View Full Version : "Naked Cowboy" sues M&Ms maker for $6 million

February 16th, 2008, 03:33 PM
http://wwsb.images.worldnow.com/images/static/gfx/pxl_trans.gifNEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City street performer "The Naked Cowboy" is suing Mars Inc. for $6 million over the use of his trademark look -- white underwear, cowboy boots and a hat -- by a blue M&M candy on a Times Square billboard.

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.

The billboards feature a scantily clad blue M&M with a guitar alongside views of New York including street scenes and the Statue of Liberty.
Burck is suing privately held Mars Inc., which makes M&Ms, and Chute Gerdeman Inc., an Ohio agency that he said created the ad, for trademark infringement.

Neither company was immediately available for comment.
"Just like The Naked Cowboy does on a daily basis in Times Square, the M&M is not only dressed as "The Naked Cowboy," it is playing the Naked Cowboy's distinctive white guitar in the cartoon," the lawsuit said.
Mars and Chute Gerdeman "decided to exploit and trade upon The Naked Cowboy's well-recognized likeness without a license and without furnishing any compensation," the lawsuit said.
Burck has trademarked his signature look and has made several television and movie appearances in costume, including for a televised audition on the "American Idol" reality TV program, the lawsuit said.


February 19th, 2008, 09:21 AM
Bad call on their part.

That is like a trademark, and being so obvious about it rather than offering him something up front was a dumb move.

February 20th, 2008, 04:35 PM
Don't you have to trademark a trademark? There's some official filing involved. You can't just do something, and then sue if someone else does the same thing, without taking some action beforehand.

February 20th, 2008, 07:01 PM
Not when it comes to show biz and an established persona, which cannot be used by others -- particularly in advertising -- without compensation.

February 21st, 2008, 09:57 AM
Not only that, I believe he was already used in a commercial for some other product as sort of a "glimpse" at NYC, so it is not as if his persona was completely unknown or unacnowledged.

Commercials have to be careful when they use things that are decided ly different than the mainstream and point directly at one given group or individual.

After all, how many men in underwear wear all white and play a white guitar?

Dumb on M&M's part!

February 22nd, 2008, 03:57 PM
Bad call on their part.

That is like a trademark, and being so obvious about it rather than offering him something up front was a dumb move.

^100%^ They obviously used his image for the commercial.
I think this Sunday I may go Washington Square Park and play the harmonica in my bra and panties or go watch an independent film fully dressed, I'm not too sure yet.

March 5th, 2008, 06:24 AM

March 5, 2008

The giant blue M&M that was banished from two video billboards for imitating Times Square's Naked Cowboy has come back swinging.

Mars, the maker of M&Ms, has filed a petition with the Patent and Trademark Office accusing the Naked Cowboy, whose real name is Robert Burck, of committing fraud when he obtained his trademark.

The move comes three weeks after Burck hit the men from Mars with a $6 million suit, claiming they stole his image when a blue M&M dressed in a white cowboy hat, boots and briefs appeared on two towering ads in Times Square.

Mars claims Burck did not follow through on producing a long list of goods that he said would bear his trademark.

Copyright 2008 The New York Post.

March 6th, 2008, 11:21 AM
Wasn't the Naked Cowboy in the commercial to "come visit New York"? Those commercials that every state has?

Mars could have probably bought him out for a lot less than 6 mil if they'd just asked first.

March 6th, 2008, 05:16 PM
Don't know about that, we don't get NY tourist videos in the UK.

But http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=35463&postcount=1 here he is.

June 23rd, 2008, 06:13 PM
June 23, 2008, 4:17 pm

Mixed Ruling for Naked Cowboy and Blue M&M

By Alan Feuer (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/afeuer/)

Mars Incorporated outfitted a dark blue M&M with boots, hat, underpants and a six-string guitar.

“This,” as the judge’s order memorably put it, “is the case of the Naked Cowboy versus the Blue M&M.” Hard to beat that in the federal courts on a boring afternoon.

Earlier this year, Robert Burck, the tighty-whitied plaintiff in the case, sued Mars Incorporated, claiming that the candy maker had purloined his persona by outfitting a dark blue M&M with boots, hat, underpants and a six-string guitar in an animated cartoon it ran on two video billboards in Times Square. Mr. Burck (“doing business as the Naked Cowboy,” as his suit contends) not only argued that Mars had trampled on his trademark rights, but also falsely suggested that he actually endorsed the offending M&M.

On Monday afternoon, Judge Denny Chin of United States District Court in Manhattan ruled that Mr. Burke’s trademark rights had not in fact been stepped on (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/nyregion/city_room/20080623_cowboy.pdf) [pdf] since the law protects the “name, portrait or picture of a living person” but not a character created by a person — no matter how famous (or naked) he might be.

But a partial victory goes to the cowboy: Judge Chin also ruled that the suit could proceed since Mr. Burck “plausibly alleges that consumers seeing the defendants’ advertisements would conclude — incorrectly — that he had endorsed M&M.”

