Pop singer Rihanna has won a court case against the British fashion chain Topshop over the unauthorised use of her image. In March last year, Topshop started selling a T-shirt bearing a photograph of the singer.
The picture was taken by a freelance photographer in Northern Ireland while Rihanna was filming the We Found Love music video. Topshop had a licence from the photographer but no licence from Rihanna.
Rihanna sued Topshop’s parent company, Arcadia Group, for almost $AU5.6 million over the shirts. The star has a direct endorsement relationship with Topshop’s rival fashion chain, River Island. Rihanna’s lawyers told London’s High Court that the T-shirt duped fans and was very similar to the images used on CD sleeves for her Talk That Talk album ::::
The High Court judge said “a substantial number” of shoppers were likely to be deceived into buying the T-shirt because of a false belief that it had been authorised by Rihanna.
“I find that Topshop’s sale of this Rihanna T-shirt without her approval was an act of passing off. I find for the claimants,” he said.
He said the incident marked “a loss of control over [Rihanna’s] reputation in the fashion sphere”.
The T-shirts are now being resold on eBay for between $2.50 and $18. Topshop said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the judgement and was considering all options available to it, including seeking an appeal.
“We robustly dispute the Judge’s conclusion,” it said, adding: “There was no evidence of consumer confusion to support the Judge’s conclusion.”
Lawyers said the ruling may have set a significant precedent.
“The Judge was at pains to make it clear that not every T-shirt with a famous face on it will fall foul of the law, but when an artist has a lot to lose, they have every incentive to sue,” said Sarah Byrt, intellectual property partner at law firm Mayer Brown.
The Ts are available on River Islands Australian site, check: riverisland.com