After causing an internet sensation last month, "Bernie's Mittens" are back in the headlines, with Vermont's attorney general aiming to stop what he described as deceptive sales of knock-off mittens.
"I'm annoyed," said Jen Ellis, the creator of the original mittens worn by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, describing how she is upset someone seems to be cashing in on her identity. "Some people just have no morals."
Ellis is the elementary school teacher who gave a personal gift to Sanders.
The mittens, made from an old sweater, became famous when Sanders wore them to the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Memes showing Sanders went viral when they showed the former presidential candidate wearing the distinctive mittens in all sorts of wacky and humorous locations.
Recently, consumer complaints to both Ellis and to the office of Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan have expressed frustrations with websites selling mittens claiming to be made by Ellis.
However, in reality, Ellis only creates a few pairs here and there, mostly for friends.
She said she is not associated in any way with the sites and has no idea who's behind them.
"They're taking advantage of people's interest in and fascination in the mittens," the educator warned.
A consumer, who asked us to identify her as Susan from Michigan, said her experience shopping online for Bernie's Mittens has been frustrating.
Susan said she has given up hope of receiving the mittens she ordered online from a source she now considers sketchy and misleading.
"I wanted the original," she said, adding that she is disappointed she was unable to give authentic mittens as a gift to her son during the coldest months in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives. "Of course, it's going to be too warm to even wear them, so I guess it's just more of a novelty to have them until next year."
Donovan, a Democrat, said his office sent a cease-and-desist letter to an address in Casper, Wyoming, for websites claiming to sell original mittens made by Ellis.
"We're going to hold these scammers accountable," Donovan pledged.
The document questions a promise made by the sites that proceeds benefit charity. It also warns of cash penalties for deceptive practices, and demands the sites "immediately cease engaging in all deceptive acts and practices," such as using the teacher's name.
"It's her creation," Donovan said of Ellis' authentic mittens. "And anybody who tries to rip her idea off is in violation of Vermont law."
Donovan's office pointed online shoppers to the Vermont Consumer Assistance Program, which provides advice for making purchases safely.
NECN and NBC10 Boston requested comment from one of the websites named in the cease-and-desist letter.
The website did not respond to our request before our Thursday afternoon deadline, but at 10:31 p.m., the company responded using an email address incorporating the name of Jen Ellis. The reply appeared to have been automatically generated.
It did not answer our question about a reaction to the cease-and-desist letter from Donovan’s office, and instead asked reporter Jack Thurston for an order number. No order for mittens had been placed.
If an actual response to the attorney general’s demand is received, this article will be updated again.
"Buyer beware," Ellis advised, pointing out only one company can sell the design she licensed: Vermont Teddy Bear.
Ellis said she personally trained the Shelburne-based manufacturer's sewing team. Teddy Bear is preparing to launch the line, with proceeds legitimately going to Make-A-Wish Vermont.
"They will have an amazing product," Ellis predicted. "People have to be a little patient."