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Legal Briefs: Naked Cowboy Sues Mars

by jordan | February 14, 2008 at 01:14 pm | 1009 views | 12 comments

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The Naked Cowboy, that guitar-strumming Times Square fixture, is suing M&M Mars for trademark infringement after the candy conglomerate created a candy-coated briefed busker in his likeness. I used to walk past this guy almost every day, marveling at how a guy who is neither naked nor a cowboy could create the Naked Cowboy persona. You gotta hand it to him,though- he’s dedicated, braving some sick weather day after day to entertain tourists and commuters alike. I always suspected a master plan beyond busking, and sure enough… I’m not saying that Robert Burck created his y-front-wearing persona to foment lawsuits, but rather to create a marketable brand. Mission: Accomplished, and now he’s defending that brand.

The musician/tourist attraction says the company used his likeness on a video that played on the two huge billboards at the M&M’s store.

He says the suit was filed after the company refused to deal with him.

“My manager had made the effort to initiate the adequate compensation for coopting with The Naked Cowboy,” said “The Naked Cowboy.” “But my understanding is they were not prone to that idea, and, in fact said, we would not work with that guy.”

The suit seeks $2 million for violating the trademark and another $2 million for violating his “right to publicity.”

For nearly a decade, Robert Burck has been a fixture in Times
Square, where he strums a guitar on a street corner while dressed
in his skimpy signature costume.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Manhattan federal court, Burck
said that two oversized Times Square billboards that promote
M&Ms used his look without compensating him.

“My initial response was like, ‘Wow that’s cool,’ ” said Burck, 37. “The artist seeks to create the world in his own image. Obviously I was overjoyed . . . . It took years for people not to say that’s a stupid idea. . . . All I’ve got is my underwear. It’s the most brilliant thing that’s ever been created from a marketing perspective. You can’t stop it.”

There is a precedent for Burck’s suit: recording artist Tom Waits sued Frito Lay in 1988 for using a soundalike in an advertisement after Waits himself refused their request (transcript in pdf form). This scenario repeated several more times with Levi Strauss, Audi, and Opel.

February 14, 2008 at 01:14 pm by jordan, 1009 views, 12 comments

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I thought this was just too funny!

It’s the same element of law that Graceland uses to try to regulate Elvis impersonators, as far as I understand.

This was back in 2007. I was walking along NYC. and the Naked Cowboy was singing to a crowd and he turned around to me when I took this photo. 😀

urbndork has contributed a photo to this story.

The man made my video, kudos.

Cantinero has contributed a photo to this story.

here is a picture from him.
could we get a picture from the “candy-coated briefed busker in his likeness”?

jerome.bailly has contributed a photo to this story.

I’m looking for one… how does an M&M’s briefs even stay up? Do we even want to know?

Forget about how it stays up – I wonder if it melted.

All i know is that this guy has alot of merit, brings tourist (like me i’m french), gives a smile to workers and has a great sens of humor. I think it’s sad that firms use his image for adds, help him win!

kristof_tibo has contributed a photo to this story.

 cool story. Never heard of him till today.Heres the Wiki link

good stuff:

What kind of cowboy needs a lawyer? Jeez, this guy even has a manager. It’s insane that Mars would have (allegedly) stolen his image.

What kind of cowboy needs a lawyer? … The naked kind…

(I remember reading an interview with Burck’s mom, who said something to the effect of “When my son headed to Times Square in his underwear, I admit to being a bit nervous”) 

Well you asked for it you go it there is now a pic of the M&M posted up there :).

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First Flagged at 5:56 PM, Feb 14, 2008 by BigT

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