The Trump Organization was granted trademarks for 38 businesses in China on Wednesday, including “spas, massage parlors, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, retail shops, restaurants, bars, and private bodyguard and escort services,” according to the Telegraph. Yes, the president’s family business applied for, and received, a trademark for branded escort services in China. Happy International Women’s Day.
The trademarks were applied for back in April of 2016, around the same time the then-candidate frequently criticized China on the campaign trail for currency manipulation and inventing global warming. But Trump’s actually been trying, mostly unsuccessfully and with much frustration, to secure the rights to his name in the country for decades. Once he won the election, the president-elect suddenly started having better luck. In November, he was granted provisional approval to trademark his name for real estate services. In February, days after agreeing to recognize the “One China” policy, another court victory was announced. Those all cleared the way for Wednesday’s ruling on the Trump brand massage parlors and escort services.
Now, before you start looking up the cost of a Trump beej, know that these are, for the moment at least, purely defensive trademarks, meaning Trump has no plans to start an escort service in China — he just wants to make sure nobody else opens up one in his name. Still, this is something no president has likely ever had to do in the history of the United States. There’s also still plenty of reasons to raise an eyebrow or two over the trademarks. Experts say the sheer number of them that have been approved in this short amount of time isn’t exactly usual.
“For all these marks to sail through so quickly and cleanly, with no similar marks, no identical marks, no issues with specifications — boy, it’s weird,” said Dan Plane, a director at Simone IP Services, a Hong Kong intellectual property consultancy.
“A routine trademark, patent or copyright from a foreign government is likely not an unconstitutional emolument, but with so many trademarks being granted over such a short time period, the question arises as to whether there is an accommodation in at least some of them,” agreed Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer under President Bush.
While the case can’t be made with complete certainty that Trump is leveraging the presidency to benefit his business in China, the speed with which he’s receiving court victories is yet another red flag that there might be some emoluments violations going on. We’ll see if Trump Escorts gets mentioned in the president’s upcoming lawsuit.