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Ivanka Trump Pushes To Expand Her Brand In China


Ivanka Trump's primary role right now may be as an unpaid adviser to her father, but she is still a businesswoman in her own right. And it appears one area she's setting her sights on is China. The first daughter has been applying for new trademarks there. NPR's Jackie Northam is just back from China, where she talked to people about Ivanka Trump and her company.

WEIYI QIU: OK, we'll meet at the crossroad...

XI ZHANG: ...We can walk there.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: I caught up with two young women, Weiyi Qiu and Xi Zhang - her friends call her CeeCee - on the leafy campus of Beijing's Tsinghua University. They're both studying global business journalism. They're energetic and stylish.

QIU: We'll wait for CeeCee here.

NORTHAM: Qiu and Zhang closely follow Asian and Western fashion trends. They've seen and read a lot about Ivanka Trump recently and have definite ideas about her. Twenty-four-year-old Zhang admires Trump for her fashion sense and her poise.

ZHANG: Because she looks so perfect on the picture and on every - and she's so elegant. Every occasion she's attending is, like, she always behavior, like, oh, that's the perfect standard of how to behave in that circumstance.

NORTHAM: Qiu's feelings about Ivanka Trump are mixed.

QIU: So there's a word in China called baifumei. So it's a description of people who are white, wealthy and beautiful.

NORTHAM: The 23-year-old Qiu admires Trump for trying to strike out on her own in business but has no doubt she'll capitalize on her father's position as president of the United States.

QIU: Because they're a business family, so why not? They have all the privileges and all the fame. Why not make use of it, like Kardashians can make the use of their appearances?

NORTHAM: Qiu says she's not surprised to hear Ivanka Trump has been applying for trademarks in China - for everything from spas and handbags, to jewelry and clothing bearing her name. After all, China is a huge and increasingly wealthy market to tap into. And trademarks are critical to doing business here.

I met up with Nathan Yang at a busy Beijing restaurant. He's a trademark lawyer and partner at NTD Law Office. Yang says Donald Trump employed the law firm on trademark issues in the past. And he says Ivanka Trump has been applying for her own trademarks, long before her father became president.

NATHAN YANG: Ivanka started to file trademarks in China since maybe 2010, around that time.

NORTHAM: Ivanka Trump has filed more than three dozen trademark applications over the years - at least a dozen since her father became president, according to the China Trademark Office database. One was granted just as Chinese President Xi Jinping met with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

In an email statement, Abigail Klem, the president of Ivanka Trump's company, says trademark applications are a normal course of doing business. It's a way to ward off rampant piracy of the Trump brand. Yang remembers one Chinese company that was granted a trademark for a product using Donald Trump's name back in 2002.

YANG: The product is actually toilets.

NORTHAM: Sorry, toilets?

YANG: Toilets. So I suppose that Mr. Trump will be very upset if he found this. But this is what happened.

NORTHAM: Yang thinks Ivanka Trump's recent push for trademarks has more to do with getting a foothold in China while her father is president than protecting her brand. The thing is, it's not clear if there is a market for Ivanka Trump's products in China.

The Parkview Green shopping mall in Beijing is an enormous steel and glass structure. Every floor is filled with public artworks and luxury shops. This is where Ivanka Trump opened a jewelry store several years ago. The manager of the shopping mall says it closed last year because of poor sales. There's lots of competition in China for more traditional, luxury names - Chanel, Dior, Armani.

Student Weiyi Qiu says Ivanka Trump should keep prices low, come up with more creative designs and build up her brand in the U.S. before marketing her products overseas.

QIU: For China - only if she have success in America, she can have success in China, I think.

NORTHAM: And a good part of that success depends on getting trademarks. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam
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.