The Intersection of Trump, China, and Intellectual Property - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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The Intersection of Trump, China, and Intellectual Property

The Intersection of Trump, China, and Intellectual Property

It is undisputed that the Trump administration is operating in a controversial manner. All aspects of the administration, including foreign policy, legislative agenda, and executive orders have received significant attention. There is one area of his foreign policy that bears a unique combination. This combination features China, the POTUS, and Intellectual Property.

The Washington Post announced an article titled “Trump administration goes after China over intellectual property, advanced technology” published on August 14th, 2017.1 This article details an investigation the Trump administration is handling concerning alleged claims of intellectual property theft by China.2 This article presents interesting political implications as the relation between the U.S. and China has always been the subject of controversy. This investigation is particularly noteworthy at the intellectual property at issue involves a variety of intellectual property areas. These include computer science, automobile design, and weapons manufacturing.

The approach the Trump administration took in announcing the investigation is also significant. The content and delivery of the announcement have important political implications. This is because the announcement involved not only the threat of investigating but also the threat of prosecuting the charges. Rather than make a neutral announcement regarding its intent to investigation, the Trump administration spoke with a caustic and reflective tone. “The theft of intellectual property by foreign countries costs our nation millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars each and every year,” Trump said. He also claimed: “For too long, this wealth has been drained from our country while Washington has done nothing… But Washington will turn a blind eye no longer.”3

The implications for intellectual property are also particularly significant. The U.S. engages in a substantial business relationship with China. This relationship is evidenced by the numerous bi-lateral treaties that China and the U.S. have entered. Because of this strong trade relationship, the U.S. frequently finds itself in the situation where it must give China access to innovative and confidential intellectual property. The situation is made especially dire because U.S. companies are worried of a rebuke from China if they speak about this left. Potential consequences include a cybersecurity attack or the withdrawing of business.

The intersection of foreign policy and intellectual property is significant for a number of reasons. First, because China is considered one of the U.S. premier competitors for technology, any access China has to highly valued trade secrets is problematic from both a business and political stand point. For example, Chinese law requires that U.S. businesses store U.S. consumer data in China’s territory. This makes it possible for China to steal sensitive consumer data and trade secrets through a pre-text.

The investigation will be on going and remain so for a while. The article reported that the investigation will take years to complete. Despite the long-term consequences, this story makes clear that intellectual property theft claims involve a unique combination of foreign policy, business strategy, and criminal theft.


  1. Ana Swanson, Trump administration goes after China over intellectual property, advanced technology, Washington Post (Aug. 14, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/14/trump-administration-goes-after-china-over-intellectual-property-advanced-technology/?utm_term=.bbde51703b30 [https://perma.cc/K5PL-76M5].

  2. Id.

  3. Id.

Tomas Barron Zambrano

Tomas Barron is a second year law student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Florida.