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Nirvana lawsuit over Dante's Inferno art belongs in U.K., L.A. court says

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Singer Joan Jett performs with the remaining members of the band Nirvana after it was inducted during the 29th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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  • Jocelyn Bundy said band misused grandfather's 'map of hell' on merchandise
  • Los Angeles court dismissed case because U.K. was better forum
  • Case brought by U.K. citizen over U.K. art, among other things

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(Reuters) - The band Nirvana escaped claims for now that it misused a U.K. artist's map of hell depicting Dante's "Inferno" on its merchandise, after a Los Angeles federal court found the case should be heard in the United Kingdom.

U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer on Thursday dismissed the case and said the U.K. was a more appropriate forum for the copyright claims brought by British citizen Jocelyn Bundy over the pioneering grunge rockers' alleged use of her grandfather's British art.

Bundy's attorney Inge De Bruyn of Modo Law said she was disappointed in the ruling and was considering an appeal.

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Nirvana's label Universal Music Group and attorney Mark Lee of Rimon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Live Nation Merchandise, which Bundy had accused of selling infringing products, or its attorney Zia Modabber of Katten Muchin Rosenman.

Bundy sued in April, alleging the band and Live Nation have since 1997 included her grandfather C.W. Scott-Giles' drawing on shirts, mugs, vinyl records, and other merchandise sold at stores including Walmart, H&M, and Hot Topic. Scott-Giles drew the map of "Upper Hell" in 1949 for an English translation of the first volume of the Dante Trilogy, the complaint said.

Nirvana said in August that the case shouldn't be heard in California because issues of British law were more significant than Bundy's "tenuous" U.S. claims.

Fischer on Thursday agreed to dismiss the case because the U.K. was a better forum for it.

Bundy is a U.K. citizen, and the work at issue is covered by a U.K. copyright, Fischer said. He also found that the United Kingdom likely has a stronger interest in the case, it's better equipped to analyze the governing law, and important evidence and witnesses are more likely to be found there, among other things.

Fischer made the dismissal contingent on Nirvana agreeing to U.K. jurisdiction if Bundy sued there.

The band is also involved in a separate dispute with designer Marc Jacobs and artist Robert Fisher over its rights to its famous smiley-face logo.

The case is Bundy v. Nirvana LLC, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 2:21-cv-03621.

For Bundy: Inge De Bruyn of Modo Law

For Nirvana: Mark Lee of Rimon

For Live Nation: Zia Modabber and Leah Solomon of Katten Muchin Rosenman

Read more:

Nirvana sued over use of Dante's Inferno art in logo

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com

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