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Rihanna wins Topshop T-shirt battle

Singer Rihanna has won a battle against Sir Phillip Green’s Topshop over a T-shirt bearing her image.

The Court of Appeal in London has today (January 22) upheld a ban on the retailer selling a T-shirt featuring a photo of the star without her permission.

Three appeal judges agreed marketing the item without Rihanna’s approval amounted to “passing off”.

At the original hearing in September 2013, the judge granted an injunction meaning Topshop must refrain from selling any T-shirts featuring a particular image of Rihanna without clearly informing customers that the garment is not endorsed, authorised or approved by the singer. At the time Rihanna had an exclusive agreement to design clothes for rival retailer, River Island.

In November the high street chain brought the star to the Court of Appeal after it was ordered to pay the pop star £200,000 for using the image.

If Topshop wishes to appeal, it will need to seek permission from the Supreme Court. The retailer is now negotiating the final amount of damages to be paid.

Arty Rajendra, partner at IP law firm Rouse Legal, said: “This judgment affirms the principle that use of a celebrity’s image on a product could mislead the public into believing that it is officially endorsed by that person. It’s right that unlicensed manufacturers should not be able to take advantage of that investment and that customers are not deceived into thinking they are buying ‘authorised’ products”.

Ben Mooneapillay, Partner and trade mark attorney at J A Kemp said: “We may now see an increase in the number of celebrities challenging the use of their image if they have previously been associated with the seller of the merchandise. This is only likely to apply to large retailers who can afford these celebrity associations, not market stall holders .”

Stephen L Sidkin, partner at law firm Fox Williams added: “Whilst not extending the law as to image rights, the judgment is a clear warning that using a celebrity’s image without permission could be a costly affair.”

Tania Clark, partner and trade mark attorney at Withers & Rogers said: “Using imagery of well-known individuals can generate a great deal of revenue for celebrities and retailers alike. However, rash decisions to implement product lines including a celebrity’s image without the relevant permission may cost a retailer dearly in terms of damaged reputation and legal proceedings.”

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