Rihanna v Topshop fight about image on t-shirts and passing off

Posted: 4 years ago in: Case Study, NewsPosted By admin

Rihanna v Topshop passing off

Rihanna sues Topshop about image on t-shirts

  • Rihanna v Topshop fight about image on t-shirts and passing off.  The well known performer Rihanna sued the well known retailer Topshop for selling t-shirts using her image, without her consent.
  • Rihanna objected to Topshop selling t-shirts bearing her image.  The case was heard in the High Court in the UK, and a judgement was delivered recently (July 2013).

Rights of Famous Names

  • According to the judge, a famous person has no right to control the reproduction of their image in the UK, but they can control the reproduction of an image they own.  This was not the case here, because Rihanna did not own the photograph.  Other factors, however, influenced the case in her favour.
  • A fashion supplier, Knitmania designs and manufactures printed fashion garments for sale to Topshop.  Knitmania provided an indemnity to Topshop in relation to the t-shirts.
  • The parties argued over whether Rihanna’s image rights on the t-shirts represented an implied authorisation by her as far as  consumers were concerned.

Goodwill in Name – Used in Endorsement

Rihanna was able to show she had a reputation and goodwill in the fashion trade amongst members of the public.  She worked previously with Topshop in endorsement of clothing.  She is currently working on a range of clothing for River Island.

Rihanna Owns Registered Trademarks

Rihanna was able to show she holds a solid position in fashion marketing.  Rihanna owns registered trademarks for her name, including European trademarks.  She hires specialists in distribution, and merchandising.

The case made by Rihanna also showed that a misrepresentation was involved. The argument was that the public was likely to be deceived into thinking she authorised Topshop to sell the t-shirts with her image.

Topshop Association with Rihanna

Interestingly, a tweet on a Topshop twitter account was a factor the judge considered.  Rihanna was in London and was to visit a Topshop store.  Topshop tweeted that Rihanna was about to visit its Oxford Circus shop, and wondered what she might buy.  There were 350,000 followers of Topshop at the time – and the judge agreed that Topshop was emphasising Rihanna was wearing or likely to wear Topshop clothes.

In finding for Rihanna, the judge agreed that her fans regarded her as a style icon, and that they may be misled into thinking the t-shirts were authorised by her.  He further found that her goodwill had been damaged.

Topshop subsequently appealed the decision.  To see how the Appeal decision went go to our website page page Rihanna passing off appeal judgment.

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