Nirvana is one of the most famous and influential bands to ever hit the music scene. They had several hit songs such as “Smells like Teen Spirit,” “Come As You Are,” and “In Bloom,” just to name a few. But songs are not the only iconic things that come to mind when thinking of Nirvana. Their Smiley Face logo is also another icon that is commonly associated with Nirvana.
But some controversy has arisen over Nirvana’s Smiley Face logo and Marc Jacobs. Nirvana LLC (“Nirvana”) has alleged that Marc Jacobs International LL.C. & Marcus Group Limited, L.L.C. (collectively “Marc Jacobs”) has infringed on their Smiley Face logo and rights.
Nirvana has alleged copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false designation of origin against Marc Jacobs. More specifically, it is alleged that Marc Jacobs has infringed on Nirvana’s copyright, misleadingly used Nirvana’s common law trademarks, and used elements that make it seem that that Nirvana endorses Marc Jacobs “Bootleg Redux Grunge” clothing line, along with some other allegations. Nirvana stated in the complaint that they are not associated with the Bootleg Redux Grunge clothing line nor do they endorse it.
Click here to read the entire complaint.
Nirvana further alleged that use of the Smiley Face logo by the Marc Jacobs was intentional. This is due to Marc Jacobs using certain materials to promote the accused products associated with their Bootleg Redux Grunge product line. Various products under the Bootleg Grunge that has the accused mark. Moreover, the complaint alleges that the website used the following line in association with one of the products: “This bootleg [product] sure smells like teen spirit.” It is further alleged that Marc Jacobs placed “COME AS YOU ARE” in one the promotional posters while wearing a product with the accused mark. After clarifying what some of the facts are, we can now explore some of the intellectual property associated claims involved. First, we will explore
To put things in general terms, trademark infringement can occur when use a party uses the same or similar mark which causes a likelihood of confusion. In the complaint, Nirvana alleges that Marc Jacobs “misappropriated” the Smiley Face logo without consent. Moreover, Marc Jacobs allegedly also used various references that allegedly referenced Nirvana’s name and some of their famous songs. Nirvana further alleges that The use of all of these references and similar marks may cause the public to believe that Nirvana endorses the Marc Jacobs products.
A copyright generally protects an original work of authorship. If a work qualifies for copyright protection, then the copyright holder gets certain exclusive rights for that copyrighted work. These rights include:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
Violation of any of these rights would most likely be considered copyright infringement.
The copyright count.
Nirvana alleges Marc Jacobs committed copyright infringement by creating and selling products that have images that look “substantially similar” to the Smiley Face logo.
What are your thoughts on the lawsuit between Marc Jacobs and Nirvana? What about trademark and copyright law? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think!
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice and is meant to be for educational or entertainment purposes only. Please do not use the article or contents of the article without permission. For legal advice and questions, please contact registered Patent Attorney Vincent LoTempio.