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Nirvana and luxury fashion house Marc Jacobs reach settlement over smiley face logo

After six years of legal battles, the legendary grunge band and the luxury fashion house have reached an agreement over the use of the smiley face logo. Nirvana’s attorneys argued that Marc Jacobs was wrongly trying to identify with the band by using the image.

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Grunge band Nirvana, LVMH fashion brand Marc Jacobs and artistic director Robert Fisher have reached a settlement over the fashion brand’s use of an image strikingly similar to the band’s iconic smiley face logo, sources report.

This ends the long-standing dispute over the logo.

Nirvana sued Marc Jacobs International in 2018 after the company released a “Redux Grunge” collection that featured a smiley face somewhat reminiscent of the band’s iconic logo, first licensed in 1992.

Instead of an “X” for eyes, the T-shirt in question featured the letters “M” and “J” – with a trembling smile and sticking out tongue, and the word “Heaven” in a font similar to that used by Nirvana.

The logo was most likely created by singer Kurt Cobain in 1991. Both Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic have previously testified that they do not know who created the smiley face, an issue Marc Jacobs’ lawyers raised in a counterclaim.

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 band’s attorneys argued that “the clothing brand’s use of Nirvana’s copyrighted image in and to promote its products is intentional and part of a broader campaign 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.”

To complicate matters further, in 2020 Robert Fisher, former art director of Nirvana’s record label Geffen Records, claimed that he designed the logo when he worked with the band in the 1990s.

U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt ruled in 2023 that Geffen, not Fisher, would have owned the logo if Fisher had created it. He did not decide whether the logo was created by Cobain or Fisher, though.

Documents filed this week in California District Court show the parties have agreed to mediator proposals presented by District Judge Steve Kim.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court documents, and the parties have 21 days to finalize the details of the agreement.

Additional sources • Rolling Stone