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Eddie Irvine wins £25,000 damages in TalkSPORT appeal

LONDON – Former Formula 1 racing driver Eddie Irvine has been awarded £25,000 damages against Kelvin MacKenzie's TalkSPORT, which he sued for exploiting his celebrity image without permission.

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Irvine's successful challenge against TalkSPORT was the most significant marketing legal case of 2002, according to law firm Osborne Clarke.

TalkSPORT used a doctored photograph of Irvine apparently endorsing the brand after it gained the radio rights to F1 racing.

The award, made by the Court of Appeal, gave Irvine £25,000 in damages and also ruled that his legal costs be paid by TalkSPORT in the case, which began almost a year ago.

Originally Irvine, who drove for the Jaguar team last season and failed to secure a drive this year, had been awarded just £2,000 damages, which the judge in the case called a "reasonable endorsement fee". However, as the award fell short of the £5,000 out-of-court settlement offered by TalkSport, Irvine was saddled with paying both his own and TalkSPORT's legal costs.

In a statement, TalkSPORT said that total costs for both sides will be no more than £250,000.

In the High Court today in London, three appeal judges agreed with Irvine's lawyers that the High Court award was too low and rejected TalkSPORT's argument that it was not liable for damages.

Irvine's case follows other high-profile celebrity cases such as Ian Botham, the former England cricket star, suing Diageo for use of his image in a Guinness World Cup press campaign without his consent.

Until recently, images of famous sporting moments were largely viewed as public property, but cases like Irvine's are likely to change all of that as control over sporting image rights becomes an increasingly hot issue.

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