Topshop challenges Rihanna in the Court of Appeal

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

High street retailer Topshop has requested the Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling of an ongoing legal dispute with artist Rihanna, after the fashion retailer was ordered to pay her 200,000 pounds in damages for using an unauthorized image of her on a t-shirt without her consent

After the original hearing, which took place last September, a High Court judge granted an injunction in the artist's favor, after concluding that Rihanna's fans may be deceived into thinking she endorsed the Topshop product and that it was “passing off.”

The ruling refrained the high street retailer from selling any garments bearing the particular image of Rihanna without informing customers that the item is not endorsed or authorized by the artist herself. Now Topshop has launched an appeal case in an effort to overturn the ruling and asked the judges to review the case on the grounds the former judge erred on his approach to the law on celebrity merchandising.

Geoffrey Hobbs QC, who is representing Topshop, argues that the first point of the case was the court's dealing with the “decorated t-shirt” which falls under the tradition of the merchandising if celebrity images over the years, which includes the likes of Elvis Presley, Prince and Jimi Hendrix.

Hobbs believes that Rihanna was wrongly enforcing the law on the “passing off” to claim that “only a celebrity may ever market his or her own character.” He argues that Rihanna has had many endorsement agreements with a number of high street retailers, such as River Island and adds that the public do not expect garments carrying an image were always authorized by the individuals shown in the image.

The case hearing is expected to run for two days, with a ruling to be given over the next few months.

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