The Velvet Underground have settled a long running legal dispute with the Andy Warhol Foundation over rights to their Banana album jacket, designed by Andy Warhol in the 1960s. The band accused the Foundation of trademark infringement, claiming that it had illegally allowed their iconic banana logo to be used on other products without permission. The banana image was used on the front cover of their debut album in 1967, they said it was synonymous with the band’s image, despite never being officially copyrighted.
The band was formed by Lou Reed and John Cale, and Andy Warhol acted as the manager and producer. Warhol was responsible for the design of the cover, and deployed a pop art-style image of a banana accompanied by the phrase ‘peel slowly and see’. On early editions of the album, the banana was actually peelable, with the skin being a sticker that could be removed.
The case claimed that the banana ‘became a symbol, truly an icon, of the Velvet Underground’, and that ‘The symbol has become so identified with the Velvet Underground that members of the public, particularly those who listen to rock music, immediately recognised the banana design as the symbol of the Velvet Underground’.
Earlier this year the band lost their legal battle against the Andy Warhol Foundation over the use of this design. A judge dismissed part of the lawsuit by the band, over the rights to the design that featured on their debut album. The remaining members of the band were told that they did not have a valid copyright claim, although it would be left up to them to decide whether they wanted to continue pursuing the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for trademark infringement. The band appealed and the foundation has now made an undisclosed settlement.