When a New York musician thinks about copyright and intellectual property, protecting song lyrics and the music is likely at the top of the list. However, that may not be the only artistic work that needs protection. Some musicians may need to copyright images associated with their music so that no one else can profit from improper usage. The band Nirvana is currently involved in intellectual property litigation with designer Marc Jacobs, after its representatives say that the designer improperly used artwork featured on Nirvana T-shirts.
According to Nirvana’s suit, the band obtained a copyright in 1993 for a “happy face” with the letter “x” in place of eyes that it used on T-shirts for the band. The same year, Marc Jacobs featured a line of clothing called the “Grunge” collection. Just last year, Marc Jacobs decided to release a collection in homage to the earlier one. It features several garments that have a logo that Nirvana representatives argue is strikingly similar to the one Nirvana used 25 years prior.
Nirvana’s LLC says that Marc Jacobs and other named defendants violated copyright and trademark law with the design, saying the band created the design all the way back in 1991. Marc Jacobs filed a countersuit to invalidate the copyright after first filing a motion to dismiss the original lawsuit, which was denied. The case may go to trial next year, after the deadline for filing any further motions passes.
Though this case involves a famous band, it shows just how important it can be for musicians and artists of all mediums to protect any facets of their artistic works. It is the best way to ensure that another party cannot misuse an artist’s works. Artists here in New York with questions about intellectual property litigation may want to reach out to an attorney with extensive knowledge of copyright law.