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?
HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images