Nirvana’s lawsuit against Marc Jacobs given the green light

The two t-shirt designs

Nirvana (opens in new tab) have been given the green light to proceed with their lawsuit against US fashion designer Marc Jacobs.

Lawyers representing the band filed the lawsuit late last year, claiming that Jacobs took the band’s famous ‘smiley face’ logo and used it in his Bootleg Redux Grunge collection for a t-shirt which featured the word ‘heaven’ above it in a similar font to Nirvana’s logo.

Jacobs' lawyers requested a dismissal of the lawsuit in March this year (opens in new tab), with his legal reps arguing that Nirvana were not legitimate owners of the logo copyright registration, and that, as a result, Jacobs' collection didn't infringe any copyright.

However, according to The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab), US District Judge John A. Kronstadt has dismissed Jacobs' motion, adding that the only “discernible difference” between the two faces is the use of the letters ‘M’ and ‘J’ where the Xs for eyes were in the original graphic.

Kronstadt added: “It is also noteworthy that the Accused Products have combined this protectable artwork with other distinctive elements of the Nirvana t-shirt, including the use of yellow lines on black background and a similar type and placement for the text above the image on the clothing.”

Jacobs originally pointed out that the word 'Nirvana' was omitted from his design, that the 'Flower Sniffin' writing hadn't been used, that his face didn’t use Xs for eyes – although he admitted similarities between the “squiggly line for a mouth with a tongue protruding therefrom” and “a roughly circular facial outline.”

 Jacobs maintains he simply "reinterpreted" the original design.

Last month, the olive green cardigan Kurt Cobain wore for Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged sold at auction for $334,000 (opens in new tab).

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent more than 30 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. After initially joining our news desk in the summer of 2014, he moved to the e-commerce team full-time in 2020. He maintains Louder’s buyer’s guides, scouts out the best deals for music fans and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and has previous written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky. Scott grew up listening to rock and prog, cutting his teeth on bands such as Marillion and Magnum before his focus shifted to alternative and post-punk in the late 80s. His favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Drab Majesty, but he also still has a deep love of Rush.