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Nirvana and Marc Jacobs settle smiley face logo lawsuit

Nirvana and fashion brand Marc Jacobs have settled a copyright dispute over the band’s famous smiley face logo.

In 2018, Nirvana sued Marc Jacobs International after the company launched a “Redux Grunge” collection that included a T-shirt resembling Nirvana’s smiley face logo. While Nirvana’s smiley face had Xs for eyes, the T-shirt in question had the letters M and J for eyes – with the word “Heaven” above them – in a similar font to Nirvana.

At the time, Nirvana’s lawyers argued that Marc Jacobs used the image “intentionally” and intended “to associate the entire Bootleg Redux Grunge collection with Nirvana, one of the creators of the grunge music genre, so that the association of “grunge” with the collection would be more authentic.”

Kurt Cobain is said to have come up with the smiley face logo, although both Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic have previously testified that they do not know who created the smiley face – a point Marc Jacobs’ lawyers noted in a counterclaim.

Stella Maxwell pictured at Marc Jacobs Redux Grunge party, 2018. Source:

In their 2019 claim, the designers stated, “The apparent absence of any living person with first-hand knowledge of the creation of the allegedly copyrighted work, coupled with numerous other deficiencies in the 166 Registration that is the basis of Nirvana’s copyright infringement claim, form the basis of the counterclaim filed.”

The issue became complicated when former Geffen Records art director Robert Fisher claimed he came up with the logo. He filed a claim in 2020, claiming he was the rightful creator and owner of the design, and described himself as “the go-to person for Nirvana on most graphic design issues.”

His lawyers wrote (via Notice board): “For 30 years, Nirvana has profited enormously from Mr. Fisher’s work through the sale of a wide range of products. With the help of a team of lawyers and managers, Nirvana has been able to do this without any compensation to Mr. Fisher by falsely claiming authorship and ownership.”

In a joint court filing July 9, all three sides confirmed they had agreed to a settlement. Few details were provided, but all involved agreed to a “Mediator Proposal” submitted by Judge Steve Kim, which will be completed within the next three weeks.

Behind Rolling stoneThe parties are currently in the process of preparing a settlement agreement, and attorneys for Marc Jacobs, Nirvana and Robert Fisher have not yet responded to requests for comment.

NME also requested comment.