Nirvana’s lawsuit against Marc Jacobs given the green light

The two t-shirt designs

Nirvana 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, 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, 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.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.