Topshop has launched an appeal against last year’s court ruling that permanently banned the store from selling T-shirts with Rihanna on the front.
The high street chain was ordered to remove the garments last year, after Rihanna lodged a complaint that the image may lead her fans to believe that she was endorsing the product.
The case started yesterday (November 19) at Royal Courts of Justice in London, where a rail of the T-shirts that had been banned from sale were displayed. The Judge agreed that the use of her image had amounted to “passing off” – a British law term used to enforce unregistered trademark rights. Geoffrey Hobbs, the lawyer working on behalf of Topshop, retorted a claim that Rihanna’s legal team had misused the term “passing off”, and claimed that only a celebrity may have the opportunity to market his or her own character on clothing.
Mike Gardner, a partner and head of intellectual property and commercial at Wedlake Bell, said: “Unlike in some other countries, in the UK celebrities have no legal right, as such, to control the use that is made of their image.
But if a product is marketed in such a way as to suggest, incorrectly, that they have endorsed or approved it, then this can amount to illegal passing off.”
Rihanna took legal action against the retailer in July 2013, where Topshop was permanently banned from selling the item. Topshop, however, argued it had bought the license from the photographer who took the image, leaving the brand legally entitled to use the image on their clothing.
Rihanna requested the high street store paid £919,000 to cover her legal fees, however Topshop was only ordered to pay £200,000 after the judge, Mr Justice Birss, described the initial request as “startling”.