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Topshop loses appeal against Rihanna in passing-off case

23 January 2015

Topshop has lost an appeal against a ruling of passing-off in relation to its sale of t-shirts bearing Rihanna’s image. There was no evidence from purchasers that they had believed the t-shirts were endorsed by Rihanna. However, as reported in our earlier article on this case relating to the appealed High Court judgment as the image bore a strong resemblance to album publicity shots and Topshop had run a competition with Rihanna in the past, that meant fans of the singer could have been misled into thinking that the garments were in fact endorsed.

There is no concept of ‘image rights’ under English law, and yesterday’s judgment makes no attempt to introduce one. However the case does emphasise that where a retailer already has an association with a celebrity, through joint promotion of events, competitions or otherwise, they will need to carefully consider whether using the celebrity’s image for a product could mislead customers into thinking it was endorsed by that celebrity.

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