Lawyers have an unflattering reputation, emphasised by that joke in which scientists use lawyers as lab subjects because "there are some things even rats won't do".

But my meagre experience of their kind is that any roguishness on their part is usually of the likeable variety. Many work tirelessly for no financial return on behalf of the downtrodden and dispossessed. They are secular saints.

But speaking of saints, these days even the sanctified themselves have lawyers.

Take St Teresa of Calcutta, whose representative Biswajit Sarkar, of "the largest law firm/IP attorney in India", according to his website, has been busy on her behalf.


He has obtained copyright protection for her order's habit design of blue bars on a white sari, putting the nuns' garment in the same category as the Nike Swoosh and Mickey Mouse's ears.

He claims it as "a world first", although it's hard to imagine there was much competition for that honour, the number of instantly recognisable nuns' sari patterns being about, oh, one.

"In order to mark the sainthood of Mother Teresa, the Government of India granted the trademark registration on the same day [as her canonisation] on September 4, 2016, despite it being a Sunday," reported The Hindu newspaper with a straight face.

It was little remarked upon then, but Sarkar is making noise now because he feels some violations coming on.

As far as ownership of the design with its three blue bars goes, any claim to it by Mother Teresa would have to be defended on grounds of usage. She is not the first person in design history to end up owning the rights, albeit posthumously, to something they didn't create.

Louis Morrow, an American missionary bishop working in Krishnagar, clothed his nuns in the pattern, which caught the Mother's eye when she was starting out. She asked him for permission to use the design and it was granted without the benefit of legal advice.

Those recently riding on the good sister's blue-striped coat tails included schools, a co-op bank and textbook publishers. I know what you're thinking: textbooks, a co-op - she would have been right into those. And her sisters were quite happy to ignore not-for-profit enterprises. But Sarkar's not buying it. He wants the design to be used in the service of neither God nor mammon.

"Whether it is for commercial gain or not is not the issue," he says.

"We are thinking about our identity. If the blue pattern, which is unique in the world, is diluted or used by the public, then one fine morning the organisation will lose their identity."

And therefore ... what? The poor won't accept their help?

"No," they will say, "the integrity of your brand has become so diluted we will not have a bar of it, no pun intended."

Regardless, the sisters doing the hard yards with the poor and whom their lawyer describes condescendingly as "soft-hearted", can if they choose license the bejesus out of their newly acquired intellectual property on any number of products.

They could make a lot of money for the poor. They show no inclination to do so, preferring to help in more active ways.

Sarkar, with his one-man campaign nobody asked for, is working in that ethically fraught area where commerce and Christianity connect.

On the whole, the world seems better served by the founder's model of behaviour, with its disregard for worldly goods and intellectual property; by the model set up by Jesus and, for all her numerous faults, endorsed and exemplified by the eccentric old nun herself.