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President Donald Trump’s trademark registration in China amounts to a benefit conferred by a foreign government in violation of the U.S. Constitution, according to a lawsuit filed by a team of constitutional law professors.The lawsuit—filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a restaurant workers union—was amended today to include the trademark issue as an example of how Trump has allegedly violated the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits federal office holders from accepting things of value from foreign governments.The fact that the Chinese granted Trump a trademark registration only after he became president “is a benefit from a foreign government,” Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the ethics group, told Bloomberg BNA.Trump first sought to register his name as a trademark in China for building construction services in 2006, according to the amended complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. That application failed, a decision that was affirmed on appeal to an administrative tribunal and two courts.
The ethics group and Restaurant Opportunities Center United Inc. said in their complaint that Trump lost the last appeal a month before he declared his candidacy for the presidency. But after his inauguration, he met with the Chinese and spoke with the Chinese president, they said. Five days later, the Chinese government issued a trademark registration.
The issuance apparently occurred in the face of a Chinese law barring issuing registrations for trademarks that are “the same as or similar to the name of leaders of national, regional, or international political organizations,” according to the complaint.
Three Democratic senators—Ben Cardin of Maryland, Dianne Feinstein of California and Jack Reed of Rhode Island—sent a letter in February to the State Department, expressing concern that the trademark registration violated the Emoluments Clause.
Among the constitutional law experts advising the plaintiffs are Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard Law School professor, and Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment from Bloomberg BNA.
To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at AMazumdar@bna.com
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