NY's "Naked Cowboy" sues M&Ms maker for $6 million

NEW YORK Wed Feb 13, 2008 1:59pm EST

Robert Burck, a street performer known as the 'Naked Cowboy,' plays guitar and sings in Times Square in New York on January 24, 2003. 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. REUTERS/Peter Morgan

Robert Burck, a street performer known as the 'Naked Cowboy,' plays guitar and sings in Times Square in New York on January 24, 2003. 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.

Credit: Reuters/Peter Morgan

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NEW 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.

(Reporting by Edith Honan, Editing by Michelle Nichols and Xavier Briand)

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