Nirvana vs. Marc Jacobs: 6-Year-Long Lawsuit Over Smiley Face Logo Finally Settled

The Nirvana smiley face logo, allegedly designed by the late Kurt Cobain, has been the subject of a 6-year-long lawsuit between the band’s remaining members, designer Marc Jacobs, and Nirvana’s former art director, Robert Fisher. The suit alleged that Jacobs stole the image for his Bootleg Redux Grunge collection in 2018, violating Nirvana’s copyright. Jacobs countersued, and then Robert Fisher got involved, claiming ownership of the image. Now, the suit has been finally settled out of court.

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It all started in 2018, when Marc Jacobs designed a sweater with what was seemingly the Nirvana smiley face logo on the front. Only, instead of Xs for eyes, it included Jacobs’ initials. In place of the band’s name, the word “Heaven” was emblazoned over the logo. It is unmistakably a play on the band’s logo. So, Nirvana sued the designer for copyright infringement.

According to Nirvana’s lawyers, per a report from Ultimate Classic Rock, the design was “intentional” so Jacobs could “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.”

In 2019, Jacobs countersued the band. His suit cited depositions from Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, the two remaining members of Nirvana, in which they stated they weren’t sure who designed the original logo.

Example of the redesigned Nirvana logo; Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs

[RELATED: On This Day: Nirvana’s Debut Album ‘Bleach’ Is Released and Launches One of the Most Legendary Rock Bands in History]

Lawsuits Over Nirvana Smiley Face Logo Finally Settled Out of Court

According to Jacobs’ lawyers, “the apparent absence of any living person with first-hand knowledge of the creation of the allegedly copyrighted work in question, coupled with numerous other deficiencies in the 166 Registration that is the basis for Nirvana’s infringement claim, are the basis for the counterclaim asserted.” Meaning, Kurt Cobain was most likely the only one who knew for sure if he designed the logo or not.

Now, earlier this year, Robert Fisher got involved. He claimed that he designed the logo and that Nirvana had been profiting off of his design for years.

Fisher’s lawsuit stated, “For 30 years now, Nirvana has reaped enormous profits from Mr. Fisher’s works through the sale of a wide range of products.” It continued, “Assisted by a team of lawyers and managers, Nirvana was able to do so without any compensation to Mr. Fisher by falsely claiming authorship and ownership.”

With the suits piling up, the three parties recently agreed to a proposal submitted by Magistrate Judge Steve Kim of the Central District of California. However, the details of the proposal were not shared. All parties, in a joint filing on July 9, stated that they agreed to settle the matter out of court. The settlement agreement is slated to be drafted in the coming weeks.

Featured Image by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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