Velvet Underground sues to protect its iconic banana

The rock group The Velvet Underground filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to stop its iconic Andy Warhol-designed banana being used on covers for iPads, iPhones or other items.

The 1960s rock band formed by Lou Reed and John Cale accused the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts of trademark infringement, claiming in a lawsuit that the banana design is synonymous with The Velvet Underground.

The band said it was taking legal action after reading newspaper reports in the past year that the Andy Warhol Foundation had agreed to license the banana design to a series of cases, sleeves and bags planned for Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad.

Apple is not named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court. The Warhol Foundation declined to comment on Wednesday.

The banana in question was selected by Warhol and used with the pop artist's signature on the cover of Velvet Underground's 1967 album "The Velvet Underground and Nico," according to the lawsuit.

Although Velvet Underground broke up in 1973, the album later came to be regarded as one of the best albums of all time, and was also referred to as "The Banana Album".

As a result the Banana design, which was never officially copyrighted, "became a symbol, truly an icon, of the Velvet Underground" for some 25 years, the lawsuit said.

"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 added.

The lawsuit said the band had repeatedly asked the Warhol Foundation to cease licensing the banana design to third parties "in a manner likely to cause confusion or mistake as to the association of Velvet Underground with the goods sold in commerce by such third parties."

Velvet Underground is seeking an injunction stopping the use of the banana by third parties, a declaration that the Warhol Foundation has no copyright interest in the design, unspecified damages, and a share of the profits made by the Warhol Foundation from any licensing deals.

(Published by Reuters - January 11, 2012)

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