The Velvet Underground Sues Andy Warhol Foundation for Trademark Infringement

March 21, 2012 in Copyright, Litigation, Trademark by

Issues of copyright and trademark ownership can become tricky when an artist makes a work for hire.  This is currently the case with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and 60’s rock band The Velvet Underground.  Many people would recognize the Andy Warhol stylized print of a banana as the Velvet Underground’s unofficial logo.  Many of the same people would also know that the banana was created by Warhol, who often collaborated with the band.  But who owns the rights to the iconic print? 

The banana print was never properly trademarked through a trademark attorney, neither was the copyright.  The Velvet Underground recently filed a trademark infringement lawusit that claims that the print was taken from a newspaper ad that was part of the public domain.  The Andy Warhol Foundation currently owns most of Warhol’s copyrights, which are valued at over $120 million.  The foundation earns about $2.5 million a year by licensing these copyrights.  When the foundation decided to start using the banana print as part of its copyrighted repertoire, the band sued.  According to the lawsuit, the band wants a judicial declaration that the foundation has no copyright protection for the banana icon.