Photo Press Belfast / Splash
Rihanna is not messing around when it comes to protecting her sexy image and burgeoning business empire.
The hitmaker is suing Topshop for $5 million, accusing the British retailer of using a photograph without her permission that was taken of her on a video shoot in Northern Ireland in 2011 for T-shirts it sold under the name "Rihanna Tank."
Per the BBC, at a hearing Friday in London's High Court Rihanna's legal team argued that the sales of such shirts was "very similar" to pictures included on the CD sleeve of her album, Talk That Talk, and marred her reputation because fans may confuse the unauthorized tees as "genuine" merchandise put out by the pop star.
The suit against Topshop's owners, Arcadia Brands Limited, accused the firm of "passing off" its product as if RiRi had officially endorsed it.
Rihanna's lawyer, Martin Howe, however, accused the defendants of pulling the wool over Rihanna's fanbase.
"The sales…gave rise to a likelihood of deception, damaging Rihanna's good will," he told the court. "A substantial number of people buying, or even seeing, those T-shirts would think they are approved or somehow connected with Rihanna when, in fact, they were not approved of or connected with her at all."
The legal eagle added that Rihanna's intention behind the suit isn't to halt the sale of all photos of her on T-shirts in the U.K., especially since she works with a number of high-end fashion houses to sell wares under her name.
But he noted the Unapologetic singer wants to stop the firm from passing its garments off as if she approved. Her lawyers are seeking an injunction preventing the sales of such clothing for wrongly using her mug and trademark as well as a court order forcing Topshop to either deliver or destroy any shirts that breach the injunction.
Topshop's attorney, Geoffrey Hobbs, countered that the clothing giant came by the Rihanna photo honestly after licensing it from a freelance photographer who had taken the shot of the crooner as she was filming a video for one of her singles in Northern Ireland.
He claimed the company was justified in plastering her image all over its T-shirts, noting, "There is no representation here, given that the garment is fashion wear and not promotional merchandise."
To back that claim, the lawyer pointed out Rihanna has frequently asked Topshop to provide her with products she can wear, including on six occasions after she initiated legal action against the retailer.
Hobbs added that Rihanna is also going as far as to ask for legal recognition for something he argued has no basis in British law: that "only a celebrity or her successors may ever market, or license the marketing, of her own character."
Topshop is asking the court to dismiss the suit. A judgment could come as soon as next week.