Artist claims he created Nirvana's Smiley Face logo instead of Kurt Cobain

25 September 2020, 15:17 | Updated: 25 September 2020, 15:45

Nirvana's Smiley Face logo t-shirt
Nirvana's Smiley Face logo t-shirt. Picture:

A California graphic artist has claimed he created the iconic logo instead of the grunge band's late frontman Kurt Cobain.

A California graphic designer has stepped forward to claim he created Nirvana's Smiley Face logo.

As reported by Billboard, Robert Fisher - a freelance graphic designer - filed a motion on 13 September to intervene in an ongoing dispute between Nirvana about the iconic design.

Fisher claims he received a request from the band to come up with a t-shirt design in mid 1991 and says it was he who first played around with the idea of a squiggly smile and crossed out eyes.

Inge De Bruyn - Fisher's legal representative - told the outlet how he recently learned that the grunge band were "misattributing the illustration to Kurt Cobain."

He added: “He was also not aware that, back in 1993, Nirvana, Inc. registered the copyright for the Happy Face t-shirt design, naming itself as the author. Robert has always been a rather private person and not one to wear his achievements on his sleeve.

"That said, there’s a clear line between people speculating about the origins and authorship of his work, and it being misattributed to someone else. Most creative people would object to that. Artists deserve proper credit for their work. Often times, it’s all they get."

"The rule in copyright is that the individual creator of a work is to be considered its author and original owner," De Bruyn continued.

"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."

READ MORE: The story behind Nirvana's smiley face logo

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain in 1990
A graphic designer has claimed he came up with Nirvana's Smiley face logo instead of Kurt Cobain. Picture: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Image

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Nirvana LCC lawyer Bert H. Deixler responded to the claims, telling the Los Angeles Times that Fisher’s assertions were “factually and legally baseless” and that his claims would be will be “vigorously” challenged.

The news marks the latest twist in Nirvana's two year battle with Marc Jacobs, who were accused of copying the logo for their "Redux Grunge Collection".

In 2019 it was reported that Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, his former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic and Hole frontwoman and Cobain's widow Courtney Love were among those called by the designer as witnesses in the case.

According to Rolling Stone, a judge then turned down the fashion label's request to dismiss the complaint, meaning Nirvana LCC could proceed with their suit.

It's unclear what this latest development will mean for the case, but we'll keep you posted on any developments.

READ MORE: Courtney Love hits out at fashion label for copying Kurt Cobain t-shirt from 1992 Rolling Stone's cover