Mr. Burck had left his “office” — on Seventh Avenue and 43rd Street — in mid-afternoon and was not available for comment. A message left on the media line at the Mars North America hub site, in northwestern New Jersey, was not immediately returned.

In making his decision, Judge Chin drew upon a surprisingly rich case law, which included such disputes as Allen v. National Video Inc. wherein Allen (as in Woody) unsuccessfully sued the company for using a look-alike in an ad. He also cited White v. Samsung Elecs. Am. Inc. where Vanna White (of “Wheel of Fortune” fame) tried to stop the TV maker from running ads of its own with a robot that resembled her, complete with wig and gown.
Look forward to highly complex arguments when both sides return to court for a pre-trial conference on July 11 at noon.

Robert Burck, also known as the Naked Cowboy, posed in April with models involved in a Times Square stunt. (Photo: John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times)


Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

June 23rd, 2008, 08:04 PM
This is interesting, in that Talullah Bankhead won a lawsuit against a tv commercial featuring a talking tube (of shampoo?) named Tallulah.

June 27th, 2008, 11:41 PM
I know if I stood in Times Square in tight underwear strumming a guitar, I'd get the bums rush from the cops and/or thrown in Bellvue.

The NC has been able to milk what should have been 15 minutes of fame into a lucrative (with the tips), decade long act. Instead of being honored by the caricature, he sues. Talk about it going to your head.

Throw some boxers on, cowboy.

June 28th, 2008, 08:55 AM
radio: Show us how you look in your tightie whities + boots -- post a pic or two -- let the public decide who deserves 15 minutes or more ...

June 28th, 2008, 10:52 AM
Or maybe your bum will get rushed. :eek: :D

June 28th, 2008, 12:42 PM
'tis the season ;)

June 28th, 2008, 08:08 PM
radio: Show us how you look in your tightie whities + boots -- post a pic or two -- let the public decide who deserves 15 minutes or more ...

Nah, that would be a true public obscenity. Besides, I haven't owned any tighty whiteys since grade school.

So it comes down to what the person looks like. If he looked like Pee Wee Herman or Danny DeVito (or myself), I assume he should be hustled off the street by the cops, or better yet by an angry public mob. Does talent matter? It would help if the Litigious Cowboy had any.......



Or maybe your bum will get rushed. :eek: :D

That's a good one;)

July 2nd, 2008, 10:07 AM
The NC has been able to milk what should have been 15 minutes of fame into a lucrative (with the tips), decade long act. Instead of being honored by the caricature, he sues. Talk about it going to your head.

How about you get a talent that makes money and then come back saying that when some billion dollar corporation rips off your idea to make another billion without compensating you?

July 2nd, 2008, 10:43 AM
Unlawful use of someone's image to promote a product has been previously decided by established case law.

To say the the NK is in the wrong is misguided. It's the M&M gang who are out of line. They need to pay for that which use and from which they profit.

November 8th, 2008, 07:03 AM
Settlement ends Naked Cowboy suit

By Owen Moritz
Saturday, November 8th 2008, 1:33 AM

http://assets.nydailynews.com/img/2008/11/08/amd_naked-cowboy.jpg Cooper/AP
Robert John Burck, a.k.a. "The Naked Cowboy"

Briefly put, the Naked Cowboy (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Naked+Cowboy) and candy giant Mars reached a down-to-earth settlement in Federal Court Friday over a Times Square (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Times+Square) billboard.

No one's talking, least of all the normally voluble Robert Burck, who parades around the Crossroads of the World in his skivvies, strumming a guitar and urging passersby to think of him as God.

Burck sued Mars for millions last winter, alleging two Times Square billboards and a mural that depicted a guitar-wielding M&M candy in tight white shorts gave the impression that he's endorsing their product.

Last June, Federal Judge Denny Chin (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Denny+Chin) ruled the Cowboy's suit accusing Mars of "false endorsement" could continue.

The suit was resolved Friday with a closed-door settlement


© Copyright 2008 NYDailyNews.com.

November 8th, 2008, 09:25 AM
The big payoff for all that shivering in the cold ... all that muscle building ... all those mildly mocking glances.

November 8th, 2008, 10:39 AM
I happened to be in Times Square yesterday afternoon -- with no knowledge of this settlement -- and passed through Duffy Square where Mr. Burck, stripped to his skivvies and occasionally strumming his instrument, was surrounded by enthralled & admiring tourists, almost all with cameras in hand.

Seems he's way beyond being a mockery and, for tourists, has become as much a part of the anticipated Times Square scene as the dazzling signs above.

November 8th, 2008, 10:59 AM
What was the temperature?

November 8th, 2008, 12:56 PM
With any luck he may find a safe way to keep his settlement intact for his golden years.

