Painter, the former Bush administration lawyer, recommended full recusal from issues related to trade with China. That is likely to be difficult because trade is so deeply embedded in the US-China relationship and has been linked with other matters, like North Korea.
“The danger is that with any discussion with the Chinese, one party or the other may try to bring up trade,” he said. “That’s a slippery slope that may require her or Jared to step out of the room.”
Gorelick, Ivanka Trump’s attorney, said that Ivanka and her husband would steer clear of specific areas that could impact her business, or be seen as conflicts of interest, but are under no legal obligation to step back from huge swaths of policy, like trade with China.
Under the rules, Trump would recuse herself from conversations about duties on clothing imported from China, Gorelick said, but not broad foreign policy.
“In between, you have to assess it case-by-case,” she said.
Trademarks can be signs of corporate ambition, though many countries — such as China, where trademark squatting is rampant — also allow for defensive filings to prevent copycats from using a brand.
Trademarks pose ethical, and possibly legal, implications for government employees because they are granted by foreign states and confer the monopoly right to sell branded product in a particular country — an entitlement that can be enormously valuable. Intellectual property lawyers say trademarks are also a crucial prerequisite for cutting licensing deals, which form the basis of both Ivanka and Donald Trump’s global business strategy.
Today, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has 16 registered trademarks in China and 32 pending applications, along with a total of four marks granted preliminary approval since the inauguration, according to China’s Trademark Office. Altogether, they cover a wide range of goods and services, including cosmetics, jewelry, leather handbags, luggage, clothes, shoes, retail, spa and beauty services. There is no sign the recent approvals were particularly swift. China’s Trademark Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Globally, the company has more than 180 pending and registered trademarks in countries including Canada, India, Japan, Israel, Mexico, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, as well as the U.S. and Europe, public records show. In December, the company applied for five trademarks, covering handbags and wallets in Puerto Rico, and lingerie and other clothes in the U.S. After the inauguration, the company filed four more applications, for branded clothing and shoes in the Philippines, and perfume and other items in Canada.Trump did not sign off on the new trademark applications, her brand said in a statement, adding that they are “not necessarily an indication that the brand is planning to launch a category or a store in a specific territory.”
Whatever the future plans, right now sales are growing — helped, some argue, by the glow of Ivanka Trump’s political rise.
The G-III Apparel Group Ltd., which makes Ivanka Trump clothes, said net sales for the collection increased by $17.9 million during the year that ended Jan. 31.The brand itself claims revenues rose 21 percent last year, with early February seeing some of the “best performance ever,” according to a statement by Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand. Because it is privately held, the brand does not have to declare its earnings or where revenues come from. The actual corporate structure of Trump’s retail business remains opaque. Kushner’s financial disclosure form lists two dozen corporate entities that appear directly related to his wife’s brand. Trump herself has yet to file a disclosure.
Data from Lyst, a massive fashion e-commerce platform, indicates some of this growth coincided with specific political events.
The number of Ivanka Trump items sold through Lyst was 46 percent higher the month her father was elected president than in November 2015. Sales spiked 771 percent in February over the same month last year, after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway exhorted Fox viewers to “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” Conway was later reprimanded. The bounce appears somewhat sustained. March sales on Lyst were up 262 percent over the same period last year.
“You can’t separate Ivanka from her role in life and from her business,” said Allen Adamson, founder of BrandSimpleConsulting. “Her celebrity status is now not only being fueled by her wealth and her family connection, but by her huge role in the White House. All that buzz is hardwired to her products.” That, he added, is a competitive advantage other brands just can’t match — though it does come with risk.
Things could easily cut the other way for the first daughter. Ashley King, 28 of Calabasas, California, bought Ivanka Trump black flats and a cardigan several years ago. But King, who voted for Hillary Clinton, said she believes Trump’s role in the White House represents a conflict of interest.
“This is bothering me more and more,” she said. As for the Ivanka Trump items in her closet, she said, “I will be donating them.”