June 25, 2008

Naked Cowboy Suing M&M’s

By Braden Lammers, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jun. 25--Chute Gerdeman, a Columbus-based retail design firm, landed a sweet gig when it was picked to design the M&M's World stores.

Officials never thought it would lead to a fight with a naked cowboy.

Robert Burck, better known as New York City street performer the Naked Cowboy, has received the OK to proceed with a lawsuit against the folks who make M&M's-brand candy and Chute Gerdeman.

Burck is suing Mars Inc., the candy maker, and the Columbus company for trademark infringement, and he wants $6 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The suit grew out of an ad that depicted a blue M&M character in Naked Cowboy attire: white cowboy boots, white cowboy hat, white underwear and a strategically placed guitar.

The ads originally appeared on several video billboards in Times Square, beginning in April 2007, with the blue M&M strumming a guitar, allegedly copying Burck, according to the complaint.

Other ads for M&M have also featured New York landmarks and characters associated with the city, such as the Statue of Liberty and King Kong.

Burck, who's from the Cincinnati area, trademarked the Naked Cowboy name and likeness and has licensed his image for use in other ads. He also has appeared in music videos and on numerous television shows.

Chute Gerdeman would not comment on the case. Mars officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Burck's attorney, Scott Rothman, declined to comment.

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