Trump trademark win shows importance of IP to China

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/17 0:43:40

The Chinese government has awarded US President Donald Trump the rights to his own name, in the form of a 10-year trademark for construction services. The media sees it as Trump's triumph in his decade-long battle in China's courts.

Trump filed an application in December 2006 for the rights to the Trump mark for construction services, two weeks after a Chinese man had filed a similar application. Trump was rejected, and then he appealed, but was rejected time and again.

The win may be the first foreign trademark to be handed to him since his presidency began. In China, there are 49 pending Trump trademark applications and 77 previously registered trademarks, most of which are expected to come up for renewal during his term, including Trump toilets and a "Trump International Hotel."

The US media has raised questions as to why Trump is winning in China after years of failure. Some lawyers were quoted as saying that politics played a role, since China can either use the trademark issue to extend or withhold favor.

But some also point to China's tougher stance on trademark squatting and enhanced intellectual property (IP) protection. In January, China's State Council issued new guidelines on the development of IP as part of the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), a genuine drive to have an innovation economy through IP protection.

The guidelines came after a December decision by the Supreme People's Court of China which said that Michael Jordan, the former basketball star, owns the legal rights to the Chinese characters of the equivalent of his name. The ruling is seen as a landmark decision and China's efforts to foster a better business ecosystem in China.

China has a relatively short history of IP and its weakness in this regard has generated some complaints from international companies operating in China. The dispute over IP has also become a factor affecting trade relations between China and the US.

The US views IP as a critical source of economic growth and high-quality jobs for the country. Mutually agreed practices on IP protection are crucial to trade ties between Beijing and Washington, a vital component of the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

China has attached enormous importance to IP, which is reflected in its commitment to applying high IP standards in its free trade deals with developed countries like Australia and Switzerland and regional blocs like ASEAN.

Apart from bilateral deals, China's awareness of IP protection will also guide its participation in future multilateral free trade negotiations, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, given the inclusion of IP rights as an important component.

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