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Heteka - an iron bed that became a bestseller of its day


April 15, 2019

Who remembers the heteka? Quite a few of Finns, because two million sold units of this piece of furniture that grew into a hit product were produced.

Heteka, a steel frame sofa-bed, has been part of life of two generations and a standard accessory of almost every Finnish home in the 1960s. A patent relating to the design of the bed was granted to Heteka Oy as early as 1937.

The heteka became so popular that the name was soon adopted to refer to beds of this type in general. Kolster’s Patents Director, Tapio Äkräs, tells the story of the colourful history of the popular bed. 

What did the invention relate to?

“This was a sofa-bed made of steel, known as the heteka, that was extendable into a twin bed at night-time. At daytime one part of the bed could be collapsed and pushed on rolls under another part of the bed to save space.”

Who invented the heteka?

“The heteka is considered an invention by the Finnish company, Helsingin Teräshuonekalutehdas, and the name itself is an abbreviation of the company name. Beds made of iron had been produced in Finland from the 1890s on, and the oldest company was Suomen Rautasänkytehdas, established in 1891. Iron-made beds were widely used in hospitals and military barracks, in particular, but suitable designs were available for home use as well. First advertisements for  sofa-beds of the heteka type from various manufacturers started to appear in Finnish newspapers in the early 1930s. The products were nearly identical, so it is difficult to tell who developed the design first.

When was a patent application filed for the invention?

“In the early 1900s, numerous Finnish patents had been applied for iron beds. Heteka advertisements also often referred to patented beds, but apparently the reference was to pending patent applications only. The actual heteka patents related to the details of the bed. The first Finnish patent, no. 17493, was issued to Heteka Oy in 1937, but he application had been filed as early as February, 1935. The patent related to the movable part of the bed, supported by rolls, which in its daytime position slid under the other part. In the night-time position, in turn, the movable part stood firmly on its legs. This design  was advertised as the 12-legged Heteka 37 bed. As late as the 1950s, Heteka Oy applied for several patents for the bed structure. It is not known whether patents were sought for heteka beds outside Finland.

In 1938, Suomen Rautasänkytehdas was granted patent no. 11827. This patent related to the levers used for raising and lowering the base of the movable part of the bed. At the time, 500 to 600 patents were granted annually, out of which 30 to 60, only, to Finnish applicants, so approximately 10 percent of the total number.  These patents were still issued based on the patent decree made in 1898 during the era of Finnish autonomy. The first patent law of independent Finland was passed in 1943.”

What is the status of  heteka’s IP rights today?

Helsingin Teräshuonekalutehdas secured its rights to the Heteka product name by registering the trademark T193300524 in 1933.  The trademark is still in force. The company adopted the name Heteka Oy, too. By means of its trademark and obviously aggressive advertising, Heteka Oy seized a leading position in the market, which helped heteka become the nickname of the entire bed type.”

Almost every home had a heteka. What was the secret of the popularity?

We can definitely call this piece of furniture a bestseller product because as many as two million units of heteka were manufactured and sold. In the early 1960s, there was a heteka in practically every Finnish home. The production volumes were huge when taking into account that  a heteka, after all, is a heavy piece of furniture made of metal. It is also rare that a single product acquires such a large market share. Apparently, it was most practicable for the small apartments in Finland, and its simple functional style also fit the Finnish taste.  When heteka beds were introduced on the market, it was not uncommon for a family with many children to live in one room. When the market for heteka beds started to dwindle,  Finns already had moved to more spacious apartments.”

PICTURE: Heteka exhibition stand in 1937. CC BY 4.0 / The University of Art and Design Helsinki.

To celebrate Kolster’s 145th jubilee year, we feature each month an interesting Finnish invention or patent.

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The history of the sauna stove dates back to the early 20th century, when Fredrik Terho patented his method for manufacturing sauna stoves made of iron. Over the past century, the product has evolved and far from a traditional barrel stove, modern saunas can boast a designer stove in the shape of an elf, for example.

Kolster’s first patent served the paper industry
The use of wood fibre as the raw material of paper was boosted when the first patent application filed through Kolster was accepted in 1874.

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Tapio Äkräs
+358 50 5242406