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China Grants Trump A Valuable Trademark Registration

President Trump took a big step forward this week in his long-running legal battle for more control over one of his most valuable assets in China: his name.

On its website on Wednesday, China's Trademark Office announced the trademark registration for a Trump construction-services business in China.

That might not sound like a huge win, but it could open the door to many more products and businesses Trump wants to trademark in China. Over the past decade, Trump reportedly has lodged dozens of trademark applications in China for, among other things, pet care products, golf clubs, lingerie and computer software.

As Trump's name has become increasingly popular in the Asian nation, a multitude of Chinese-owned businesses have slapped the word "Trump" on their products — on everything from condoms to toilets to pesticides, according to The Associated Press.

So China's decision to grant Trump the one registration might open the door for Trump to not only trademark more of his own business interests there, but also to wrest back control of his name from others who are using it.

China provisionally granted approval for the construction-services trademark on Nov. 13, just days after Trump had won the U.S. presidential election. Interested parties had three months, until Feb. 14th, to dispute the decision. With that deadline now expired, the Trump name registration can go forward.

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics professor at Washington University in St. Louis, says foreign trademarks present both a conflict of interest for Trump and breach of the Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution. That clause prevents the president from receiving gifts and other payments from foreign governments.

Clark says Beijing's power to offer Trump the valuable name-rights approval he wants is something the president may have in his mind when making policy decisions involving China.

"What I think this demonstrates is that when Donald Trump is dealing with the Chinese government on behalf of the United States, he also may be thinking about what the Chinese government can do not just for the U.S. but for Donald Trump and his businesses and his own financial well being," she said.

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Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.