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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 looks after and updates Louder’s online buyer’s guides and also scouts out the best deals for music fans from every corner of the internet. He's spent more than 28 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014, where he wrote extensively about rock, metal, prog and more, before moving to the eCommerce team full-time in 2020. Scott has previous written for publications including IGN, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky.