MT sari ‘trademarked’ to stop exploitation of her brand
Before she snuffed it in 1997 Mother Teresa reportedly said that her name ‘should not be exploited for commercial purposes’ – but that’s not stopped some folks from making dosh from MT memorabilia. For example, the signed photo above is currently available on eBay; a snip at $1,899.99.
The same seller is offering a signed MT letter for $1,799.99.
Another seller is trying to flog a note from the infamous old fraud for $360. Ironically, it states:
Please do not make a business out of these photos.
I was prompted to investigate MT tacky paraphernalia after seeing a BBC report that MT’s distinctive sari, featuring three blue stripes on the borders, had been trademarked in India to prevent “unfair” use by people for commercial purposes
Senior nuns who work for Missionaries of Charity, a 67-year-old sisterhood which has more than 3,000 nuns worldwide, continue to wear what has now become the religious uniform of this global order.
The BBC’s Soutik Biswas said that on Monday, news washed up that the “famous” sari of the Nobel laureate nun had been quietly recognised last September by the Indian government as the intellectual property of the Missionaries of Charity in September last year, when the nun was declared a saint by the Vatican, but the order had decided not to make it public.
Biswajit Sarkar, a Kolkata-based lawyer who works pro-bono for the order, says he had applied for the trademark in 2013.
It just came to my mind that the colour-identified blue border of the sari had to be protected to prevent any future misuse for commercial purposes. If you want to wear or use the colour pattern in any form, you can write to us and if we are convinced that there is no commercial motive, we will allow it.
Because nuns said that MT had issued orders before her death that her name “should not be exploited for commercial purposes”, Sarkar helped the order to trademark her name two decades back.
Still, nuns of the order have complained that Mother Teresa’s name was being exploited for commercial gain: a school being run in her name in Nepal where teachers complained of not receiving salaries; a priest raising funds in Romania using the order’s name; shops near the order’s headquarters in Kolkata telling customers that proceeds from memorabilia sales were donated to the order; and a cooperative bank in India curiously named after the nun.
So we decided to do something about it,. Through this we are trying to tell the world that her name and reputation should not be misused.
It is also not clear how this trademark on the famous blue striped sari will be enforced. Many online shopping sites already sell variations of “unisex Mother Teresa dress”.
Also, said Biswas:
The move is bound to raise the hackles of the nun’s critics – and she has her fair share of them – who have accused her of glorifying poverty, hobnobbing with dictators, running shambolic care facilities and proselytising. ‘How can anybody appropriate a sari, which has been a traditional Indian dress,’ one of them asked me, preferring to remain unnamed.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake