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Rihanna wins Topshop tanktop likeness battle

Singer Rihanna has won a landmark legal battle against UK fashion retailer Topshop over its unauthorised use of her image on a t-shirt.

Following Rihanna successfully suing Topshop owner Arcadia for £3.3m in July 2013, the London Court of Appeal today (Thursday 22 January) maintained a ban upon the high street store from selling t-shirts featuring unauthorised Rihanna branding without her permission.

Three appeal judges ruled that the use of the celebrity’s likeness without her consent resulted in unauthorised use of her personal image or “passing off” with the popstar alleging that the photo was lifted from a 2011 photoshoot.

Topshop lawyer Geoffrey Hobbs QC argued that the retailer had a right to reproduce the image in similar fashion to the Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley products which are common in stores, suggesting that it was wrong for the law to enforce the rule that “only a celebrity may ever market his or her own character”.

The appeal however was dismissed by all three judges. They ruled that Topshop's passing off of Rihanna's imagery alone would not have been enough to reclaim damages.

However, tipping the balance of the ruling was the fact that the t-shirt used an image similar to that used to publicise Rihanna’s 'Talk That Talk' album, implying the t-shirt was an endorsed product. The judges ruled that this likeness could harm Rihanna's reputation substantially in the "fashion sphere" in which she has several major branded partnerships.

This landmark case represents the first time a celebrity has successful retrieved compensation against a defendant which “passed off” their likeness on merchandise in an English court.

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