China has granted preliminary approval for 38 trademarks linked to US President Donald Trump, documents of China's state trademark office show.
The move will give Trump and his family protection if they choose to develop the "Trump" brand in the market.
The trademarks – which in theory cover a wide sweep of businesses from hotels to mobile libraries and escort services – underline the complexities and potential concerns over conflicts of interest facing President Trump, who has a sprawling business empire using the Trump name around the world.
Trump, a wealthy real estate developer, has previously said he has handed over his business interests to a trust overseen by one of his sons and a Trump Organization executive.
He can, however, revoke the trust at will and, as its sole beneficiary, remains linked to it financially.
The trademarks – mostly variations in English and Chinese on the name "Donald Trump" – were given preliminary approval in two lists published by the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce on February 27.
Trump's lawyers applied for the trademarks in April last year, mostly registered to "Donald J. Trump" and listing the address of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York.
Some US lawmakers have raised questions about whether Trump's position as president could prompt preferential treatment of his businesses. Trademark lawyers, however, said that the approval process did not seem that unusual.
"If they were filed in April last year and just now approved, it's fairly normal," said Yong Heng Wu, Shanghai-based counsel for MWE China focused on intellectual property, adding the general timeframe for preliminary approvals was 6-9 months.
I think the reason why people are paying so much attention to Donald Trump trademarks now is because he became the President of the most powerful country in the world.
Asked about the approvals, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China had always "equally" protected trademarks for Chinese and foreign companies, adding that the approvals process had been carried out in line with the law.
Politics and business
The preliminary approvals are open to being challenged for around a 90-day period. Barring objections, they will be formally registered in late May and early June, respectively.
Trump and his family, like many business owners, hold trademarks around the world, from business sectors such as apparel in the Philippines to golf clubs in Australia, and property in Japan and South Korea.
These ties between politics and business have, however, prompted concern from politicians and rights groups who say the president could face potential conflicts of interest related to the extensive business affairs of his family.
Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, said in a statement the group had been actively enforcing its intellectual property rights in China for over a decade.
The latest registrations are a natural result of those long-standing, 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.
Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for formal briefings about the Chinese trademark approvals and on "the potential constitutional dangers that they present."