Trending Trademarks

Velvet Underground’s Copyright Claim Against Warhol Foundation is Dismissed, Trademark Case Goes On

Posted by Kimberly Herman on September 13, 2012 at 3:24 PM

A special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester's Nicholas M. O’Donnell, editor of the Art Law Report, for preparing the following entry:

The U.S. District Court in Manhattan has dismissed the copyright claim filed by the Velvet Underground against the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts over the iconic “banana” image from the cover of the legendary The Velvet Underground and Nico album. Without reaching the merits of the claim, the court ruled that the Velvet Underground had agreed previously not to sue on any copyright theories. Reporting of the decision has been spotty at best, however, ranging from declaring a “win” for the Foundation, to suggestions that the copyright question was decided. In fact, the Court did not reach the copyright issue, and the Velvet Underground still has other trademark-based claims that remain very much alive and unaffected by the decision.

The image in question stems from Andy Warhol’s collaboration with the band in the late 1960s. He designed the album cover with the banana image, accompanied by his stylized signature, but unaccompanied by any copyright notice in the name of Warhol himself. The album was not an immediate success, but the image became an iconic one, and the record is now recognized as one of rock history’s greats.

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Topics: Infringement, Copyright, Litigation, Multimedia

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