Marc Jacobs sues Nirvana over ‘smiley’ t-shirt design

Written by Rory Sullivan, CNN

Fashion label Marc Jacobs has filed a counterclaim against Nirvana, saying the group’s claim that it tore off a Kurt Cobain design for one of its t-shirts is “invalid and unenforceable.”
Lawyers for Nirvana, the alternative rock group, first filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Marc Jacobs in December over a T-shirt with a smiley face on it.

The group allege that it is a design “virtually identical or substantially similar” to a design allegedly created by its frontman Kurt Cobain in 1991, three years before his death.

In a court opinion on November 8, US. District Judge John A. Kronstadt denied Marc Jacobs’ motion to dismiss the case.

Kronstadt said the only “noticeable difference” between the faces on the sweatshirts was Marc Jacobs’ use of the letters “M” and “J” instead of two “X’s”.

He also ruled that Nirvana’s claim to ownership was sufficient for the case to continue.

Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain during the recording of MTV Unplugged at Sony Studios in New York in 1993. Credit: Frank Micelotta Archives / Hulton Archives / Getty Images

Kronstadt added that although Nirvana claims Cobain was the designer, there is still a possibility that the chain of ownership will pass to Nirvana, Inc.

Following the ruling, Marc Jacobs’ attorneys filed a lawsuit, challenging Nirvana’s complaints and seeking costs.

In a document filed Tuesday, the fashion firm’s action says the two surviving members of Nirvana – David Grohl and Krist Novoselic – were unable to identify the creator of the design during testimony under oath.

Accordingly, the creator believes that “the apparent absence of any living person with direct knowledge of creation” provides a basis for dismissing the case.

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