Banana splits for Warhol’s Underground work

February 2012



Members of the iconic new York band The Velvet Underground have taken legal action to stop the use of the famous Andy Warhol designed ‘banana’, which originally featured on the band’s 1967 eponymous album, being used on covers for Apple iPads and iPhones. The action is actually against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for  trademark infringement, and claims that the banana album design – from the 1967 album The Velvet Underground and Nico which has the yellow coloured banana and the words  “Peel slowly and see” printed near the tip –  along with Warhol’s signature, was synonymous with their work. Apple is not named as a defendant in the civil case filed in Manhattan federal court. Warhol managed the Velvet Underground and the band performed regularly at his studio, The Factory. The album was nicknamed “The Banana Album”.

The lawsuit claims that “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”. The complaint added that the band had repeatedly asked the Foundation to stop licensing the banana design to third parties “in a manner likely to cause confusion or mistake as to the association of Velvet Underground with the goods sold in commerce by such third parties”. I am not sure if this is a copyright or quasi-Trade Mark case – but it seems that The Velvet Underground are seeking an injunction preventing the use of the banana by third parties, a declaration that the Andy Warhol Foundation has no interest in (I presume the copyright) to the design, unspecified damages, and a share of the profits made by the Foundation from any licensing deals.

And it seems Disney used the cover of the iconic Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures as inspiration for a Micky Mouse T-shirt – which they have now withdrawn from sale. The album used the image of a waveform showing successive pulses from the first pulsating star ever discovered, and itself was based on an image in the ‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy’. Wobbles in the waveform gave the impression of a mountain range. For its new t-shirt, Disney added its own wobbles so that the famous Mickey Mouse silhouette could be seen in the waves and the entry fr the waves Mouse Micky Tee T-shirt on Disney’s website admitted the Joy Division album artwork, rather than the Cambridge Encyclopaedia, was the inspiration for the T-shirt design, describing the product as: “Inspired by the iconic sleeve of Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album, this Waves Mickey Mouse Tee incorporates Mickey’s image within the graphic of the pulse of a star. That’s appropriate given few stars have made bigger waves than Mickey!” Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook commented “We’ve always been one of the most bootlegged bands in history, particularly Joy Division. But it’s a hell of a compliment to be bootlegged by someone like Disney” although he later added “Because of the amount of money I’ve spent in Disneyland I think they owe me something without a shadow of a doubt” and “I do wish I’d done the Joy Division oven gloves”.  and  and

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