Mr. President, Do you think getting a trademark on your name abroad may violate the constitution? #100Days100Qs
Last week, President Donald Trump won big in China.
In fact, it had nothing to do with the country’s national interest at all. But Trump did finally secure a trademark to his name for use in his business interests in China.
His pursuit of the trademark had been in the works for more than a decade.
Trump first filed the trademark claim in 2006. But in 2009, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce rejected his request. He was too late. Weeks before Trump submitted his application, a Chinese citizen had applied for a trademark to use the Trump name in his real estate business.
(It is not uncommon nor is it illegal for businesses in China to use foreign names in their branding — as evidenced by the dozens of applications that business owners have recently submitted so that they can use the name Ivanka on their products.)
The timing of Trump’s trademark win, however, has critics calling foul.
Until last week, all signs were pointing to Trump abandoning the decades-old “one-China” policy, in which the United States unequivocally recognizes China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan. But on Feb. 10, Trump shifted gears and announced his full support for the long-standing US policy toward Taiwan.
Less than a week later, China announced it would grant Trump his trademark after all.
Norman Eisen, who offered counsel on ethics to the Obama administration, told CNN that China’s decision to grant the trademark to Trump is likely just the first move in a bid to curry Trump’s favor. But it could go both ways: Kathleen Clark, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told NPR that the way the trademark decision went down suggests that as Trump makes policy regarding China, he might think about his own self-interest in addition to — or even before — the country’s national interest.
The trademark decision has also renewed concerns about whether President Trump’s business dealings are even constitutional. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, called Trump’s trademark victory a “clear conflict of interest” that violated the “emoluments clause” of the constitution, which declares that no public office holder in the US government — including the president — may accept any gift or earn any profit from a foreign power.
Twitter user Amy Catania is so concerned about the trademark decision that she suggested we ask a question along these lines.
This issue isn’t going away. The president is waiting for decisions on 49 trademark applications, and he currently has 77 trademarks in his name — many of which will expire during his term.
Mr. President, you’ve said your name is worth billions of dollars, and now many are wondering: Do your trademark pursuits in overseas markets violate the constitution? Click here to tweet the question to the president.
Over President Donald Trump's roughly first 100 days, we'll be asking him questions that our audience wants answers to. Join the project by tweeting this question to @realDonaldTrump with the hashtag #100Days100Qs. See more of our questions at pri.org/100questions.