Last December, Nirvana brought a lawsuit against Marc Jacobs, accusing the fashion designer of using the band’s iconic smiley face on one of his t-shirts. Jacobs is now hitting back by countersuing the rock outfit, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Jacobs’ suit calls into question whether it was Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain who actually created the original logo in the first place.
By allowing Nirvana to move forward with their 2018 lawsuit, a California court affirmed that the alt-rockers owned a copyright registration to the smiley face image. For his defense, Jacobs could have tried to argue that his t-shirt was not infringing on Nirvana’s design. Instead, Jacobs’ counterclaim is looking to outright invalidate Nirvana’s right to the smiley logo altogether.
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After Nirvana’s original lawsuit last year, subsequent proceedings to find out the true origins of the design were held. But they apparently yielded no clear answers. Jacobs’ attorneys deposed surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, and both claimed they didn’t know who first came up with the signature smiley logo.
The blurry origin story of the smiley is what ultimately led Jacobs to file his countersuit against Nirvana. “The apparent absence of any living person with first-hand knowledge of the creation of the allegedly copyrighted work in question, coupled with numerous other deficiencies in the 166 Registration that is the basis for Nirvana’s infringement claim are the basis for the counterclaim asserted,” read the counterclaim papers.