The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Intellectual property: Rihanna sues Topshop over image on T-shirt

The pop singer Rihanna is suing Topshop for using her image on a T-shirt without asking her permission, despite requesting free clothing from the chain, reports The Daily Mail.

The major high-street fashion chain revealed that Rihanna had continued to request free clothing from them, despite launching a legal action claiming that the use of her photograph on a plain white T-shirt could damage her image.

The singer claims that the T-shirt, which features a picture of her in a bra, could appear as official merchandise to her fans, fooling them into buying a product that has not been officially endorsed. 

However, Topshop has fought back, with their barrister telling the High Court that she has requested merchandise on no fewer than ten 'recent' occasions.

Lawyers for Topshop claim that Rihanna's own personal shopping habits are testament to the quality of the Topshop brand, and support their use of her photograph to reinforce her image, rather than detract from it.

"It is not in dispute that Rihanna is a celebrity [but] the reputation of Topshop is also material to the allegation of misrepresentation," Topshop's barrister Geoffrey Hobbs QC told the High Court.

Rihanna's lawyers claim that the T-shirt is an example of passing off, essentially profiting from the reputation of another by passing off an object as falsely being produced or endorsed by them.

Topshop claims they acquired the licence to use the image from the copyright owner, a photographer, who took the image on a shoot for Rihanna's single, We Found Love.

Rihanna's lawyers say the dispute is not over the quality of the Topshop brand, but whether fans of the singer were duped into buying a T-shirt believing it was genuine merchandise 'issued by their heroine'.

The hearing continues.