The first daughter announced last July that she was shutting down her fashion brand, but new developments could hint that she plans to start it up again after leaving the White House. The Chinese government granted Ivanka Trump five new trademarks this month, the Associated Press reports, after giving her dozens of others in the past year. Critics argue that Trump's trademark filings could pose ethical concerns as her father negotiates a new trade deal with China.
According to the AP, Trump's representatives say she's filing for trademarks to prevent trademark squatting, which is the practice of capitalizing on someone else's brand by filing trademarks with their name before they do. It's a violation of intellectual property and a problem that U.S. businesses commonly face in China. But Trump's critics argue that her trademark grants may give the president an incentive to prioritize his family's interests over American interests as he pursues his foreign policy agenda. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
Trump's trademark filings with China have raised eyebrows in the past. Last May, she got approval for several new trademarks just before the president declared that he would try to help the failing Chinese company ZTE, which The New York Times pointed out had a history of violating American sanctions. However, The Times concluded that the timing was "probably" a coincidence.
Trump was criticized for maintaining ties to her fashion brand after the 2016 election, when critics suggested that the business could pose a conflict of interest for her and her father. It didn't help when her brand promoted a bracelet she'd worn in a CBS interview, or when Kellyanne Conway gave a self-identified "free commercial" for her products. Trump announced shortly before her father's inauguration that she would leave her leadership position at the business. A year and a half later, she shut down the brand altogether.
But CBS reports that she's still receiving backlash for recent trademark filings because critics think they could help her restart the brand when she leaves the White House. The watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) previously condemned trademark grants she received in October, claiming they constituted "a potential conflict of interest." CREW has also argued that Trump's filings are particularly problematic "given her multiple international trips and meetings with foreign leaders on behalf of the Trump administration." Trump has also received approval for trademarks in Japan since becoming first daughter, according to the watchdog.
The AP notes that China's ruling party has a tight grip on the country's economy and bureaucratic institutions. However, the Chinese government has asserted that it doesn't give any trademark applications priority over others, according to the AP.
The latest Trump trademarks to receive Chinese approval covered — among other things — sunglasses, wedding dresses, and charitable fundraising services, per the AP. All were filed in 2016 and 2017 and are expected to be finalized within 90 days.
A spokesperson for CREW told the AP that Trump's charitable fundraising trademark "is especially troubling" because the Trump Foundation, for which she used to be a board member, is "closing in scandal" after an investigation by the New York attorney general alleged numerous legal violations.
"Some countries will no doubt see this as a way to curry favor with President Trump," a CREW chairman told The New York Times in May about the first daughter's previous trademark grants. "Other countries may see the business requests made by his daughter's company as requests they cannot refuse."