2 January 2019Copyright

Marc Jacobs sued over Nirvana smiley face logo

A company representing former American rock band Nirvana is suing Marc Jacobs International for copyright infringement over its “Bootleg Redux Grunge” clothing range.

The claim was filed on Friday, December 28, in the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Marc Jacobs released its “ Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection in November 2018, based on the designer Marc Jacobs work with fashion company Perry Ellis in 1993.

Nirvana LLC alleged that Marc Jacobs copied the band’s copyright-protected ‘smiley face’ logo without authorisation. The logo, which features the letter ‘x’ in place of each eye and a tongue sticking out of the mouth, was designed by the band’s late front man Kurt Cobain in 1991, and registered for copyright in 1993.

The claim cited a number of items within the collection, including t-shirts and socks, which bear the “virtually identical image”.

It further alleged that Marc Jacobs had engaged in a marketing campaign which referenced Nirvana, including the band’s song titles and lyrics. According to the claim, the Marc Jacobs webpage for each product said that “this bootleg sure smells like teen spirit”.

The claim also produced an image, allegedly from the Marc Jacobs website, featuring the fashion designer wearing a t-shirt with the smiley face logo, above the text “Come As You Are”, a Nirvana song title.

Marc Jacobs’ Tumblr page also features a clip from the music video for the band’s 1991 single “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

According to the claim, the company’s references to the band are “calculated to mislead the public into falsely believing that Nirvana endorses the entire “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection”.

The complaint claimed that the misuse of the smiley face logo, and the numerous references to Nirvana in Marc Jacobs’ marketing material, amount to “common law trademark infringement, false designation of origin, passing off and unfair competition”.

Nirvana LLC described the alleged infringement as “intentional, malicious and oppressive”. It is seeking an injunction to prevent Marc Jacobs from advertising or selling any items bearing the smiley face image, as well as damages and fees.

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More on this story

9 November 2017   Fashion brand Marc Jacobs has been accused of copying pins designed by independent artists in the Marc Jacobs “Resort 2017 collection”.
3 January 2019   Lawyers have told WIPR that a lawsuit which argues that Marc Jacobs International infringed IP owned by former rock band Nirvana may not be strong enough to secure victory.
13 March 2019   Marc Jacobs has asked a court to dismiss a copyright infringement suit after the company representing former rock band Nirvana accused it of using a logo without authorisation.