Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, and has also won the latest round in his fight to register “TRUMP” as a trademark in certain classes of goods/services in China. Despite repeated attempts since 2009, the American business man-turned-Presidential candidate was not - until recently - able to obtain China-specific rights in his name for the trademark class that covers “commercial, residential and hotel real estate construction” and “information services in commercial, residential and hotel real estate construction.”
Standing in his way was a Liaoning-based man named Dong Wei, who filed to trademark the “Trump” name for “construction and factory building” in 2006, just weeks before Trump’s counsel filed its application for the mark. The timing makes a difference, as unlike in the U.S., where trademark rights are awarded based on the date of first usage of a mark, the Chinese system gives priority to the first party to file a trademark application.
It is unclear at this time if Wei’s registration of the mark was based on a legitimate business need or if it falls more closely in line with the practice of trademark squatting (the registration of a trademark which belongs to a third-party for the purposes of benefiting from the commercial reputation of the trademark or reselling the trademark to the real owner for a substantial sum), which runs rampant in China. The invalidation of his mark by the High Court seems to suggest trademark squatting was in play.
In November 2009, Trump filed a motion with the Trademark Office of China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce (“SAIC”) to have Wei’s mark overturned and thereby, allow Trump to use his trademark in connection with the construction of commercial properties and hotels, but the request was rejected by the trademark body. The SAIC held that it refused to register Trump’s mark because it too closely resembled the trademark registered by Wei.
Trump subsequently brought the trademark matter in front of the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court and then Beijing Higher People's Court. The higher court agreed to hear the case in early 2015. The Beijing Higher People’s Court ultimately ruled in Trump's favor in June 2015, invalidating Wei's mark. The June 2015 ruling was only recently made available to the public by way of the court’s online archive.
Where does this leave Trump? Well, in 2014, his counsel filed a new, separate trademark application in 2014 for similar services as those covered in Wei’s mark. This 2014 application effectively took the place of Trump’s 2006 application. (Trump’s attorneys presumably thought — correctly — that the 2006 application might be rejected before the invalidation proceeding for Wei’s mark was complete, and wanted to have another trademark ready to go). Now, with Wei’s mark invalidated, Trump’s new mark has been published in the Trademark Gazette. Unless someone files an opposition, the mark will proceed to registration in 3 months.
The soon-to-be president has filed some 82 trademark applications in China in different classes of goods/services, such as insurance, finance, education, and real estate (including “decoration and repair in residential properties and hotels”), over a period of 10 years beginning in 2006. According to the SAIC’s database, of those 82 applications, 78 have resulted in valid trademark registrations.