0370 270 6000

Rihanna case shows developments to passing off

2 August 2013

Rihanna has successfully sued Topshop in passing off for selling a t-shirt bearing her photograph.

There is no freestanding image right in England, so the claim was brought in passing off. Selling clothes bearing someone’s image is not itself passing off; there must be a false representation that a product is endorsed.

Other than the photo itself there’s nothing to suggest the t-shirt had any connection with Rihanna, and no evidence that anyone bought the t-shirt believing it was endorsed by Rihanna.

But because the photograph resembled an album’s publicity shots, fans could have associated the image with that marketing campaign, assuming the t-shirt was endorsed by Rihanna. Had Topshop used a photograph lacking these connotations, the result would probably have been different.

In the 1970s, this claim would probably have failed, and even today, a different judge could have come to a differing decision. This case shows a development of rights in an individual’s image, making it easier for celebrities to object to their image being used without permission.

Related opinions

The London Fashion Week problem - Brexit and the protection of designs in the UK

London’s prized position as one of the ‘big four’ fashion capitals could be threatened by changes to IP protection following Brexit.

View blog

Sainsbury’s response to Amazon’s entry into the grocery business

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s news of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Food, Sainsbury’s look to expand with a proposed acquisition of Nisa.

View blog

Amazon sets the supermarkets in its sights!

Well, I think we all knew this was coming. It felt like only a matter of time before Amazon decided to focus its sights on the grocery business.

View blog

Virtual reality payment - it’s all in your head

Alibaba, one of China’s largest technology companies, recently demonstrated VR Pay, a payment service designed to allow virtual reality shoppers to pay for things simply by nodding their head.

View blog

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up