Entertainment & Arts

Velvet Underground to sue Andy Warhol over banana image

Lou Reed (left) of The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol
Image caption Andy Warhol (right) managed the band, which was formed by Lou Reed (left)

US rock band The Velvet Underground have launched legal action over the use of their iconic, Andy Warhol-designed album cover.

The group have accused the Andy Warhol Foundation of trademark infringement, saying it illegally licensed the famous banana logo for use on other products.

The Velvet Underground say the banana, which was used on their 1967 debut album, is synonymous with their image.

The BBC has so far been unable to reach the Warhol foundation for comment.

Warhol served as the manager and producer of the band, which was formed by Lou Reed and John Cale.

He designed their first album cover - which incorporated the banana symbol and the phrase "peel slowly and see". On early editions of the album, the banana skin was a sticker which could be removed to display the flesh underneath.

Legal papers filed in Manhattan state that the artwork, which was never officially copyrighted, "became a symbol, truly an icon, of the Velvet Underground" for some 25 years.

"The symbol has become so identified with the Velvet Underground that members of the public, particularly those who listen to rock music, immediately recognise the banana design as the symbol of the Velvet Underground," court papers said.

The band have accused the Warhol foundation of trying to "deceive the public" into thinking they had given their "sponsorship or approval" to a number of products that now carry the image - including iPad covers and accessories.

The acclaimed album - which featured German femme fatale Nico as a co-vocalist - contained tracks like I'm Waiting for the Man, Run, Run, Run, Venus in Furs and Heroin. It was added to the US National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2006.

Although they sold poorly at the time, The Velvet Underground have come to be considered one of the most influential groups of the 1960s with various artists, including David Bowie and REM, admitting they were inspired by them.

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