The Velvet Underground, known best as Lou Reed, John Cale, Maureen Tucker and Sterling Morrison, never received trademark registration for the image from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The band argues instead that it earned trademark rights by virtue of years of association with it.
“The Banana design became a symbol, truly an icon, of The Velvet Underground,” reads the complaint. “What had been the cover design for one album…became an element of multiple different CD and DVD recordings embodying music by The Velvet Underground and, more broadly, a symbol of the group The Velvet Underground.”
Further evidence of the close connection between the band and the image, according to the complaint: a 2001 vodka advertisement in which the words “Absolut Underground” appeared beneath the iconic banana.
The Warhol Factory became a meeting place of artists and musicians such as Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote and Mick Jagger. Other, less frequent visitors included Salvador Dalí and Allen Ginsberg. Warhol collaborated with Reed’s influential New York rock band The Velvet Underground in 1965, and designed the famous cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico, the band’s debut album. The album cover consisted of a plastic yellow banana that the listener could actually peel off to reveal a flesh-hued version of the banana. Warhol also designed the album cover for The Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers.
Warhol included the Velvet Underground in the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a spectacle that combined art, rock, Warhol films and dancers of all kinds, as well as live S&M enactments and imagery. The Velvet Underground and EPI used the Factory as a place to rehearse, though the definition of “rehearsal” should only be taken loosely.
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