Dezeen Magazine

Nirvana T-shirt

Nirvana sues Marc Jacobs for using iconic smiley face logo

Representatives of rock band Nirvana are suing Marc Jacobs for using its copyrighted smiley face logo in the fashion designer's latest collection and campaign.

Nirvana, who trademarked the symbol in 1992, is suing the fashion brand for copyright infringement, which is described as "oppressive, fraudulent, and malicious" in a statement.

Nirvana logo appears on three items in latest Marc Jacobs collection

The products in question – a T-shirt, a sweater and socks – are part of Jacobs' reissued Bootleg Redux Grunge collection.

Most of the designs are taken from Jacobs' breakout Spring 1993 collection for Perry Ellis. However this is the first time that the fashion label has used the emblem associated with the band.

The garments feature the band's boldly-outlined yellow smiley face logo but replace the "X" eyes with Jacobs' initials "M" and "J".

The word "Heaven" also replaces the band's name above the logo, written in the same font and all-caps style as the original.

Marketing references the band's well-known 1991 track

Marc Jacobs also references the band's famous track Smells Like Teen Spirit in its online product description for the T-shirt. "This bootleg smiley tee sure smells like teen spirit," it reads.

The smiley emblem and photographs of the band have also been used across the collection's campaign, appearing at promotional events and across social media.

Designed by the band's frontman Kurt Cobain, who died in 1994, the squiggly illustration first appeared on a flyer for a party for Nirvana's album Nevermind in 1991, and has since been synonymous with the band's image.

Fashion label accused of seeking to make its clothing more "authentic"

The statement by Nirvana's representatives accuses Marc Jacobs of using the image to make the collection appear more authentic and "grunge".

"The logo has come to symbolise the goodwill associated with Nirvana to a significant portion of the public, which assumes that all goods or services that bear the logo are endorsed by or associated with Nirvana," said the statement.

"[Marc Jacobs'] use of Nirvana's copyrighted image on and to promote its products is intentional, and is part of a wider campaign to associate the entire Bootleg Redux Grunge collection with Nirvana, one of the founders of the grunge musical genre, so as to make the grunge association more authentic," it reads.

Nirvana is currently seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages.

This is not the first time Marc Jacobs has been embroiled in controversy when it comes to appropriating well-known logos. In 2015, Adidas filed a lawsuit against the fashion brand for producing "confusingly similar imitations" of its iconic three-stripe motif.