The President-Elect, IP and China

Peter Harter and Gene Quinn wrote an excellent blog recently (November 9, 2016)  entitled “Trump on IP and Patent Reform: What Silicon Valley Doesn’t Understand.”   The authors dispute the contention of some in the tech community that Trump is disinterested in IP because he hasn’t discussed patent reform.  They raise four key points about Trump and IP:

1.      Trump’s campaign website, in the trade section, calls for the U.S. to pursue China and others for stealing American IP.

2.      The GOP campaign platform sets forth that: (a) patents are a private property right like land protected by the Constitution; an (b) theft of IP has become a national security issue.

3.      John G. Trump, the Uncle of Donald Trump, was an MIT Professor who was also an inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur that served his country during World War II inventing new radar technologies.  (Here’s a New Yorker article on his John G. Trump).

4.      Much of Trump’s wealth is tied up in the value of the various Trump trademarks and his own likeness, which he licenses and commercializes.   

As is evident from the above, a significant element of Trump’s stated IP policies to date are tied in with his policies towards China.  In fact, his China policies are also closely related to his trade policies.  On his campaign website, three of his seven points to rebuild the American economy through free trade are China-specific including: (a) instructing the Treasury Secretary to label China as a currency manipulator; (b) Instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO; and (c) use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets – including the application of tariffs consistent with Section201 and 301 of the Tariff Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.  The Trump website also cites the U.S. ITC report on the Theft of American Intellectual Property (2013) for the proposition that improved protection of intellectual property in China would produce more than 2,000,000 more jobs “right here in the United States.” 

Trumps’ economic advisor,  Dr. Peter Navarro, is an economist who teaches at the University of California, Irvine who may have assisted in elevating these IP issues to the attention of the President-elect.  Dr. Navarro has written several books on China-related political and trade issues including “Death by China”, “Crouching Tiger: What’s China’s Militarism Means for the World”, and “The Coming China Wars: Where They Will be Fought and How They Can Be Won.”  Death By China has been made into a documentary.  Parts of the book and movie discuss counterfeiting and piracy, trade secret thefts, substandard and counterfeit products, and technology transfers.

Considering the President-elect’s various businesses, there are, indeed, numerous trademark registrations (live and dead) for Trump-related trademarks  in the United States and in China, including eponymous trademarks Donald J. Trump for various products, Trump University, Trump Shuttle and Trump Tower.  I venture to guess that when he assumes the presidency, Donald J. Trump will be the most prolific developer of brands and owner of trademarks of any US president. 

Sadly — and not unlike other famous figures — Donald Trump may also thereby become the US president with the most trademarks squatted on in China.  Attached here is a list of some of some of the Trump marks on the official website of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and of a private website.  Full Disclosure: these websites may not be fully up to date, and it would be very time consuming to determine if each of the trademark applications involving the Trump name were made in good faith.  On first glance, not all of them were applied for by companies that look like Donald Trump’s Chinese name is (唐纳·川普, or Tangna Chuanpu in Romanized Chinese).  As an experiment to see what type of company might be applying for the Trump mark, on the last two pages of this attachment, I also looked up other marks held by one company that owns a Trump Tower mark. This company also owns a Samsonite Mark and a mark that looks like the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, an interesting choice of marks for classes 18 (leather goods) and 32 (light beverages). 

It seems like leather companies, such as this company, have been engaged in interesting branding choices in China.  In a wholly unrelated high profile case earlier this year, another leather company won the right to use Apple’s iPhone mark as its brand for leather goods.  In my personal opinion, it would serve China well to clean up its registry of squatted marks to avoid these issues for Presidents-elect, tech companies, and run of the mill entrepreneurs.

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