Velvet Underground sues Warhol over Incase iPhone case designs

Lou Reed and John Cale, former members of Velvet Underground, have sued the legendary Andy Warhol – well, his foundation – for licensing the famous Velvet Underground & Nico cover to Incase to create iPhone, iPad, and Macbook cases. The famous banana image, along with other Warhol works of art, were licensed to Incase by the Warhol Foundation.

According to the band:

“The banana design is a significant element of Velvet Underground’s ongoing licensed merchandising activity,” the group’s lawsuit said, and the trademark for the band “has been exclusive, continuous and uninterrupted for more than 25 years.”

The band claims that the image has been in the public domain for years. Velvet Underground is claiming that the design can’t be licensed because the original Warholian image was a photo taken from an advertisement that was in the public domain.

That’s where things get confusing. Velvet Underground wants the image to be banned from being licensed to merchandisers, but claims it’s in the public domain.

We’re not lawyers, but doesn’t public domain mean anyone can use it, free of charge? All the articles we’ve read on the topic make no mention of whether Reed and his bandmates just don’t want the Warhol Foundation making money off of licensing the image, or if they’re trying to protect the image from being used in merchandise. Something tells us that if the image is actually in the public domain, we may start seeing the famous banana in more places than on an Incase iPhone design.

Joshua is the Content Marketing Manager at BuySellAds. He’s also the founder of And since all that doesn’t quite give him enough content to wrangle, he’s also a technology journalist in his spare time, with bylines at PCWorld, Macworld… Full Bio