A judge in California has allowed Nirvana’s copyright infringement lawsuit against fashion line Marc Jacobs to move forward. The band originally sued the brand back in December 2018 over copyright infringement, false designation of origin, trademark infringement and unfair competition, over the line’s “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection, which the band claim’s rips-off their happy face logo.
Nirvana’s original distorted happy face t-shirts showed the eyes marked out with X’s, with the band’s name above the smiley face. The brand’s “Bootleg Redux Grunge,” shirts replace the x’s with M and J, with the word “heaven,” lying on top of the smiley face, in a font which is reportedly similar to the one used for Nirvana’s original t-shirts.
Back in March the line filed a motion to dismiss the suit, claiming that while their line was “inspired by vintage Nirvana concert T-shirts from the 1990s,” their new design was “reinterpreted,” and used to reflect the brand instead.
Nirvana countered that the design “mislead the public into falsely believing that Nirvana endorses the entire ‘Bootleg Redux Grunge’ collection… when Nirvana has not done so.”
The Judge John Kronstadt stated that he believes Nirvana has a case, and that Marc Jacobs design “combined this protectable artwork [the happy face] with other distinctive elements of the Nirvana T-shirt, including through the use of yellow lines on black background and a similar type and placement for the text above the image on the clothing.”
Kronstadt further added that “the issue presented as to likelihood of confusion is not whether the marks are identical. It is whether they are sufficiently similar ‘in their entirety’ to make confusion likely… Whether a fact-finder may ultimately conclude that certain distinctions ‘render the marks dissimilar’ cannot be resolved through the motion.”
Nirvana made other fashion news earlier this year after the sweater of their deceased frontman Kurt Cobain, which was worn during the legendary 1993 MTV Unplugged performance sold for $334.000. The band also reached a lucrative merchandising deal with LiveNation.