Jan 22, 2015

Rihanna Wins Legal Battle Against Topshop

The Court of Appeal has upheld a ban on Topshop selling a sleeveless T-shirt featuring a photo of the star without obtaining her permission.

In the first successful celebrity case of its kind, three appeal judges agreed marketing the item without Rihanna's approval amounted to "passing off".

Rihanna sued Arcadia (Topshop's parent company) for £3.3m in 2013 over the T-shirts, which featured a photo taken during a video shoot in 2011. Rihanna's lawyers said the image was from an unauthorised photograph taken while the star was filming a video in Northern Ireland and Topshop should remain banned from exploiting it.

At first instance, in July 2013, Mr Justice Birss found some buyers would have been deceived into buying the top in a "false belief" it had been approved by the singer.

He said it was damaging to her "goodwill" and represented a loss of control over Rihanna's reputation in the "fashion sphere".

Topshop appealed the decision and today's (22 January 2015) ruling confirmed that Rihanna's rights had been infringed.

Lawyers acting for Topshop urged the appeal judges - Lord Justice Richards, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Underhill - to rule that Mr Justice Birss had misunderstood the law on celebrity merchandising.

Topshop lawyers had previously argued there was "no intention to create an appearance of an endorsement or promotion".

All three judges unanimously dismissed the appeal. The Court of Appeal judges agreed with the High Court ruling that marketing the fashion item without Rihanna's approval amounts to ''passing off''. In the lead judgment Lord Justice Kitchin ruled Mr Justice Birss "was entitled to find that the sale by Topshop of the T-shirt amounted to passing off".

in: Case Law, Copyright, News

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