Graphic designer claims he created the Nirvana logo

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Robert Fisher, a California graphic artist, is now alleging to be the sole creator and copyright owner of the smiley face logo of Nirvana, bringing yet another question to the continuing Marc Jacobs and Nirvana LLC lawsuits.

“Fisher filed a petition on September 13, according to news, to” intervene in the pending civil case in the U.S. California Central District.’ His legal documents say that when the label signed Nirvana, he was an art director at Geffen Records, and asked his artistic director if he could consult on the concept of his upcoming album for the band. Fisher and Nirvana collaborated for months and ultimately landed on the now-famous Nevermind album, and even after Cobain died in 1994 and after Fisher left Geffen Records in 1999, Fisher remained the band’s “go-to guy with virtually all of its graphic design needs.”

Fisher ‘s lawsuit also claims that in 1991, he was asked to create “more retail-friendly products” for Nirvana, so he “began messing around with variants of the smiley faces he used to draw when acid culture was at its height in his final year at Otis College.” He notes that, with the tongue pointed sideways “as a nod to the tongue-in-cheek operating on the back” of the T-shirt, he preferred a “x-eyed style.” Fisher traced the smiley face on tracing paper with a felt tip and extended it with a Xerox machine, which created the “squiggly-looking” design. The name of the band was written above it in the Onyx font and eventually printed in yellow / gold.

The graphic designer argues that it was his idea that was applied for copyright, that he was never a Nirvana, Inc. employee, and that there was never a deal with Nirvana, so it could not be viewed as hired work. Fisher ‘s solicitor, Inge De Bruyn, told Billboard that her client had just recently found out about the misallocation. He also did not know that Nirvana, Inc. licenced the trademark for the Happy Face t-shirt design back in 1993, identifying itself as the designer. De Bruyn said, “Robert has always been a very private citizen and not one to wear his accomplishments on his back.”

That said, there is a definite difference between people speculating on his work’s sources and authorship, and misattribution to someone else. That will be opposed to by most imaginative individuals. For their work, artists deserve due recognition. Sometimes, it’s ALL that they offer.

She continued, “The rule in copyright is that the individual creator of a work is to be considered its author and original owner. That really is the basic premise. ‘Work-for-hire’ as a legal fiction forms a very limited exception to that premise. As explained in the filings, we don’t believe that, under the law, this exception applies here. And the situation is such that if Robert does not assert his rights now, he risks losing them forever.”Meanwhile, Nirvana LLC attorney Bert H. Deixler told the Los Angeles Times that Fisher’s claims “factually and legally baseless,” and will be “vigorously” challenged.

The Marc Jacobs-Nirvana lawsuit has been going on for two long years. Nirvana filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Marc Jacobs in December 2018, claiming that the styles in question violated its specific trademark for the yellow smiley face design. Marc Jacobs retaliated with a motion to dismiss shortly after, asserting that its modified version of the logo is not in violation of the trademark. The fashion label then countersued in November 2019, alleging that the music group’s copyright registration of the design was not valid since no one can pinpoint the creator of the logo. Many thought that Kurt Cobain could have been the creator, however, it would have been hard to prove due to his death. – Adapted from Hypebeast

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