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Nirvana defends that the logo of the “Smiling face” is theirs: Its alleged author does not agree

LetsLaw / Derecho Digital  / Nirvana defends that the logo of the “Smiling face” is theirs: Its alleged author does not agree
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Nirvana defends that the logo of the “Smiling face” is theirs: Its alleged author does not agree

The grunge band Nirvana, founded by Kurt Cobain and very popular during the 90s, gives a setback to the alleged author of its famous “smiling face” logo.

This year 2022, the company Nirvana LLC, which is the company that maintains the legacy of the band, now extinct, denies that Robert Fisher coined the famous logo.

Robert Fisher claims to have designed the Nirvana logo

Specifically, Fisher, was art director at the record label of which the band was part of the early 90s, when the band was gaining popularity among the public.

In 2020, Robert Fischer himself pointed out that the logo was created due to a request from the group itself in 1991, from which he created the well-known smiling face.

Nirvana’s lawyers say the band has full and exclusive ownership of the image

Faced with Robert Fisher’s statement, Nirvana’s lawyers argued that the band claims that the exclusive property belongs to it.

Also taking into account that, during all these years, Fisher has not had any interest in the logo or its exploitation.

On the other hand, they also allege that it was Kurt Cobain who created the logo exclusively, without any intervention from Fisher.

Not the first legal battle for the ownership of the smiley face

This new claim is preceded by others such as the one carried out in 2018, as a result of a clothing line created by the designer Marc Jacobs, which used a logo really similar to that of the music band.

Faced with this fact and the allegations of Nirvana’s lawyers, the designer’s lawyers also questioned the other two members of the group about the creation of the controversial logo, not knowing who had been its creator. Given this, it was alleged that it was Kurt Cobain himself who was the creator, thus leaving the authorship in the late singer.

Finally, Marc Jacobs’ attorneys indicated that “The apparent absence of any living person with first-hand knowledge of the creation of the allegedly copyrighted work in question, along with numerous other deficiencies in the record that is the basis of Nirvana’s infringement claim are the key to our counterclaim.”

Copyright in designs for third parties

Copyright is that which corresponds to the authors of artistic, scientific or literary works or creations. Therefore, they are those rights that the Intellectual Property Law (Royal Legislative Decree 1/1996) recognizes over their works and gives them full capacity to distribute, exploit or transform them.

In cases like this, of creations made by a person for another entity, company or person, controversies may arise about the ownership of copyright.

Specifically, copyright may be transferred to third parties, but only the exploitation or patrimonial rights (reproduction, distribution, communication, public transformation …) leaving the moral rights always under the property of its original author.

The usual form of assignment in these cases is through licenses and by signing a contract. In this way, the creation or design that the author has elaborated may be transmitted to third parties both free of charge and in exchange for remuneration. It is common to resort to these licenses for the commercial exploitation of works or to distribute or disseminate them since many of the authors may not have the necessary means to do so.

Therefore, legal advice is important to be able to protect copyright to a greater extent, guaranteeing compliance with the legislation and the protection of its authors.

At Letslaw, we are experts in intellectual property and we can advise you on this type of case.

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