Great Britain

Marc Jacobs countersues Nirvana in T-shirt copyright dispute

Fashion designer Marc Jacobs has filed a lawsuit against Nirvana, after he was sued by them for breaching copyright of their smiley face logo and signature font in a T-shirt design.

The original lawsuit was filed against Jacobs in January, accusing him of being “oppressive, fraudulent and malicious” in creating the designs, which, it was argued, “threaten to dilute the value of Nirvana’s licenses with its licensees for clothing products”.

Jacobs attempted to dismiss the suit in March. His lawyers argued that the smiley face was a “commonplace image” and that while the designs were inspired by Nirvana’s 1990s concert T-shirts, his designs did not infringe copyright as they sufficiently deviated from Nirvana’s.

Earlier this month, a California judge allowed the case to move forward. Jacobs has now responded with a countersuit, arguing that there are “numerous deficiencies” with the case.

Chief among these alleged deficiencies is that it is not clear who designed the band’s logo. The original Nirvana lawsuit claimed it was designed by late frontman Kurt Cobain “in about 1991” – it first appeared on a flyer for a release party celebrating the album Nevermind, and would later adorn the band’s T-shirts. But in depositions during the lawsuit, surviving bandmembers Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic admitted they didn’t know who created it.

Jacobs’ suit demands that Nirvana’s copyright claim to the logo be removed, and his company’s legal costs be recovered. Nirvana’s legal team will continue to contest the case – they have complained that individuals who were more familiar with the copyright registration have not yet been questioned by Jacobs’ lawyers.

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