November 8th, 2008, 04:41 PM
Temperature on Friday at mid-afternoon was a balmy and un-seasonable (for November) 64 degrees -- very humid but no rain. Perfect tighty-whitey weather. Unlike today where it's been 60+ and non-stop rain.

July 22nd, 2009, 06:29 AM


Wearing black in DC...



Meanwhile, back in NYC :rolleyes:...

Naked Cowboy to Run for Mayor (http://www.nypolitics.com/2009/07/21/naked-cowboy-to-run-for-mayor/)

July 22nd, 2009, 10:37 PM
^^^ Publicity stunt, partially funded by M&Ms.

July 22nd, 2009, 11:52 PM
Listen to him talk policy. He knows his stuff better than most so-called NYC pols.

He ain't no Joe Sixpack.

And, not surprisingly, claims that "transparency" will be the cornerstone of his campaign.

July 23rd, 2009, 08:59 AM
He is very hard on some issues, and likes to make his points brief.

Besides, how is a naked cowboy any worse than a professional wrestler for politics?

July 23rd, 2009, 09:38 AM
THIS (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af6t91PP1fg&NR=1) might get (or lose) him a few votes:

The Real Naked Cowboy In NYC Club's

September 4th, 2009, 11:39 PM
Naked Cowboy Drops Out: No Singing Mayor in Briefs


Running for mayor of New York City must have struck Robert Burck, the so-called Naked Cowboy of Times Square, as a good idea back in July.
His profile as a tourist attraction would certainly be higher as a mayor, in briefs.

And, beyond good pecs, he offered the citizenry a résumé that includes a degree in political science, a father who was a city councilman in Ohio, and a catchy campaign motto: “Nobody has done more with less.”
But six weeks after announcing his intention to run, Mr. Burck has soured on this political gig.

“I’m absolutely dropping out,” he said on Friday after having done battle with the bureaucracy that regulates political campaigns in New York.
Conflict-of-interest rules. Financial-disclosure forms. Fines and threats of imprisonment.

It was all enough to send a singing cowboy back to Times Square, where he daily strums for his supper with a strategically positioned guitar draped over his white skivvies.

“What I want to do is stick with what I do best,” he explained. “It’s probably why I look like a naked cowboy, and Mayor Bloomberg looks like a mayor.” The culmination of his struggle was a sharply worded letter he got Thursday from the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board, an agency he said he had never fathomed existed until the letter arrived, notifying him that he had failed to file the financial disclosure form as required.

He had to correct the deficiency or risk being charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $10,000 civil penalty. The letter told him he was being assessed a $250 fine, which had to be hand-delivered to the board or sent by certified mail.

So Friday, traveling without entourage, he appeared at the board’s downtown headquarters, in his briefs and a skimpy white fur with a mink collar, to hand over a completed disclosure and a $250 fine. The form lists no trusts, loans or outside affiliations. It describes his occupation as “traveling entertainer” and reports gross income of between $100,00 and $250,000 last year.

The only real detail is on a page asking about securities, in which he lists two accounts at Merrill Lynch, a cash management account and an I.R.A., each worth $5,000 to $35,000.

Even before his tangle with the conflicts board, Mr. Burck’s candidacy had faced serious obstacles. The New York City Board of Elections had denied him a place on the ballot on Aug. 28 because of deficiencies in his paperwork, pending a hearing Tuesday, according to the board’s executive director, Marcus Cederqvist.

Mr. Cederqvist added that Mr. Burck’s petition also appeared to fall short of the requirement that independent candidates furnish at least 7,500 voters’ signatures to get on the ballot.

“The only way to be taken seriously is to put on a suit and tie,” Mr. Burck said, recounting his lessons learned.

“Politics is not fun and games,” he said. “It’s serious stuff, and my mind was a little more dreamy.”


July 13th, 2012, 10:53 PM
Apart from making no sense, he invented several new words.

Meet Times Square’s New Naked Indian, Who Makes Little to No Sense

By Joe Coscarelli


"I throw peace signs with every photo, and it really increases international relations, believe it or not, on a subliminal level," the Naked Indian explained to Animal New York (http://www.animalnewyork.com/2012/showdown-in-times-square-the-naked-indian-vows-to-scalp-the-naked-cowboy/) about his job posing with tourists while dressed in almost nothing. That scheme sounds familiar because the Naked Cowboy has been doing the same thing for more than a decade, and has already threatened to sue (http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-07-07/news/32580719_1_robert-burck-sez-bad-blood) his latest competitor. The new guy, who lives in New Jersey, isn't afraid. "He'll get a haircut," the Naked Indian said, "and he will smoke the peace pipe."

Showdown in Times Square: The Naked Indian Vows to Scalp the Naked Cowboy (http://www.animalnewyork.com/2012/showdown-in-times-square-the-naked-indian-vows-to-scalp-the-naked-cowboy/) [Animal NY]


July 14th, 2012, 02:42 AM
He is so philosiphal.