Mother Teresa is known, primarily, for her lifelong dedication to helping the poor, which earned her the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. Secondly, she is known for her blue and white striped sari that she apparently bought the same day in 1948 that she left her Kolkata-based convent to help those in need.  A day later, she got the saris blessed by Father Van Exem at the Sacristy of the Convent Chapel: this was the dress she was to wear thereafter.

This week, news has been discovered that the Indian trademark registry has registered the characteristic blue and white stripes, preventing Indian organizations from using it on attire or items of stationery without permissions from the Missionaries of Charity. The saris with blue stripes are now woven by leprosy patients at the Gandhiji Prem Niwas, run by the Missionaries of Charity in Titagarh, North 24-Parganas. Nearly 4,000 saris are woven and supplied to Kolkata every year. These are then distributed to nuns across the world.

The application for trademark for use of the blue and white stripes began in December 2013 for stationary items, followed by November 2015 for charitable services. The final, trademarks for stationary and textiles, were registered in September 2016, hours before Teresa was declared a saint by Pope Francis. incidents of people making money by using the blue and white pattern recently came to the notice of the Missionaries of Charity and so a decision was taken to raise awareness about it.

It has been suggested that incidents of people making money by using the blue and white pattern recently came to the notice of the Missionaries of Charity, thus a decision was taken to raise awareness about it.

“Though the patterns were declared a trademark 10 months ago, the Missionaries of Charity wasn’t too eager to highlight the fact as it isn’t too keen on punishing people,” said Biswajit Sarkar of Biswajit Sarkar Advocates, but things changed after stray incidents of people making money by using the pattern emerged.

“In one incident, somebody misused the trademark and received money from a donor in Mumbai. There are also people selling mementos and memorabilia with the trademark and buyers feel that the proceeds are going to the Missionaries of Charity. We have also come across a book with the trademark on the cover, misleading readers to believe that it has something to do with the organization. We simply want to protect the identity of the organization,” Sarkar added.

The charity wants to ensure Mother Teresa’s name and memory is not exploited for commercial purposes, and while this is currently just in India in terms of the sari color, it is hoped they will push for this in more countries around the world to protect her name as well.