NEW YORK — A trove of Chinese trademark applications filed by Ivanka Trump’s namesake business is focusing attention once again on the ethical complications presented by the Trump family’s business ties.
At least 14 applications were filed by the Ivanka Trump company on March 28, according to documents reviewed by CNN.
Around the same time, Ivanka Trump — the person — joined her father’s administration as a White House adviser, noted The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the filings. The Chinese government still needs to review the applications.
The trademark requests cover an array of products, from tapestries and video game equipment to snacks and booze. They come on top of 36 applications the company filed in China last year.
Ivanka Trump’s business, which mostly makes clothing and accessories, says the latest trademark applications were filed to block others from profiting off of her name, not because she wants to sell the products in China.
But that’s still a problem, says Larry Noble, the general counsel for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group.
He said the family’s continued ties to their businesses raise questions about whether their profit motives could influence U.S. relations with other countries.
“China knows that to deny these applications would get a negative reaction from the president, and to expedite their approval would get a positive reaction from the president,” Noble said.
“China is a huge market,” Noble said, adding that Ivanka Trump’s company could “stand to lose a lot if these applications are denied.”
The Chinese government has insisted that its trademark review practices are carried out in accordance with the law.
Attorneys for Ivanka Trump did not respond to a request for comment from CNNMoney for this story.
Ivanka Trump resigned from management at her company, and her attorneys have in the past said that she would recuse herself from certain policy matters, like trade agreements, that are specific enough to affect her line of clothing and accessories.
But she still has an ownership stake in the company. And though Ivanka Trump’s attorney has said the assets were moved into a trust, her client still stands to benefit from the company’s profits.
Brand experts have told CNNMoney that China is a potentially important market for the Ivanka Trump brand. Ivanka Trump isn’t as controversial a figure there as she is in the U.S., and Chinese women tend to idolize her femininity and success, they say.
The Ivanka Trump company says the filings are part of the “normal course of business.” It said it applied for these trademarks in China in response to a “surge” in unrelated third parties trying to snag the Ivanka Trump name for themselves.
“It is our responsibility to diligently protect our trademark,” the company said in a statement.
Noble said the rationale might be true. But he added that it doesn’t make the situation any less alarming. If Ivanka Trump wanted to completely avoid conflicts of interest, she should have either sold her entire stake or kept her company out of foreign markets, he said.
“When you go into government, you make sacrifices,” Noble said. “When you’re a public servant you’re supposed to give 100% of your attention to your work. You’re supposed to have the American public as your sole interest.”
The newly reported trademark applications are not the first time ethics experts have raised concerns.
In April, China provisionally granted Ivanka Trump’s business three new trademarks on the same day she dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. The company filed the applications in early 2016 — after Trump entered the race for president but before he won.
Those trademarks will be formally registered as long as no objections are raised during a three-month period following their preliminary approval.
Ivanka Trump’s business now has 18 registered trademarks in China and five provisionally approved. With the latest filings, it also has at least 44 applications that haven’t been reviewed by authorities yet.