What’s So Controversial About Ivanka Trump’s China Trademarks?

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Ivanka Trump in Jerusalem visiting the Western Wall.
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The brand founded by first daughter Ivanka Trump appears to be gaining ground in China.

Since April 20, the Ivanka Trump Collection has been granted provisional approval for four new trademarks, the Associated Press reported today. The brand — launched by Trump as a jewelry line in 2007 — is also seeking more intellectual-property protection in China, with at least 14 applications filed around the time she took on an official White House role, according to the Associated Press.

While many brands with a global presence take similar steps to protect their businesses in China, Trump’s label has been under scrutiny; some reports suggest that her role in the White House has helped push her line through the trademark application process. (Trump announced in January that she would step down from her roles at the Trump Organization and her fashion brand, and has since taken on the post of advisor to President Donald Trump. Assets for the brand have been placed in a trust managed by the family of Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner.)

Fueling speculation: On April 6 — the same day that Trump and her husband dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping — her eponymous label reportedly won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks. The trademarks, AP reported, would give the brand monopoly rights to sell Ivanka Trump jewelry, bags and spa services in China.

In an email statement to Footwear News today, Ivanka Trump brand president Abigail Klem reiterated the company’s stance on its need to seek trademark protection in China and elsewhere.

These and other filings in other countries are made in the normal course of business for any company in these categories,” Klem said.
”The brand has filed, updated and rigorously protected its international trademarks over the past several years 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 company sent a similar statement to FN in April when reports of new China trademarks first surfaced.)

Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, said that the decision — on the part of the Ivanka Trump brand — to protect its intellectual property in counterfeit-ridden China is smart.

It’s vitally important that brands protect themselves in China — we’ve learned this the hard way in a number of high-profile cases,” Priest said, referencing Michael Jordan’s hard-fought battle with China-based brand Qiaodan Sports. “[The Ivanka Trump brand is] doing the right things in protecting themselves.”

Steve Lamar, EVP of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, shared similar sentiments about a heightened need to seek brand protection in China.

Protecting your intellectual property, including your trademarks, is Business 101 in China. It is a basic requirement of any operational plan in China,” Lamar said. “This means availing yourself of all available registration opportunities, defending against trademark squatters and monitoring online platforms for potential infringement. The scope of the Chinese market and the counterfeiting problem there means companies have to go to even greater lengths to ensure that their brands and their identities are not stolen.”

Still, Priest — who has spent 15 years on Capitol Hill and also worked as a presidential appointee under George W. Bush — said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Trump’s label was helped through the process due to its founder’s political influence.

Having been in the government, I can tell you that anytime heads of states meet up — and I’ve been a part of this process — there are deliverables,” Priest said. “Whether granting trademarks to Ivanka Trump’s brand was one of the deliverables during U.S. meetings with China, it’s hard to know. But it’s possible.