Judges at a California appeals court are standing by a previous ruling over Bob Marley's image rights, granting the reggae legend's heirs damages in their seven-year battle over unauthorised merchandise.

The Exodus icon's children set up Fifty-Six Hope Road Music to take care of the late star's assets, rights and commercial interests and they granted an exclusive license to bosses at Zion Rootswear to produce Marley-branded memorabilia.

In 2008, they teamed up to take action against executives at A.V.E.L.A. over an array of rival products which featured an image of Marley that chiefs had purchased from a photographer in 2004.

Permission to use the photo was subsequently granted to designers at apparel companies Jem Sportswear and Central Mills Inc., known as Freeze, who used it for T-shirts and other items, which were all sold at big U.S. retailers like Target and Walmart.

In 2011, a federal jury in Nevada ruled in favour of the plaintiffs on counts of false endorsement and interference of prospective economic advantage, and awarded substantial damages.

The defendants appealed the decision, but during a hearing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Friday (20Feb15), a three-judge panel rejected the challenge and upheld the prior ruling.

The news emerges weeks after what would have been Marley's 70th birthday on 6 February (15). He died from cancer in 1981, aged 36.