The Ubiquitous Blue-and-White Check Is Actually Trademarked. Who Knew?

Some iconic patterns are inextricably linked to the brands that created them. If a wallpaper designer passed off a series of prancing zebras as their own idea, Scalamandré would certainly have something to say about it. The saga of Swedish bedding brand Hästens and a family-owned furniture store in Dallas, however, represents a more curious case of trademark debate.

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According to the Dallas Morning News, Hästens issued a cease-and-desist letter to Coco & Dash, an area furniture store owned by mother-daughter duo Teddie and Courtney Garrigan. Specifically, an attorney for the Swedish producer of high-end mattresses said that Coco & Dash’s use of a blue-and-white checkered pattern on a sofa represents an unauthorized use of “Hästens Check Design” that is “likely to create confusion in the marketplace as to the source of the goods.”

The Ubiquitous Blue-and-White Check Is Actually Trademarked. Who Knew?

The Garrigans disagreed with the notion that any and all uses of blue-and-white checked fabric should be considered and referred to as Hästens Blue Check. They’re taking the Köping, Sweden–based bedding company to court in the hopes that a judge will issue an order that cancels some of the 11 registered trademarks Hästens has on file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Coco & Dash could be considered liable for up to $2 million in damages should they be found guilty.

Most relevantly, Hästens holds a trademark (77765085) for a blue-and-white checkered pattern, which pertains to goods including “furniture, namely beds, bedsteads, and bedroom furniture,” as well as “woven textiles, namely sheets, towels, [and] bed blankets.” Another trademark is 86585217, which applies to beds, mattresses, futons, and the like. Aesthetically, the trademark includes “a repeating pattern of four adjoining squares, one in the color white and the other three in various shades of blue.”

Furthermore, the phrase Hästens Blue Check, which covers “furniture and furniture fittings” as well as “textile products” spanning from bed linens to towels and much in between, is also trademarked. Theoretically, that trademark could imply that any use of a blue-and-white check should be referred to by the branded name.

In 2018, the U.S. Copyright Office rejected the brand’s attempts to copyright its checkered pattern. As such, the U.S. government merely considers the blue-and-white check to be a distinguishing mark of Hästens rather than original intellectual property.

Even still, victory in a legal battle with a brand like Hästens could prove costly. The Garrigans told the Dallas Morning News that delivering the filing notice to Hästens headquarters in Sweden cost “thousands.” And although Teddie Garrigan’s husband Dan is the attorney representing Coco & Dash, those without such ties to the law could face steep legal fees.

For the time being, design pros considering incorporating blue-and-white checks as the basis for a textile pattern or upholstery may want to wait until the dust settles in this particular case.