Rihanna wins lawsuit against Topshop over ‘Rihanna Tank’

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Topshop sold the shirt online originally labeled as the “RIHANNA TANK.” Following complaints from Rihanna’s team, the tank’s name changed twice — to “HEADSCARF GIRL TANK,” and finally to “ICON TANK.” Lawyers working for Rihanna filed an intellectual property case against the retailer’s parent company Arcadia Group Brands on March 30, 2012.

Topshop bought the rights to the photo used not from Rihanna, but from a paparazzo who captured photos of her while she filmed her “We Found Love” music video.

“This move represented an infringement of her license and brand — one that would fool giddy Topshop shoppers into thinking they were buying official merchandise when that wasn’t the case. The T-shirt was of poor quality in general and not an image Rihanna would have approved,” said Rihanna’s lawyers.

The defense team for Topshop disagreed. “The photograph from which the [tee’s] image was derived was taken in a public place where the first claimant had no expectation of privacy.” Within the current British legal system, they said, “The image and usage thereof didn’t constitute trademark, image, license or rights infringement.” They made sure to point out that the T-shirt was very nice, of a good quality after all and that Rihanna wears Topshop clothes herself.

In a judgement released this morning, Justice Colin Birss’ decision read that, “A substantial number of purchasers are likely to [have been] deceived into buying [the “RIHANNA TANK” under that name or others] because of a false belief that it has been authorized by Rihanna.”

In turn, Birss ruled, this damaged Rihanna’s reputation and represented a loss of her ability to control the use of her image within the fashion industry. Crucially, he concluded that it’s solely for Rihanna (and her management team) to decide what products are or are not endorsed by her — not Topshop or any other garment retailer. This is a decision with potentially wide-ranging implications for the fast fashion industry and its predilection for celeb-covered tees and other clothing.

Justice Birss, will determine what (if any) money the Arcadia Group will have to pay out. We’re betting clothing lines will think twice before purchasing images from the paparazzi. –joi pearson

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