We’ve covered Marc Jacobs’ grunge-inspired selection not long ago—the redux of the ‘90s collection that led to the designer’s booting from Perry Ellis but launched his illustrious career was a highly anticipated release. We’ve got what we wanted, but as it turns out, not everyone was pleased. Nirvana, undoubtedly one of the most recognizable names from the decade and arguably the most famous grunge band, found that certain pieces from the collection infringed a copyright that rightly belongs to the band. Now, they’re suing the label for its unauthorized use of the Nirvana logo.
Nirvana Sues Marc Jacobs for Stealing Smiley Face Design https://t.co/leNnmNwZ3R
— TMZ (@TMZ) December 30, 2018
Nirvana ‘sues’ Marc Jacobs for putting famous smiley face design on T-shirt https://t.co/YsssdKWdku
— The Independent (@Independent) December 30, 2018
The logo in question is the grunge smiley that is easily associated with Nirvana even in the absence of knowledge in the subculture. Be in a gathering of music aficionados, and there is a high chance you’d spot at least one sporting a Nirvana shirt with the smiley. It is said that the logo was designed by no other than its famous frontman Kurt Cobain, and that it first appeared on flyers but later on became plastered on shirts and other Nirvana merchandise. The group has owned the rights for the logo since the early ‘90s, preceding Marc Jacobs’ collection for Perry Ellis.
Did Marc Jacobs do a blatant rip-off, just as the Nirvana, LLC, formed by Cobain’s bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, and his widow Courtney Love, claimed in their lawsuit? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to notice the unmistakable similarities; the basics are there, with just a few changes incorporated. The copyrighted logo had two Xs for eyes, Marc Jacobs had the letters M and J. The font is similar, but instead of saying “Nirvana” in front, as is with the Nirvana shirts that are all too familiar, the Redux has “Heaven”. The back has a different statement as well, with “Redux Grunge Collection 1993/2018 Marc Jacobs” written in lieu of “FLOWER SNIFFIN KITTY PETTIN BABY KISSIN CORPORATE ROCK WHORES”.
Not only is the resemblance hard to ignore, Nirvana has a strong case for being a prominent name in the grunge scene. In fact, the lawsuit even makes the claim that the group founded the genre, although that, of course, is subject to debate. The fact that Jacobs looked into the subculture for the collection means that it is highly likely that he took inspiration from one of its most influential and famous figures, and that actually shows in the marketing of the collection through social media that used images of Cobain as well as lyrics from Nirvana’s hits.
Nirvana’s copyrighted logos have been used before, but what makes the Marc Jacobs case different is that the label has not sought license from the band. Nirvana LLC accused the brand of copyright infringement and unfair competition, and subsequently sought monetary damages. It also called for the pullout of the items from retailers such as Nordstrom, FarFetch, Shopbop, and Neiman Marcus, but so far the appeal fell on deaf ears. Marc Jacobs is yet to release a statement regarding the issue.
Image credits: Nirvana, Shopbop, Rolling Stone, Getty Images / Ben Gabbe, Dezeen, PA