Unuathorised celebrity image on merchandise: Rihanna v Topshop

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In March 2012, fashion retailer Topshop began to sell a T-shirt with an image of Rihanna on it. The image was based on a photograph taken by an independent photographer from whom Topshop had obtained copyright clearance. Topshop did not obtain a licence from Rihanna.

Rihanna brought a passing-off claim in the High Court against Topshop for the use of her image without her permission. She complained that the T-shirt was likely to deceive members of the public into believing that it was merchandise approved by her.

Rihanna was found to have sufficient goodwill in 2012 as a music artist and a style leader in the world of fashion. The principal issue was misrepresentation. The court concluded that a substantial number of purchasers were likely to be deceived into buying the T-shirt because of the false belief that it had been authorised by Rihanna herself…

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