Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, won initial approval for 16 Chinese trademarks despite the company shutting its doors in July, according to records released by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The trademarks are the largest grouping approved in a single month for the brand since Trump’s election, and raise questions surrounding continued conflicts of interest for one of Trump’s senior advisers.
The applications for the trademarks, which were pertain to everything from bags to umbrellas to sausages, were filed in May 2016, but were notably not withdrawn when Ivanka’s business was shuttered.
In July, Ivanka closed down her business, saying “my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington.”
“I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business,” she said.
But according to an unnamed source from a July report in The Washington Post, the president’s daughter planned to continue to seek trademarks, even after her company shut down.
Shut down, but not shut out
Ivanka’s brand received intense scrutiny after Trump’s election. Her products were almost exclusively made overseas despite her and her fathers championing of local labor, and the brand was dropped from retailers like Marshall’s, Nordstrom, and TJ Maxx. Those developments were prompted in part by public animus toward her father. By June 2018, sales had dropped nearly 45%, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
In May, Ivanka’s brand received approval for seven trademarks. The same month, Trump announced that he had reached a deal with China to lift the US ban on telecom giant ZTE. The timing of that news raised some eyebrows as well.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Business Insider in May that “It raises significant questions about corruption, as it invites the possibility that she could be benefiting financially from her position and her father’s presidency or that she could be influenced in her policy work by countries’ treatment of her business.”
When Ivanka announced her brand’s closure in July, it was speculated that certain ethics conundrums stemming from the business would be sealed.
But according to Caroline Zhang, social media manager at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, these new approvals revive previous concerns of conflicts of interest: “Since she has retained her foreign trademarks, the public will continue to have to ask whether Trump has made foreign policy decisions in the interest of his and his family’s businesses.”
Previously, officials from Ivanka’s company have claimed that her international trademarks were measures to prevent foreign entities from capitalizing on her name. Business Insider has reached out to brand president Abigail Klem and will update this post with any response.
The first daughter’s business strategy isn’t entirely clear. While it’s possible that she is continuing to pursue trademarks in the hopes of one day reopening her business, it’s also possible that the approved trademark applications were simply loose ends that were never tied up.