Nirvana, Geffen Records, and Marc Jacobs Settle Dispute Over Iconic Logo

Agreement Reached Over Use of Nirvana's Smiley Face Logo

Nirvana, their record label Geffen Records, and fashion designer Marc Jacobs have reached a settlement regarding the ownership of the band’s iconic smiley face logo. The logo features a dazed expression with crossed-out eyes and an irregularly drawn tongue sticking out.

The dispute began in December 2018 when Nirvana sued Marc Jacobs for using a similar logo on items from his Bootleg Redux Grunge collection. Instead of the word “Nirvana,” the garments featured the word “Heaven” (a Christian alternative to the Buddhist concept of nirvana) in a font resembling the band’s, with the initials M and J replacing the crossed-out eyes.

The band accused Jacobs of copyright infringement. The logo was supposedly drawn by Kurt Cobain, although its origins are somewhat legendary: both Grohl and Novoselic had previously stated they were unsure of its exact provenance.

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In response, Marc Jacobs filed a counterclaim. Additionally, artist Robert Fisher, a former Geffen collaborator, entered the legal fray, claiming authorship of the altered smiley face. Fisher’s lawyers argued that Nirvana had profited immensely from Fisher’s work for three decades without compensating him.

Even if Fisher’s claim were validated, his copyright could be contested since the logo was created for Geffen, potentially assigning copyright to the label instead of Fisher.

On July 9, the three parties announced they had reached a mediation agreement, coordinated by magistrate Steve Kim. While the agreements are still informal, Rolling Stone reports that they are expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

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