The lawsuit over Nirvana’s smiley face design will be settled this month

Author Benedetta Baldin - 11.7.2024

Nirvana‘s famous crossed-out eyes, smiley-faced tee was the subject of a three-way litigation that looks to have ended. The iconic artwork, which the grunge band used for the first time around their diamond-certified breakthrough album “Nevermind” in 1991, became embroiled in a court battle a few years ago. A version of the shirt, with minor adjustments to tie in the Marc Jacobs brand, was unveiled by design house Marc Jacobs. In 2018, Nirvana‘s legal team proceeded to sue Marc Jacobs for copyright infringement. But in their defence, they asserted that their late frontman and guitarist Kurt Cobain designed the original happy face emblem. 

This resulted in an additional legal battle between the band and former art director Robert Fisher of Geffen Records, who maintained that he created the image and charged the band with misrepresenting their ownership of the design. Even though Fisher was employed by Geffen’s art department at the time, the band argued that even if he was involved in the design’s creation, it would have been under a work-for-hire arrangement, so even though the band continued to contest the design’s origins, a ruling last year seemed to negate Fisher’s claims. As of July 9th, according to Billboard, the three parties have decided to resolve the dispute within the following 21 days. Conditions of the agreement were not disclosed.