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The Velvet Underground and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts have split their differences over the iconic cover art for the 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico.
The Andy Warhol-created artwork became the subject of legal controversy after reports circulated that the Foundation planned to license the design for iPod and iPad ancillary products. In January 2012, Velvet Underground, the influential band of Lou Reed and John Cale, sued in New York federal court with the claim that the artwork had become “a symbol, truly an icon, of the Velvet Underground” for decades.
On Tuesday, a New York federal judge dismissed the case after an attorney for The Andy Warhol Foundation wrote a letter announcing that a confidential settlement had been reached between the parties.
The resolution puts an end to the provocative case.
When the album came out in the 1960s, the banana design was not registered with the Copyright Office, and the album was reportedly not published with a copyright notice. Also, there was the suggestion that Warhol based his banana cover artwork on an advertisement.
Originally, in this lawsuit, The Velvet Underground sought a declaratory judgment that the image was in the public domain, and that the Warhol Foundation couldn’t assert any copyright ownership over it. But that claim went away after the Warhol Foundation offered the band a covenant not to sue on copyright grounds.
That left the trademark issue.
In its lawsuit, the Velvet Underground said that the Warhol Foundation’s licensing activities were “likely to cause confusion or mistake as to the association of Velvet Underground with the goods sold in commerce by such third parties.”
To which, attorneys for the Warhol Foundation pointed out that the band broke up in 1972, and hadn’t done any of its own licensing in more than a decade. (About 12 years ago, the banana image was used in an Absolut Vodka ad.)
Now, thanks to a settlement, there won’t be any trial to discuss the true origins of one of rock music’s most famous album covers nor which side is most closely associated by the public with the banana. Nor will there be any ap-peal.
E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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