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Rihanna comes out on top in T-shirt suit

A High Court has decided in favor of Rihanna to ban Topshop from selling T-shirts with Rihanna's image on them. In this file photo, Rihanna attends as...
A High Court has decided in favor of Rihanna to ban Topshop from selling T-shirts with Rihanna's image on them. In this file photo, Rihanna attends as the Rihanna for River Island collection is launched at the Oxford Street River Island store on March 4, 2013 in London, England. Stuart Wilson

Pop star Rihanna has won a legal battle in London against fashion giant Topshop over the sale of a T-shirt bearing the R&B singer's image.

Topshop began selling an image of the singer on a T-shirt in 2012, with the approval of the photographer who took the image, but not with the permission of Rihanna herself.

Rihanna sued Topshop's parent company, Arcadia, for $5 million, and the U.K. High Court found in her favor on Wednesday morning, although damages have not yet been settled.

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Rihanna's lawyers argued that Topshop had misled customers into thinking that Rihanna had endorsed the use of her image on the T-shirt, leading to consumer confusion and damaging Rihanna's reputation.

Simon Clark, head of intellectual property at Berwin Leighton Paisner, said that that was exactly what had led Justice Birss to find in favor of Rihanna.

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"In finding that a substantial proportion of Rihanna fans will have mistakenly bought the Topshop T-shirt thinking that she had endorsed it, the judge appears to have been influenced by two key factors," Clark said.

"Firstly, the image showed Rihanna wearing the same clothes that she wore in the video for her 'We Found Love' single. Secondly, the fact that it was Topshop, which has a reputation for associating fashion with celebrities, meant that there was more likely to be confusion than if the T-shirt had been sold in a different type of outlet."

Indeed, Birss said that Topshop's use of Rihanna's image "amounts to sales lost to her [Rihanna's] merchandising business. It also represents a loss of control over her reputation in the fashion sphere."

(Read more: Topshop sells stake — A new reason for US retailers to worry)

Topshop said it was surprised by Birss's decision, and would seek permission to appeal. Topshop's lawyers had argued that the Barbados-born star was attempting to assert image rights, which are unrecognized under U.K. law, in contrast to U.S. law.