Is Edward Snowden the New Che Guevara?

He doesn't quite have the looks of communist revolutionary Che Guevara, but that isn't stopping a collection of companies from trying to cash in on Edward Snowden.

In Russia and China, companies have in recent days filed patent applications to secure rights to Snowden's name and image, hoping to capitalize on the celebrity of the world's most famous whistleblower. And with WikiLeaks now selling Snowden-emblazoned T-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters, the former NSA contractor has officially joined the pantheon of leftist icons-turned-unwitting money makers.

In China, the electric car company Hong Yuan Lan Xiang has filed an application for the "Snowden" trademark in both English and Chinese. They're even claiming a vague product tie-in: Their "top secret" technology promises to be as earth-shattering as Snowden's leaks. Or at least so the company's executives claim.

"We are talking with China's domestic carmakers, and we aim to launch cars equipped with our technology by the end of this year," Zhu Hefeng, the company's manager, told the South China Morning Post. (According to the Global Times, Chinese officials may reject Zhu's application "on grounds that any name deemed to have a negative effect or influence on social morals can not be registered.")

Meanwhile in Russia, the country's patent office simultaneously received three different applications to register an image of Snowden. One even depicts the whistleblower with long hair in the style of Che. Somewhere in Russia, an enterprising businessman is probably hoping that Snowden's image will become the next T-shirt sensation for moody, café-dwelling intellectuals the world over.

These patent applications have the distinct whiff of get-rich-quick schemes. Providing a skeptical take on the developments, Russia Beyond the Headlines, quotes, of all people, Stanislav Kaufman, the chairman of the popular Russian vodka brand Putinka. "The desire of businessmen to make money on some media personalities is clear. If his portrait will be recognizable, Snowden may challenge in court its commercial use and has all chances to succeed," Kaufman said.

While WikiLeaks isn't looking to get rich off Snowden's image, it is currently selling Snowden-branded coffee mugs and T-shirts in a fundraising effort. For $32.99 (plus shipping and handling) you can be the proud owner of the latest in anti-secrecy fashion.

Here's what that shirt looks like:

Not quite Che Guevara, right?



Calm Down, Everyone: Mubarak's Not Free Yet (and May Never Be)

CAIRO -- Is Hosni Mubarak about to be a free man? An Egyptian court ruled on Monday that the former president was not guilty in a case that accused him of misusing state funds to finance the construction of his presidential palaces. Mubarak's main attorney, Fareed el-Deeb, followed up the verdict by telling reporters that the deposed ruler "will be released [from prison] in 48 hours."

Mubarak's release would constitute the victory of a lifetime for Deeb, who has defended him to the hilt since his ouster. But the former president's release may not be as imminent as Deeb suggested, as state media reported that Mubarak would remain detained for at least another two weeks as judicial authorities determined his fate. What's more, while the colorful lawyer has proved adept at making headlines over the past two years, his proclamations have a habit of not surviving a news cycle. 

From the beginning, Deeb seemed to realize that Mubarak would be tried in the court of public opinion, in addition to one governed by the rule of law. He tried to scrub away the portrait of his client as an out-of-touch despot, painting him instead as a sick old man: Mubarak, he said in May 2011, was "in very bad health" -- he suffered from a heart problem, and his colon cancer had returned. In June 2011, he added that Mubarak suffered from stomach cancer as well, and that in June 2010 he underwent "critical surgery" in Germany that removed parts of his pancreas, gall bladder, and a growth on his small intestines.

In July 2011, Deeb reported Mubarak's health had taken a turn for the worse. He said that the former president had suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma -- roughly two weeks before he was to stand trial for the first time on charges of killing protesters. Mubarak's doctor, however, quickly denied that his patient had suffered from a stroke or was in a coma. "I checked on him. He is in stable condition," the doctor said. "What happened is he got a little dizzy because his blood pressure was low."

In June 2012, soon after a Cairo court found Mubarak guilty of failing to stop security forces from killing protesters during the 2011 uprising, the former president seemed to be on death's door. Egypt's state-run news agency, citing medical sources, declared that Mubarak was "clinically dead." Deeb denied that the former president had passed away -- but said that he was in a coma, had a water buildup around his lungs, and suffered from a clot in his brain, adding that "electric shocks were used to revive him but there was no substantial response."

Despite this staggering number of ailments, however, Mubarak never died -- and, by the end of 2012, seemed to be making a miraculous recovery. Deeb told the Egyptian daily al-Shorouk in December that the former president's health "has improved" over previous days. By April 2013, AFP reported that Mubarak appeared "strong and defiant" during a court appearance, waving and smiling at his supporters.

None of that is to say that Deeb's claim that Mubarak will be released is necessarily wrong. After two years of legal chaos, the guilty verdict against the former president has been overturned and the legal period for which he can be held pending trial has expired. An Egyptian court must decide now whether he will remain detained while a separate case proceeds against him. But whether or not he's freed, it would be wise to treat Deeb's prognostications with a grain of salt.