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Velvet Underground Goes 'Bananas' in Andy Warhol Lawsuit

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on January 12, 2012 3:04 AM

Iconic rock band The Velvet Underground is suing the Andy Warhol Foundation over an "a-peel-ing" piece of artwork. To paraphrase rocker Gwen Stefani: This suit is bananas -- b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

Actually, The Velvet Underground's lawsuit focuses on one banana in particular: a pop art banana image, graced with Andy Warhol's name in the corner and the words "Peel Slowly and See" in fine print near the stem, the New York Post reports.

Warhol chose the banana artwork for the cover of the band's acclaimed 1967 album "The Velvet Underground and Nico." Band members Lou Reed and John Cale claim the banana has been the band's trademark ever since.

But the Andy Warhol Foundation licensed the banana logo, and made money off its use on iPad cases and accessories, the Post reports. That's an illegal trademark infringement, The Velvet Underground's lawsuit claims.

The band's Andy Warhol suit seeks unspecified damages, and notes the Warhol Foundation makes more than $2.5 million a year in licensing Warhol's artwork, according to the Post.

As The Velvet Underground's lawsuit proceeds, a major factor will likely be whether a trademark even exists. Neither the band nor Warhol took steps to copyright the banana image, which the band's suit claims was taken from the public domain, the Post reports.

But the band insists the banana "has become so identified with The Velvet Underground" that people "immediately recognize the banana design as the symbol of The Velvet Underground," the lawsuit states. The band has previously licensed the banana's use in a CD box set and in advertisements.

A court will likely have the last word in clarifying the dueling trademark claims over Andy Warhol's banana art. A Warhol Foundation spokesman declined to comment about The Velvet Underground's lawsuit.

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