The company that is in charge of Nirvana's copyrights is hitting back at an artist who claims he created the band's smiley face logo.
Former UMG/Geffen Records art director Robert Fisher is an intervenor in a 2018 lawsuit Nirvana LLC filed against Marc Jacobs that allegeges the fashion designer copied the logo on clothing in a collection called Bootleg Redux Grunge. The lawsuit states Kurt Cobain created the iconic happy face, and in 2020, Fisher filed a motion claiming that he was actually the own who came up with the logo and is its rightful owner. He explained in court documents that after working on the Nevermind album art he became the “go-to person for almost all of [the band’s] graphic design needs.”
The artist claimed that he received a request to design a T-shirt in mid-1991 and “started playing around with variations of the smiley faces that he used to draw in his final year at Otis College when acid culture was at its peak.” His attorney said that he’d only recently learned the band was “misattributing the illustration to Kurt Cobain” or had registered its copyright, adding that Fisher owns a copyright interest under an "implied license" he granted to Nirvana.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2020, Fisher said he was not seeking payment for the 30 years of past use but might ask for future compensation. "Since I drew it, I want to be known as the guy that drew it. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair that they try and take out a copyright and say Kurt did it.”
Nirvana's lawyers responded with court documents filed Monday (January 24), stating "in the 30 years since the design's creation and Nirvana's exploitation of it, Fisher never claimed any interest in it."
This is one of two legal battles in which the band's embroiled. Spencer Elden recently refiled a lawsuit against Nirvana claiming his naked image on the Nevermind album cover was a form of child pornography.