Business and politics stoke record sales of Ivanka’s brand
SHANGHAI — Since her father was elected president of the United States, global sales of Ivanka Trump merchandise have surged, and her company has applied for at least nine new trademarks in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Canada and the U.S. The commercial engine of the first daughter’s brand is stronger than ever even as she builds a new political career from her West Wing office.
Sales hit record levels in 2017, despite boycotts and several stores limiting her merchandise. U.S. imports, almost all from China, shot up an estimated 166 percent last year.
The brand, which Ivanka Trump no longer manages but still owns, says distribution is growing. It has launched new activewear and affordable jewelry lines and is working to expand its global intellectual property footprint. In addition to applying for the new trademarks, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has won provisional approval from the Chinese government for four more since the inauguration.
In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Ivanka Trump brand said the 2017 Chinese trademarks were filed defensively to prevent counterfeiters or squatters from using her name.
Trust: Criminal conflict-of-interest law prohibits federal officials, such as Trump and her husband, from participating in government matters that could impact their own financial interest or that of their spouses. Some argue that the more her business broadens its scope, the more it threatens to encroach on the ability of two of President Donald Trump’s most trusted advisers to deliver credible advice on core issues such as trade, intellectual property and the value of Chinese currency.
Trump is no longer running the brand, and she has shifted its assets to a family-run trust valued at more than $50 million. In a recent interview with CBS News, she argued that her business would be doing even better if she hadn’t moved to Washington and placed restrictions on her team to ensure that “any growth is done with extreme caution.”
Meanwhile, her husband, Jared Kushner, has taken steps to distance himself from his sprawling New York real estate business, divesting some of his business interests including his stake in a major Fifth Avenue skyscraper.
Trademarks: The new trademark applications seek the right to put Ivanka Trump’s name on lingerie in the U.S., baby clothes in the Philippines, handbags in Puerto Rico and perfume in Canada, among a host of things. Trademarks can be used to expand a business or defend against copycats. They have ethical implications for public servants because they are granted by foreign governments and can be enormously valuable.
Her brand said in a statement that Trump herself did not sign off on the new applications, adding they are “not necessarily” an indication of planned expansion.
“The brand has filed, updated, and rigorously protected its international trademarks over the past several years in the normal course of business, especially in regions where trademark infringement is rampant,” Abigail Klem, president of the brand, said in a statement. “We have recently seen a surge in trademark filings by unrelated third parties trying to capitalize on the name and it is our responsibility to diligently protect our trademark.”
Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has more than 180 pending and registered trademarks in countries that include China, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Israel, Canada and Saudi Arabia. In China alone the company has 32 pending trademarks.
White House: In Trump’s administration, Ivanka and her husband have taken on prominent roles as China interlocutors. Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s chief White House ethics lawyer, says he would “never have allowed it.”
“Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy,” he said. “For their own sake and the country’s, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters.”
Jamie Gorelick, an attorney for Ivanka Trump, said she and her husband would steer clear of specific areas that could impact her business but are under no legal obligation to step back from huge swaths of policy, like trade with China.
“The ethics rules restrict participation in ‘particular matters’ that focus on the interests of a discrete and identifiable class,” she said. “Foreign policy toward China is not a particular matter. It affects diverse national interests and every sector of society.”
Ivanka Inc. timeline
SHANGHAI — As Ivanka Trump builds a new political career as an adviser to her father, the commercial engine of her lifestyle brand is going strong. Sales, by some measures, have reached record highs this year.
Trump founded the brand in 2007 and still owns it but stepped back from management and put its assets in a family-run trust before taking on an official role at the White House. Despite efforts to distance herself from her business to address ethical concerns, Trump remains, for many, the living embodiment of the brand that bears her name.
July 20, 2016: Ivanka Trump forms four new companies in Delaware to handle licensing contracts for baby products and costume jewelry.
July 21: Donald Trump accepts Republican nomination for president.
July 22: “Shop Ivanka’s look from her #RNC speech,” @IvankaTrump tweets, along with a link to her collection’s $138 blush sheath dress at Macy’s online.
Sept. 29: Her company announces two new licensing agreements, for affordable fashion jewelry and baby accessories.
Nov. 8: Donald Trump wins the election. Sales of Ivanka merchandise on Lyst.com, a large e-commerce platform, bump 46 percent higher for the month.
Nov. 13: Ivanka Trump appears on “60 Minutes” to discuss her father’s electoral win. Her jewelry company emails a “style alert” to reporters noting that she wore one of her “favorite” bangles, a $10,800 bracelet from her own collection, on the show. Ensuing criticism prompts the brand to apologize.
Dec. 4: The New York Times reports that Ivanka Trump sat in on a meeting with her father and the prime minister of Japan as her company negotiated a licensing deal with a firm the Japanese government owned a large stake in. The deal was put on hold, according to Abigail Klem, who now runs Ivanka Trump’s brand.
Dec. 27: Ivanka Trump Marks LLC applies for five new trademarks covering purses, wallets and other leather goods in Puerto Rico and clothing, including swimsuits and lingerie in the U.S., public records show.
Jan. 11, 2017: Ivanka Trump announces she will take a “formal leave of absence” from executive positions at the Trump Organization and her lifestyle brand.
Jan. 20: Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.
Feb. 8: Ivanka’s company applies for two more clothing trademarks in the Philippines, where it already holds three marks, according to the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines.
Feb. 9: Speaking on the morning show “Fox and Friends,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway encourages viewers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” boasting about giving the brand “a free commercial.” It apparently worked, sparking a 771 percent surge in the brand’s sales that month on Lyst.com over February 2016. The White House later “counseled” Conway for inappropriately promoting the brand.
Feb. 13: Trump meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House.
Feb. 20: Ivanka Trump Marks LLC wins preliminary approval for a trademark covering branded leather handbags in China, where the company has 52 pending or registered trademarks listed in the government trademark database.
Feb. 22: Ivanka Trump Marks LLC applies for another trademark, covering perfume, among other things, in Canada, where it holds 22 pending or registered marks, according to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
March 1: Ivanka Trump Marks LLC applies for another new trademark in the Philippines, covering clothes and shoes.
March 3: Ivanka Trump is photographed disembarking from Air Force One in a striped asymmetrical skirt from her own collection, available on Lyst.com for $45.
March 29: Ivanka Trump joins her father’s administration as an unpaid employee.
April 6: Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, sit next to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at a state dinner at Mar-a-Lago. That same day, China grants her company preliminary approval for three trademarks that confer monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy.