I have to thank my student Jeniffer for bringing this to my attention. I have to admit, that I’ve actually seen stranger things happen in New York. And in this instance, I don’t know which is stranger, the Naked Cowboy or the lawsuit he has filed against Mars, Inc. for “trademark infringement under the Lanham Act and violation of his right of publicity under New York Civil Rights Law §51, arising from a video billboard for M&Ms.”
According to CNN, to lay a little ground work,
For the past 10 years, [the Naked Cowboy has been] the guy you’ve seen on the sidewalk, with the great body, strumming his guitar and singing, dressed in a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and underwear — and nothing else, even in the dead of winter. (Source)
A recent video ad produced by M&M, Mars, Inc. “depicts an M&M frolicking around New York, in what kind of looks like Times Square, in what kind of looks like The Naked Cowboy’s outfit — briefs and nothing more than a smile.”
Now, I don’t pretend to know (or even understand) trademark law in any great detail. I leave that to lawyers like my good friend Randazza to comment on. But, the limited amount of information I know, I have to agree with CNN that the guy might have a case.
According to the Naked Cowboy Complaint,
Burck has licensed The Naked Cowboy name and/or likeness to companies for the purposes of advertising and endorsement. Mars, Inc., had no immediate comment.
His character is part of the USA Network’s “Characters Welcome” campaign; he appeared in a music video for the song “Rockstar” by the multiplatinum artist Nickelback; and he’s featured singing in the video game “True Crime: New York City at Times Square.”
He also has appeared in several movies and television programs, including “Starship Dave,” “Survive This,” “Mulva: Zombie A** Kicker,” “Steve Harvey’s Big Time,” “New York Minute,” “Creature Feature,” “Lonely Planet,” “Troma’s Edge,” “American Icon” and “The Howard Stern Show.”
Well, as always, I will strive to keep you informed as to the developments of this case.