Fast fashion chain Topshop has asked a British court to overturn the ruling that stopped it from selling t-shirts with a picture of singer Rihanna on the front. In a somewhat unprecedented ruling in the UK, Mr Justice Birss ruled in favor of the singer in the High Court in July 2013 , holding that Topshop’s sale of the “Rihanna T-shirt” constitutes an act of “passing off.” As a result, Birss stated in a written decision that a “substantial number” of customers were likely to have bought the t-shirt of a “false belief” that it had been endorsed by the singer. Rihanna filed the $5 million lawsuit in May 2013 after the retailer began selling t-shirts bearing a photograph that was taken of her on a video shoot in Northern Ireland in 2011.
Well, as of today, Topshop’s legal team has filed to appeal the ruling, alleging that Rihanna’s legal team had misused the law on passing off to claim that “only a celebrity may ever market his or her own character.” Moreover, they allege that the public had no expectation that clothes bearing an image were authorized by people shown in that image.
According to Vogue UK, “Unlike in some other countries, in the UK celebrities have no legal right, as such, to control the use that is made of their image,” Mike Gardner, a partner and head of intellectual property and commercial at Wedlake Bell, commented. “But if a product is marketed in such a way as to suggest, incorrectly, that they have endorsed or approved it, then this can amount to illegal passing off.”