The Velvet Underground sued the Andy Warhol Foundation, accusing it of infringing the trademark for the banana design on the cover of the rock group’s first album in 1967.
The band’s founders, Lou Reed and John Cale, said that the foundation infringed the design by licensing it to third parties, according to the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.
The band, which was active from about 1965 to 1972, formed an artistic collaboration with Warhol, who designed the banana illustration for “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” which critics have labeled one of the most influential rock recordings of all time, according to the complaint.
The Warhol Foundation claimed it has a copyright interest in the design, according to the lawsuit. The Velvet Underground partnership said in the complaint that the design can’t be copyrighted because the banana image Warhol furnished for the illustration came from an advertisement and was in the public domain.
Warhol’s copyrighted works have a market value of $120 million and the foundation has earned more than $2.5 million a year licensing rights to those works, according to the complaint.
The Velvet Underground is seeking a judicial declaration that the foundation has no copyright to the banana design, an injunction barring the use of any merchandise using the artwork and monetary damages. The group is requesting a jury trial.