Rihanna wins Passing off action at Court of Appeal

Image Rights and passing off

Rihanna

The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court decision in a claim for passing off brought by the celebrity pop star and social media sensation Rihanna against Topshop (part of the Arcardia Group). The claim, lodge some time ago, focussed on a Topshop t-shirt which displayed a large photograph of RiRi.  The T-shirt was not endorsed by Rihanna or in any way associated with her. The High Court held a substantial number of purchasers would be deceived into thinking this T-shirt had been endorsed or approved by Rihanna. On this basis the fans would have bought the T-shirt causing damage to her goodwill.

London Notary Matthew Pryke comments, This case once again confirms there is no concept of an image right recognised in English law open to celebrities to control unauthorised use of their name or likeness.” Usually clients are forced to reply upon other registered IP rights such as Trade Marks or the common law right of passing off.

As the London Notary explains, “Today’s ruling accepts that Rihanna suffered damage as a result of Top Shop using her image without consent. However it also makes clear this is a borderline case which has only succeeded  as a result of a specific combination of factors including the image being taken at an official album shoot, the historical relationship between Rihanna and Top Shop and the retailer’s promotional activities on social media.”

Celebrities are likely to be disappointed the law has not gone further to provide specific protection. Retailers will inevitably recognise this case is fact sensitive and design and develop future “ambush” marketing campaings with this decision at the forefront of their minds.  London Notary Public, Matthew Pryke is also a partner at Media and Entertainment experts Hamlins.

Links to judgment: Judgment via Bailli

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