Nirvana Is Not Happy About Marc Jacobs 'Borrowing' Its Logo
With respect to self-preservation—or the lack thereof—and admission of culpability and defiance, we have always found ourselves drawn to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and the 1995 film “Heat.” A weird pairing, we know, but hear us out. In the former, the protagonist experiences such pangs over his guilt that he admits his crime to mostly unsuspecting police officers, and in the latter, Robert DeNiro’s Neil McCauley, as the leader of a criminal crew, notes that although he will continue to live a lawless life, he is “never goin’ back” to jail. The combination of nagging mental dismay from the story and the try-to-stop-me vibe in the film is sort of uniting in the gripe that Nirvana is fostering against Marc Jacobs. In it, the surviving members of the rock group are contending that the fashion designer is blatantly pocketing cash through three products that make use of a take on their trademarked logo.
Nirvana Sues Marc Jacobs for Stealing Smiley Face Design https://t.co/leNnmNwZ3R
— TMZ (@TMZ) December 30, 2018
With respect to the aforementioned Poe classic, the beef that Nirvana has with the renowned stitch expert should, and very well could become, one of those instances where someone comes clean and says, “Yes, I stole your idea to better my own concept.” For his “Bootleg Grunge Redux” collection, Jacobs has included a T-shirt, sweatshirt and socks that alter the smiley face logo that the Kurt Cobain-led trio received legal say over in 1992.
Nirvana had figured to make news in 2019 anyway, as April 5 will mark the 25th anniversary of the frontman’s suicide by gunshot, with plenty of music industry figures and fans destined to engage in more what-might-have-been thinking. With this lawsuit against Jacobs, though, attention for their body of work might enhance even more, and that is due to what appears to me a devil-may-care decision by Jacobs to channel his inner Neil McCauley and do whatever he wants.
Here at Promo Marketing, we have covered a mix of matters where copyright infringement claims have seemed outlandish and where the legal arguments have appeared destined for a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Objectivity aside, this Nirvana and Marc Jacobs dispute has a you-know-what-you-did air about it, as the latter, through its website description of the T-shirt, notes that the garment “sure smells like teen spirit,” making use of the band’s signature song to peddle the obnoxiously priced $115 top.
Like the T-shirt, the other two products rely on the replacement of “X” eyes on the face with Jacobs’ initials and the use of “Heaven” instead of “Nirvana.” Anyone familiar with the band, which came to become synonymous with the '90s grunge explosion, will certainly have cause to shout, “You’re not fooling anyone” when inspecting the three goods—especially since Jacobs, despite making this collection essentially a celebration of now-26-year-old Perry Ellis-issued designs, is making its initial use of the band’s emblem. Why the sudden infatuation with further immortalizing Nirvana, albeit in a somewhat shady manner?
Jacobs has collected numerous awards in his career, so he certainly has gained the trust of the design community. But, as we have learned, such confidence in one’s talent does not make that individual immune to trademark infringement lawsuits. To someone with no knowledge of Nirvana (and we certainly encourage that person to take in the group’s brilliance), the T-shirt and the similarly high-priced sweatshirt and socks could stand as unique products when, well, they are truly knockoffs.
Having held its smiley face trademark logo for almost 27 years, the group stands as a not-so-subtle reminder, courtesy of its lawsuit, that promotional products purveyors and apparel hawkers must exercise extreme caution when pitching ideas to clients or when accepting concepts, too. Yes, Jacobs can claim that the three products are re-issues, but it will be interesting to see how he justifies their altered inclusion of the logo that Nirvana made famous during its short stay at the top. Here’s supposing that a positive verdict will soon be “In Bloom” for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act.