Trump scores major victory in decade-long suit in China over real estate trademark


“Donald Trump Speaking at a Rally in Phoenix, Arizona” by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In mid-November, news media outlets were reporting that President-elect Donald Trump, who had just scored one of the biggest populist victories in U.S. political history, had won a legal battle involving intellectual property in China. On November 14th, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump had successfully wrapped a decade-long action in Chinese courts over trademarks involving the “TRUMP” name. According to the coverage, a Chinese judge recently approved a trademark which Trump first applied for in 2006 for the use of “TRUMP” to advertise in China for real-estate-agent services in commercial and residential properties.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, Donald Trump only owns 21 of the 53 trademarks for “TRUMP” registered by China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SIAC), the federal agency in the Chinese government that houses that nation’s trademark office. (It should be added that a recent New York Times article counts 46 “TRUMP” trademarks in China, 29 of which “appear to be owned by Mr. Trump.”) Despite his recent legal victory, Trump has had a rocky relationship with Chinese courts at times. The real-estate-agent services trademark application filed by Trump hit many snags along the way, mostly due to a similar trademark previously filed by a Chinese national.

It’s well known that Trump is a very experienced litigant and this recent case shows a very high level of professional acumen in Trump’s legal team, which shouldn’t be surprising but is impressive given the fact that this case played out in a foreign venue. Trump used multiple avenues to both challenge the refusal of his trademark application and invalidate the “TRUMP” mark held by Chinese citizen Dong Wei. For example, Trump took up multiple actions with China’s Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB) to oppose the validity of Wei’s trademark; Trump didn’t succeed with those actions, but persistence tends to breed its own success.

In some cases, it appears that “TRUMP” trademarks may have been registered by Chinese entities who were unfamiliar with Trump in the days before his political ascendancy. A Chinese-based developer of high-tech toilet seats, for example, claims that the company made no connection with Donald Trump when it filed for a trademark to use “TRUMP” on its toilet products back in 2002. According to coverage by NBC News, Trump Toilets have captured 85 percent of the Chinese market with more than 16 million customers. That article also included a quote from Trump’s legal representative on trademark litigation in China which puts Trump’s trademark portfolio in that country at more than 70 trademark applications filed, more than 60 approved and 20 current trademark disputes.

If the trends we are seeing China’s intellectual property courts with respect to patent infringement litigation spill over to trademarks, Trump stands a decent chance to win every single one of those cases. In 2015, foreign plaintiffs went a perfect 65-0 in patent cases brought to Beijing’s IP court.


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Join the Discussion

7 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Eric Berend]
    Eric Berend
    December 31, 2016 11:36 am

    @ 5.:

    I’m normally in 100% agreement with you in this forum; but here, I must respectfully disagree: the Googles, Facebooks, Apples and Teslas of this world are now in an even better position to wield illicit influence: the new Trump Administration doesn’t recognize so-called ‘little people’; and, there is a less formal route to the President-lect’s ear, than with the previous regime.

    If even Twitter was “too small” for that “Big Tech” meeting, then: individual inventors have no chance with this oligarchy.

  • [Avatar for Nick]
    December 15, 2016 10:12 am

    Good on him.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 12, 2016 07:12 am

    Benny, perhaps you should know that patent litigation by small entities has practically stopped, patent prosecution is significantly down.. so patent prosecution and litigation attorneys representing inventors in PTO and in courts are hurting badly too -some of them went out of patent business completely
    The only beneficiaries are googles of the world but that is about to change very soon

  • [Avatar for Benny]
    December 12, 2016 03:01 am

    The financial beneficiaries of the current system are not the inventors, but their representatives, who stand to gain regardless of the worth, worthlessness, or strength of the rights obtained, so I can see a strong incentive for inertia.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 11, 2016 11:07 pm

    Benny, we’ll see…

    the future is full of surprises

    I voted for Trump even though he doesn’t believe in climate change (and I have phd in geophysics)

    lets see what he can do to US patent system cause it just can’t be any worse – trust me on this, even abolishing it would be better

    all I want to hear from our beloved government is a simple confirmation that yes, I can own my patented algorithm – a math formula if you want, or a function implementing in softare program, or some fpga bit stream or some piece of a surface of a silicon chip – cause it’s just the same f*** thing

    any change is good cause the current status quo sucks too much

  • [Avatar for Benny]
    December 11, 2016 05:25 am

    “A Chinese-based developer of high-tech toilet seats, for example, claims that the company made no connection with Donald Trump when it filed for a trademark to use “TRUMP” on its toilet products back in 2002”

    Do I spot an emerging business opportunity now?

    Angry, I have never known the word “trump” used as the definition of “dependable and exemplary person”, as equivalent to terms like “Blue”, “Ace”, “Good egg” ,”Topper” etc. I think current events may affect that use of the word.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    December 10, 2016 12:47 pm

    Definition of trump


    a : a card of a suit any of whose cards will win over a card that is not of this suit —called also trump card
    b : the suit whose cards are trumps for a particular hand —often used in plural
    : a decisive overriding factor or final resource —called also trump card
    : a dependable and exemplary person

    Can you put a trademark on a common word from dictionary?

    And those people (not Trump the president-elect) are saying that I can’t own a unique algorithm I invented myself because it’s just math…

    I hope Trump will straighten them out