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There’s always money in banana copyrights… or is there?

The sad, strange tale of the Banana Lady makes for an interesting analysis of copyright law

Conrad in her Banana Lady costume. Image courtesy of the 7th Circuit and the Chicago Tribune

It’s a good thing that no one individual holds the intellectual property rights to bad banana-related puns, because this article is likely to be full of them. I have a feeling that reader reaction will be… split.

Let’s start with a bunch of facts, shall we? The case in question involves Catherine Conrad, who is professionally known as “Banana Lady.” Conrad is not to be confused with Miss Chiquita, Carmen Miranda, or other banana-related ladies who are no doubt yellow with envy about the attention she’s getting. 

Conrad has made a pretty slick career of performing at events in a giant banana costume. But all it took was one rotten event to spoil her sweet ride. In 2013 she performed her “singing telegram” bit at a credit union trade association event. Attendees of the event took photos of Conrad and posted them on social media. Conrad claims that these actions violated her copyright.

But can the fruit of her labor even be copyrighted? She wanted to plant that seed in the mind of the 7th Circuit judges, but she was left to snack on bitter disappointment, as the court ruled that she was “abusing the legal process,” filing at least 17 lawsuits since 2009. These suits included going after event promoters that used an image of the Banana Lady in their promotional materials, people who posted Banana Lady videos on their website, and even her own web hosting service for taking down her website when she failed to pay the bill. Talk about sour grapes. 

In the course of ruling that she could not copyright her banana costume, the esteemed judges of the 7th Circuit had no choice but to perform a Google search to find other, similar costumes. Seeing one after another, they must have felt like they were trapped in that old knock-knock joke.

The fact remains that her performance and her persona are not copyrightable under the law, so her abuse of the system marks her as little more than a copyright troll, trying to bully people who don’t know the law into paying her licensing fees. It would be funny if it wasn’t so ridiculous.

And, for the record, I am pleased I got through this piece without making a single Potassium joke, K?


For more on copyrights and trademarks, check out the following:


Superheroes battle over trademarks in the U.K.

Google tries to trademark the word 'Glass'

‘Game of Thrones’ achieves new record for piracy levels

Animator claims Disney’s Frozen infringes upon her short film





Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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