Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, February 17, 2021

As far as Times Square fixtures go, the Naked Cowboy is something of a hybrid. He’s well within the context of the district’s current tourism-friendly ethos, in that he’s a harmless crowd-pleaser. On the other hand, the outlandish year-round underwear-and-boots outfit, along with the borderline-psychotic warbling, tells me that he wouldn’t have looked at all out of place had he been around 20 years ago, when Times Square was crawling with less-marketable street weirdos.

Weirdo or not, the Cowboy knows trademark infringement when he sees it. That’s why he’s suing a big-time candy company for unauthorized use of his image — displayed within sight of the Cowboy’s usual performance spot.

The suit looks strong so far:

“They took down the video two days ago. Everyone’s telling me it’s an open-and-closed case,” the Naked Cowboy, whose real name is Robert Burck, said about his $6 million lawsuit against M&M’s manufacturer Mars Inc. for using the image without his permission.

The tighty-whitey-clad candy cowboy once filled two towering video billboards for several seconds of a nearly five-minute video loop, but was nowhere to be seen yesterday.

What did appear was another blue M&M with an embarrassed expression on its face, shooting quizzical looks around Times Square.

It occurs to me that, had someone at Mars thought this out, they could have incorporated the Cowboy into their little advertisement. Had they gotten with him ahead of time, and arranged for him to cue up a special song and dance whenever his blue M&M likeness appeared on the video billboard, it would have been an even more effective promotion at the end of the day. They’d have paid him a little something — I’m thinking much less than $6 mil — and everyone would have been happy.

Instead, the Cowboy cashes in, Mars writes off a chump-change loss, and some marketing peon’s head rolls. As sordid a Times Square story as there ever was.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/17/2008 09:06:15 PM
Category: New Yorkin', True Crime
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