The Velvet Underground sues to protect banana

Best rock band ever takes action to stop iconic image from being used on merchandise

Arguably the best rock band of all time is heading to court over a banana.

Yesterday, protopunk band The Velvet Underground filed suit against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts claiming trademark infringement. The groundbreaking band, founded by punk rock legends Lou Reed and John Cale, says the foundation’s agreement to license Warhol’s banana design, which is featured on the cover of the album “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” violates its intellectual property rights. The license would allow the design to be used on products such as covers for iPhones and iPads.

Warhol selected the banana design for and included his signature on the 1967 album, which is regarded today as one of the best albums of all time and often referred to as simply “The Banana Album.”

"The symbol has become so identified with The Velvet Underground ... that members of the public, particularly those who listen to rock music, immediately recognize the banana design as the symbol of The Velvet Underground," the complaint said.

The band said it learned about the licensing agreement after reading a newspaper article and tried to work with the Warhol Foundation to cease the licensing of the banana design before filing suit.

In its suit, The Velvet Underground is seeking an injunction to stop third-party use of the banana, claiming the Warhol Foundation has no copyright interest in the design. It has also asked the court for unspecified damages and a share of the profits the foundation makes on any licensing deals.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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