201901.03
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Smells Like Copyright Infringement

Marc Jacobs, the American fashion designer and owner of his own, self-named, fashion brand, has come under fire following the release of his new fashion line, the Redux Grunge Collection.

In 1993, Jacobs put Grunge on the fashion map after unveiling a Grunge inspired fashion line during his time working for Perry Ellis. The line was inspired by popular music at the time, the clothing styles sported by those around him and fashion photography. The collection was successful and further cemented the name Marc Jacobs as a heavyweight in the fashion industry.

25 years later and Jacobs has revisited the iconic collection and created 26 looks in his new Redux Grunge Collection. The collection has, however, caused some controversy after it was called out by Nirvana LLC, the company that now owns the eponymous rock band’s intellectual property rights, for copyright infringement.

The subject of the claim is the iconic Nirvana “smiley face”, generally depicted in yellow on a black background, tongue out at a jaunty angle from a wavy mouth line, and with an ‘x’ in place of each eye. Marc Jacobs’s new range features an almost identical smiley face (in the same colours) but with an ‘M’ and ‘J’ in a comic sans-like font in place of the eyes. The logo was created by the late Kurt Cobain and subsequently registered for copyright in 1993.

Nirvana LLC further claims that Marc Jacobs is unlawfully exploiting the band’s lyrics and song titles. A very quick look at the Marc Jacobs web page for the allegedly infringing item shows its description as “This bootleg smiley tee sure smells like teen spirit”. That line is quite obviously lifted from the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which brought Nirvana (and indeed the Grunge movement) into the mainstream music industry in the early 1990’s.

Nirvana LLC have described the alleged infringement as “intentional, malicious and oppressive”. It has sued for an injunction as well as damages and legal costs.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.