Trump wins China trademark ruling after years in the courts

Future of ‘Trump toilets’ and ‘Trump condoms’ uncertain after case suddenly resolved

An advertisement  in a showroom of Trump Toilet products, manufactured by Shenzhen Trump Industrial, in Shanghai in November 2016. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

An advertisement in a showroom of Trump Toilet products, manufactured by Shenzhen Trump Industrial, in Shanghai in November 2016. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

 

The future of Trump toilets, Trump condoms and Trump International Hotel – all trademarks in China that the US leader doesn’t own – could be down the pan after he won valuable rights to his own name this week, in the form of a 10-year trademark for building services.

Flush with the success of a fence-mending phone call last week with Chinese leader Xi Jinping over Taiwan and trade issues, Mr Trump’s sudden reversal of fortunes on his trademark follows a decade-long legal battle.

In China alone he has 49 pending trademark applications and 77 marks already registered in his own name, most of which will come up for renewal during his term.

There have been questions about the speed at which his case was resolved, coming so soon after his apparent U-turn on the One China policy, where he has agreed to let the status quo stand in how the US views Taiwan, despite having earlier hinted he may opt for a different approach.

At the centre of his trademark dispute was a row with a man named Dong Wei, who had applied for the rights to use the Trump name for building services in 2006, two weeks before Mr Trump applied for the rights.

Intellectual property rights have long been a bone of contention between western countries and China, where piracy is common.

Before winning the case, Mr Trump had exhausted many of the legal options, including appeals to the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, the Beijing intermediate people’s court, and the Beijing high people’s court, but each time he lost. He also failed in efforts to invalidate Mr Dong’s trademark.

The process apparently infuriated him, and he railed against the court system in letters to Gary Locke, the former ambassador to China who had previously been commerce secretary.

China has a “first-come, first-served” policy on trademarks, and many foreign firms have arrived in China to find their name already in use by a Chinese firm, or presuming wrongly that an international trademark registration applies in China.

Companies basically need to apply for their name in China regardless and this has affected some big names.

Last year, Apple lost a trademark battle in China for the use of the iPhone name, clearing the way for Xintong Tiandi, a company that sells leather goods, to continue using the brand on its handbags and wallets and, naturally, iPhone cases.

Among the products bearing the Trump name, or something close to it in Chinese, is the Trump toilet, which is manufactured by Shenzhen Trump Industrial.

The company’s Chinese name, Chuang Pu, translates as “innovate everywhere” and sounds similar to Mr Trump’s Chinese name, Chuan Pu, but the company says it has been using the brand for a decade before Mr Trump rose to international political fame.