Ethical Dilemma

Apr 3, 2017 | 0 comments

“China Grants Trump Dozens of New Trademarks”

According to the article, the Chinese government has granted preliminary approval for 34 Trump-related trademarks in businesses ranging from mining and construction to restaurants, hotels and golf courses.

Nine of the applications were approved on February 27, and 25 were approved on March 6, according to Chinese trademark documents.

The Trump Organization, President Trump’s company, applied for 38 trademarks in China in April 2016, during the presidential campaign. Four were rejected last month, though it is unclear what was in those applications or why they were not approved.

Trump Organization lawyers have said that the business is simply trying to protect the Trump trademark from anyone who might improperly squat on it.

In a recent statement, Alan Garten, a Trump Organization lawyer, said the company has been “actively enforcing its intellectual property rights in China for more than a decade.”

Trump’s overseas business ties have been heavily scrutinized by ethics lawyers and Democratic lawmakers, who are concerned about conflicts of interest for the president. Trump declined to sell any of his business interests before taking office.

His attempts to secure trademarks in China attracted attention after the Chinese government granted a construction-related trademark in November. Trump had sought the trademark for years, but it was not granted until after he was elected.

Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said Wednesday that he finds the trademark approvals a “major concern” that could violate the Constitution, which prohibits federal office holders from accepting any “present, emolument, office or title,” from a foreign state.

Cardin claimed the timing of the approvals were a “deliberate decision” by China. He said he worries Trump “is jeopardizing the office of the presidency” by violating the Constitution.
Garten said the Trump Organization’s “core real estate” trademarks have been registered in China since 2011, years before Trump announced his candidacy for office.

“The latest registrations are a natural result of those longstanding, diligent efforts and any suggestion to the contrary demonstrates a complete disregard of the facts as well as a lack of understanding of international trademark law,” Garten said.

The newest trademark protections were granted for several variations of the Trump name, including his full name in English, just the last name “Trump” in English, and two well-known Chinese translations of his name.

The approved trademarks cover a range of industries as varied as construction, mining, shipbuilding, shoe repair, restaurants, hotels, golf courses, day care centers, animal training, toy rental, advertising and financial services.

Trump was granted preliminary approval, meaning that objections to the trademarks can be raised for three months from the date that the authorities post their initial decisions online. If there are no objections, then the trademarks become officially registered in China.

Discussion Questions

1. Research and describe the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.

According to Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States; And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an “emolument” as “the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.”

2. In your reasoned opinion, why did the drafters of the United States Constitution create the Emoluments Clause?

Our Founding Fathers created the Emoluments Clause to prevent the president of the United States from facing a “conflict of interest” situation where he or she might have to address an issue affecting him or her personally and the United States as a whole. A problem arises when what is in the best interest of the president is not necessarily in the best interest of the country as a whole.
For an excellent article addressing the Emoluments Clause, please see Teaching Tip 2 (“The Heritage Guide to the Constitution: ‘Emoluments Clause’”) in this newsletter.

3. In your reasoned opinion, do Trump business dealings in China violate the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution? Why or why not?

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. President Trump has purportedly transferred management, but not ownership, of his business empire to his sons. The ultimate question is whether that affectively addresses the Emoluments Clause issue related to his business dealings.