London— “Cheers (Drink to That)” was one of pop singer Rihanna’s early hits and no doubt the 25-year-old superstar is doing just that after a High Court judge ruled in her favor in the lawsuit against Topshop.
The Barbadian singer, who brought the claim under her full name Robyn Rihanna Fenty, had sought $5 million in damages for unauthorized use of her photo. Topshop allegedly used the singer’s image on T-shirts sold in 2011 and in March 2012 and sold as “Rihanna Tank.”
The image was a photograph taken by a freelance photographer in Northern Ireland when Rihanna was filming a music video there. Although Topshop had a license from the photographer, there was none such with Rihanna. Topshop then changed the name of the T-shirt to “Headscarf Girl Tank” and then “Icon Tank” after Rihanna launched her legal challenge.
Today, Judge Colin Birss said in a ruling at London’s High Court that a “substantial number” of consumers were likely to have been deceived into buying the Topshop T-shirts because of a “false belief” that the singer had authorized them. Topshop’s actions represented a loss of control over Rihanna’s reputation in the “fashion sphere,” the judge said.
“I find that Topshop’s sale of this Rihanna T-shirt without her approval was an act of passing off. I find for the claimants,” Birss said.
While the judge agreed it was an unauthorized use of her image, he stopped short of addressing damages Rihanna had sought.
Topshop countered that it was “surprised, disappointed and perplexed” by the High Court’s decision. “There was no intention to create an appearance of an endorsement or promotion,” Topshop stated. “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.”
In addition to her performing, Rihanna had expressed interest in fashion, not only as a role model but on the business side, too. In February, she launched her own collection of tops, dresses and even thigh-thigh boots for River Island, another British high street fashion chain.