerns about conflicts of interest between Trump’s political decisions and his family’s businesses.

Abigail Klem, the president of the Ivanka Trump brand, said in a statement that the trademarks were filed in the normal course of business, especially in regions where trademark infringement is rampant. “We have recently seen a surge in trademark filings by unrelated third parties trying to capitalize on the name and it is our responsibility to diligently protect our trademark.”

The earliest registration dates back to December 2008, filed by Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, which was approved effective from September 7, 2010, to September 6, 2020. Photo: Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry & Commerce of the PRC.

Public records show there are a total of 68 requests to register “Ivanka Trump” as a trademark. Among the competing bids are a Chinese glassmaker, a jewelry marker, and a furniture company.

Ivanka Trump Marks LLC filed 17 trademark requests on March 28, 2017, just before Trump herself was selected as a senior adviser to the President. She received trademarks on jewelry, bags, and spa services on April 6, 2017, the same day she and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat down for dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.

As an advisor to the president, Ivanka is required to follow the federal employee code of ethics, staying uninvolved in matters that would impact her own financial interests. Even though Ivanka Trump is not involved in the day-to-day operations of her eponymous brand, as a stakeholder in the company she continues to profit from the business. Receiving new trademarks places the company in a favorable position to continue expanding in China.

In the United States, Ivanka Trump may be criticized for wielding political influence for personal gain, but in China, she is seen by many as embodying admirable qualities in a woman. She is seen as ‘bai fu mei’, someone with white skin, wealth, and beauty.

Rumor has it Ivanka Trump’s company will have an official launch in China in the second half of 2017, selling shoes, handbags, and jewelry in Shanghai.

The association with the White House continues to put the brand under close public scrutiny. Jing Daily reported previously how a factory in China that produced shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand was declared the worst violator of labor rules among many similar facilities based on an undercover investigation.

On the other hand, some U.S. luxury fashion brands will take comfort from any influence Ivanka Trump can wield on behalf of the industry. On April 3, as part of the U.S.-China trade war, President Trump announced tariffs against China that exempted many consumer goods, including clothing imports from Ivanka Trump’s Chinese manufacturers.


Consumer Insights, Policy