Nirvana's copyright case against Marc Jacobs heats up

Nirvana - copyright case
(Image credit: Nirvana)

Nirvana, the world's biggest band in the early '90s, has been pursuing a copyright case against American fashion designer Marc Jacobs since late 2018. The designer filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in early 2019, but a California federal judge is now allowing the copyright infringement lawsuit to proceed. 

A good band logo is distinctive, memorable and almost instantly recognisable. Take a look at our beautiful band logos post to see a collection of all-time classics. And, yes, Nirvana is in there.

So what's all the fuss about? The band claims a Marc Jacobs shirt – from his Bootleg Redux Grunge collection – copies a design that the late singer Kurt Cobain created in 1991. In Marc Jacobs' original motion he argued that the two designs aren't sufficiently similar. Take a closer look at the two designs side-by-side (see below). We will let you make up your own mind.

Nirvana copyright case

Are they similar or not? What do you think? (Image credit: &

It seems that US district judge John A. Kronstadt thinks the designs are similar enough for the case to continue, and has denied Marc Jacobs' motion. He wrote that the only "discernible difference" in the faces is the use of 'M' and 'J' as eyes instead of two 'X's. 

The judge also wrote, "It is also noteworthy that the Accused Products have combined this protectable artwork 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." In other words, it's all a bit fishy.

Perhaps more importantly, judge Kronstadt found that Nirvana's ownership as alleged to be sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. This means that the case can go ahead unless Marc Jacobs can find another angle. 

Court case aside, let's be honest, who wants a knock-off Nirvana T-shirt design when you can get your hands on the real deal for a lot less? 

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Steven Jenkins is a freelance content creator who has worked in the creative industry for over 20 years. The web and design are in his blood. He started out as a web designer before becoming the editor of Web Designer magazine and later net magazine. Loud guitars, AFC Bournemouth, Photoshop, CSS, and trying to save the world take up the rest of this time.