The Velvet Underground’s first album cover, which featured a drawing of a large yellow banana, has been the subject of recent litigation. Why? In a collaborative effort with the band in the 1960′s, Andy Warhol designed the banana that was featured on the album cover. A recent spat arose between the Velvet Underground and the Warhol Foundation’s over the Foundation’s proposed licensing of the banana for use on case for Apple products. The suit recently settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
The suit was first filed by The Velvet Underground in January of 2013 alleging that Warhol Foundation violated its rights to the album design by licensing the design for commercial purposes. The banana graces the cover of the band’s album The Velvet Underground and Nico, which was rated by Rolling Stone as the 13th best album of all time. However, the band never sought or received trademark registration for the image from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Nevertheless, they claim instead that they earned trademark rights by virtue of years of association with it. Without the trademark registration, the band was certainly facing an uphill battle. It would have had to prove that the design has come to be associated by the public with the band itself. While that may be true with regard to certain segment of the population that is really into music, most of the general public would recognize the drawing as nothing more that a typical piece from Warhol’s collection. Especially given that the album cover also prominently featured Warhol’s signature.
Probably best for both parties that they just went ahead and split this banana (pun intended).