When I worked at Kmart we had a line of sheets, blankets, and window dressings in a pattern based on those iconic Mondrian paintings with the yellow, white, blue, and red squares. I always wondered if the Mondrian estate had been paid by Kmart Apparel (a subsidiary of the SS Kresge Corporation), or if the patterns were so simple that you couldn't really copyright them in the United States. Perhaps the Mondrian estate (like that of Woody Guthrie's) was in principle opposed to abuse of copyright? Or maybe the copyright had expired at that point?
The video at right is pretty definitive evidence that the Kmart sheets were rendered legally permissible in virtue of expired copyright or a deal with the SS Kresge corporation. This is Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1965 lip-synching a forgettable song on a now forgotten show hosted by once and future Little House on the Prairie paterfamilias Michael Landon. Look at the dresses of the dancers at front! Mondrian. Mondrian. Mondrian.
There's no reason to think that Hullabaloo (the Landon vehicle) would have paid the Mondrian estate for use of the pattern for the dresses on the dancers for one undistinguished musical number.* In addition, the Mondrian paintings were produced in the 1940s, so they would have still been under copyright at the time (even prior to the Sunny Bono/Disney-company rewriting of the laws). So I conclude that either the estate didn't enforce the copyright or the pattern is just so generic already that it would be like copyrighting the standard 1-4-1-5-4-1 blues progression. I wish I knew which it was.
There has to be a literature somewhere on this, how the meaning of those paintings has changed when the basic trope became wallpaper, clothing, bedding, etc. Or maybe the meaning didn't change because something like that was the point all along? I don't know.