Here's The Story Of How Donald Trump Fought To Use His Own Name In China

Trump has been engaged in a decade-long legal battle to use his own name on buildings in China.

Days after his improbable win in the US, Donald Trump finally obtained the right to plaster his own name onto construction projects in China after more than a decade of fighting for it.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

But the Chinese internet initially believed that Trump was "the first US president to ever engage and lose in a lawsuit," after a Weibo user posted screenshots on Sunday of a case document that the user found on an official legal database.

The lawsuit — the only one listed for “唐纳·川普,” a male, born on Jun. 14, 1946, with the address on 725 Fifth Avenue New York — shows that Trump lost a trademark lawsuit in China shortly before he declared his run for president last year.

Listings on China's Trademark Bureau show that in 2006, a man named Dong Wei from Liaoning Province beat Donald Trump (by two weeks!) to be the first register the trademarks "Donald Trump" and “Trump” in areas of construction.

"DONALD TRUMP" trademark registered by Donald Trump

"Donald Trump" trademark registered by Dong Wei

The businessman-turned-politician was not quite a household name in China like he claimed, the Trademark Bureau found, so they saw no reason to grant him the trademark registered by someone else earlier and dismissed part of the claim in 2009.

Trump didn't agree with the result and brought the dispute to the country's Trademark Appeal Board, but in 2014 the board dismissed his request for review, determining that the two trademarks were highly similar and couldn't be claimed in similar markets.

Trump, being Trump, didn't give up. He then brought administrative litigation forward against the appeal board, but Beijing's No.1 Intermediate People's Court agreed with the board's decision. Trump's further appeal to Beijing's Higher People's Court also yielded nothing, and he had to pay 200 yuan ($30) for the litigation fees. And that appeared to be the end of it.

In the past two days, Trump's court failure has been circulated by multiple Chinese state-run media in headlines, including the People's Daily, the Global Times and CRI English.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump lost lawsuit over his trademark in China, twice

The Chinese internet responded with amusement, provoked by the unlikely case that's binding the US President-elect and the country.

"What kind of spirit is it, for an American to fight for his rights in China, crossing thousands of miles?"

"[I] finally realize why Trump wants to impose a 45% tariff on China [imports]."


(Trump seems to have backed away from that bit of campaign rhetoric.)

But just as nobody foresaw Trump's win in the US, in the latest batch of weekly trademark examination notices issued by the trademark office on Sunday, his company's logo was among the licenses granted.

In 2014, Trump filed another trademark application in the same area, which is the application finally approved on Sunday. The approval will go into effect if no one objects after a 90-day period.

Zhou Dandan, a Beijing-based lawyer at Unitalen Law Office, which represented Trump, told the Wall Street Journal, who was among the first to report the plot twist, that as President-elect, Trump is now a household name in China, which could change the outcome in potential trademark disputes from now on. Chinese news media were also quick to run a set of mea culpas.

Public records on Chinese government website show that Trump now owns at least 75 trademarks in English and Chinese, including "TRUMP PLAZA," "TRUMP HOME," and "TRUMP ESTATE."

A further look into the database shows that even when Trump was running for office, he was able to spare some time to actively pursue securing trademarks in China.

On Apr. 15, 2016, Trump's Chinese agents at least filed trademark registration applications under "TRUMP" in the markets of education, performance, entertainment, sports, advertising and financial services, all of which were accepted by the government bureau in the end of September, two days after the first presidential debate.

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News on how the Trump Organization plans to use those trademarks.

The President-elect's concerns are real: the problem of trademark squatting is extensive in China. Earlier this year, Apple lost its rights to trademark leather accessories in the market; last year, Michael Jordan lost out. Facebook was among the lucky ones to win.

Only half of the trademarks requested under the trademark name "TRUMP" are by Trump himself, the rest of them belong to a food company, an aquarium company, an investment company, etc. Earlier this year, a toilet-making company was reported to label its toilets "Chuangpu," one variation of Chinese spelling of Trump's name. However, it might be unfair to suggest all of them are results of trademark squatting, as the word "trump" bears positive meaning.

Dong Wei, the man who squatted on Donald Trump's trademarks, has yet to comment on how he feels about being...trumped.