Marc Jacobs hits back at Nirvana copyright claim

Remember the smiley face logo on Nirvana T-shirts worn by teens across the globe in the 90s?

Well, now there’s a courtroom battle over it. Back in December, Nirvana filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against fashion designer Marc Jacobs.

It alleged the designer used the band’s imagery, including its “happy face” logo, without authorisation for his 2018 Redux Grunge collection.

But lawyers for Marc Jacobs have now filed a motion for dismissal.

The dismissal, filed on 8 March in a California federal court, argues that Nirvana LLC is not the legitimate owner of the “happy face” logo copyright registration, that the registration is invalid, and that the fashion brand did not copy aspects of the logo which would fall under copyright legislation.

It states that the wife of Nirvana’s late frontman Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and the couple’s daughter, Frances Bean, approved of the collection.

“As friends of the brand, Ms [Courtney] Love and Ms [Frances Bean] Cobain helped celebrate the release of the collection,” it reads.

Jacobs’ lawyers also claim that Kurt Cobain was the creator of the logo and that it remains unclear how he may have transferred the copyright ownership to Nirvana LLC (which includes Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic).

The lawyers add that there are discrepancies in Nirvana’s copyright claims which makes them invalid and that “there is no extrinsic similarity” between the copyrighted art and what Marc Jacobs used on its clothing.

In the original complaint, lawyers for Nirvana LLC alleged that Marc Jacobs’ “use of copyrighted image on and to promote its product is intentional, and is part and parcel of a wider campaign to associate the entire ‘Bootleg Redux Grunge’ collection with Nirvana, one of the founders of the ‘grunge’ musical genre, so as to make the ‘grunge’ association with the collection more authentic”.

Nirvana LLC claimed that Marc Jacobs’ behaviour was “oppressive, fraudulent, and malicious,” had caused them “irreparable injuries,” and “threaten[s] to dilute the value of Nirvana’s licenses with its licensees for clothing products”.

It also accused Jacobs of referencing several of its most famous tracks – Smells Like Teen Spirit, As You Are and Heart-Shaped Box – in the promotional material for his collection.

Nirvana LLC is the legal entity of the now defunct band, which makes decisions on issues such as re-releases.

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