UPDATE: During a hearing at the High Court this week, Rihanna won a permanent ban on Topshop selling T-shirts featuring her face. Although Ri-Ri didn't make an appearance, the high street brand was ordered to pay the singer's legal costs of almost £1million, a fee which Sir Philip Green found ‘startling’ and ‘somewhat surprising’. She also sought the return of any unsold T-shirts, but all 12,000 have already been sold. Mr Justice Birss ruled that it was ‘right and fair’ that the style icon should be granted an injunction to prevent any future similar wrong use of the 'unflattering' image and that it representd 'a loss of control over her reputation in the fashion sphere'.
Is that the sound of champagne popping from Bad Gal Ri-Ri's yacht? News has just landed that the singer has won a court case against Topshop who were selling a T-shirt emblazoned with her face. According to court documents, Rihanna is due to be compensated with approximatley £15,000.
A statement from Her Majesty’s High Court stated that a 'substantial number' of Topshop customers were likely to have 'false belief' that the merchandise was authorised by the singer. The sale of the T-shirt, the judge said, was damaging to her 'goodwill' and represented a loss of control over her reputation in the 'fashion sphere.'
'The persons who do this will be the Rihanna fans. They will recognise or think they recognize the particular image of Rihanna, not simply as a picture of the artist, but as a particular picture of her associated with a particular context, the recent ‘Talk That Talk’ album,' said judge Mr Justice Birss. 'For those persons, the idea that it is authorized will be part of what motivates them to buy the product. I am quite satisfied that many fans of Rihanna regard her endorsement as important. She is their style icon. Many will buy a product because they think she has approved of it.' This problem is heightened by the fact Ri-Ri has designed a collection for Topshop's competitor, River Island.
As for Topshop, a spokesperson for the brand was 'surprised and disappointed by the judgment handed down today'. The brand plans to 'robustly dispute the judge’s decision' and will consider appealing. 'We feel that the fact that Rihanna has shopped, worn and had a relationship with Topshop for several years appears to have been detrimental to our case. There was no intention by Topshop to create the appearance of an endorsement or promotion.'
20 May 2013: Rihanna Is Suing Topshop
Rihanna with Topshop boss Sir Philip Green in 2010 & the T-shirt that began the law-suit
Given the commercial value of a celebrity’s image, it’s not surprising that Rihanna is reportedly suing high street giant Topshop after one of its suppliers created a T-shirt emblazoned with her face that went on sale in the store at the end of last year. The image, taken from the star’s ‘We Found Love’ video, has been the subject of some speculation since that time, not least because Rihanna is currently collaborating with Topshop rival, River Island, on a hit spring collection, the second drop of which is due to go on sale this coming Saturday. The first installment of crop tops, jumpsuits and split skirts, all inspired by Rihanna’s own wardrobe, went in store in February, and saw fans queuing around the block to buy it.
The case will be heard at the High Court of Justice in London this summer and should Rihanna win it will be groundbreaking. According to Women’s Wear Daily, there is currently no law in place that prohibits the use of a celebrity’s image in this country, so long as it is paid for and not trademarked which, given the time and expense involved, such things rarely are. Rihanna’s lawyers will need to prove that by using a picture of her face Topshop is claiming the star is in some way endorsing both the product in question and the brand more broadly and that is not necessarily the case.