Nirvana Sues Marc Jacobs for Stealing Its ‘Smiley Face’ Design

Thanks to Marc Jacobs, Nirvana’s not smiling anymore.

Marc Jacobs has willingly stolen a happy face from Nirvana.  Unsurprisingly, the group’s unhappy about it.

So, the surviving members of the iconic alternative rock grunge band have taken the clothing brand to court.

According to court documents, Marc Jacobs introduced a new clothing line last November – Bootleg Redux Grunge.  The collection includes socks, shirts, and sweaters.  Yet, the line reportedly features a “squiggly yellow smiley face.”

Nirvana first filed for and obtained the trademark for a similar smiley face design in 1992.  So, the group claims Marc Jacobs’ ‘Bootleg Redux Grunge’ has ripped off their iconic design.

One key difference exists between both designs, however.  Marc Jacobs has simply replaced the group’s X eyes with M and J.

Kurt Cobain designed the original Nirvana grunge happy face.

The lawsuit reads,

[Nirvana] licensed its copyrighted logo on literally dozens of different t-shirts, shirts, hats, hoodies, bags, backpacks, glasses, wallets, and other items of merchandise, many of which have sold extensively for decades.

Nirvana has outlined four claims for relief.

First, the clothing brand has committed copyright infringement.

Nirvana owns a valid US copyright for the ‘Smiley Face’ design and logo.

Despite outright publicizing and promoting clothing with the logo, Marc Jacobs has never received authorization or paid a license to use the design.

Second, the clothing brand has outright infringed on the Lanham Act.

Passed in 1946, The Lanham Act governs trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition.

The Bootleg Redux Grunge line may confuse consumers, as Nirvana has never associated itself with Marc Jacobs.

In fact, not hiding the outright bootleg nature of the piece, the shirt’s online description reads,

This exclusive piece from the 1993 Grunge collection was created by Marc Jacobs during his time at Perry Ellis.  This bootleg smiley tee sure smells like teen spirit.

Third, Marc Jacobs has infringed on California Common Law trademark laws.

This “Smiley Face” design “[has] come to symbolize the goodwill associated with Nirvana.”  This requires trademark and copyright protection as “a significant portion of the consuming public assumes that all goods or services that bear the logo are endorsed by or associated with Nirvana.”

Fourth, Marc Jacobs has violated California unfair competition laws.

As stated earlier, the lawsuit summarizes the clothing brand’s primary offense.

[They’re] using a virtually identical copy of Nirvana’s copyrighted image more generally to promote Marc Jacobs’ overall ‘Bootleg Redux Grunge Collection,’ which includes many other products, by making the Nirvana image the signature image used at promotional events for the ‘Bootleg Redux Grunge’ collection.

Nirvana has outlined eight prayers for relief.

First, the court should prohibit the clothing brand from selling any product or service featuring the band’s design.

Second, the court should prohibit the clothing brand from distributing, marketing, advertising, licensing, or implying Nirvana’s endorsement of the Smiley Face design.

Third, the court should require Marc Jacobs to remove its design from the internet and all distributed promotional materials.

Fourth, the court should force the clothing brand to account for all revenue received from the unauthorized misappropriation and infringement of the group’s copyright and trademark.

Fifth, the band should recover a money judgment reflecting compensatory and general damages.

Sixth, the band should receive punitive damages.

Seventh, Marc Jacobs should cover the band’s legal costs, including attorneys’ fees.

Eight, any other action the court deems just and proper.

You can view the lawsuit below.


Featured image by Sebastián Dario (CC by 2.0).

One Response

  1. Blobbo

    Whichever moron in Marc Jacobs organization who let this out just lost their job. What total hackery.