Sunday, October 1, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Naked Cowboy Loses Second Trademark Duel

MANHATTAN (CN) - The Naked Cowboy, the mostly Times Square-based street performer, has no beef with a CBS soap opera that featured its own underwear-clad, cowboy-hat-wearing guitarist, a federal judge ruled.

Robert John Burck said he "pioneered" the Naked Cowboy in 1997, an idea he said "spread love, cheer, good humor, and fellowship throughout New York and indeed the world -- putting a smile on many a face."

But he considers himself something of a lone ranger.

Fiercely protective of his brand, Burck filed for his first trademark on Oct. 24, 2000 and re-registered on May 25, 2010. He slapped leatherat self-styled "Naked Cowgirl" Sandra Brodsky (aka Sandy Kane) in a July 2010 copyright suit, which he subsequently lost.

He was also too quick on the draw with the CBS soap opera "The Bold and The Beautiful."

On Nov. 1, 2010, the soap aired an episode featuring a character named Oliver serenading "Amber," wearing only his briefs or a cowboy hat.

In her order tossing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones noted that the words "Naked Cowboy" were never spoken or flashed on the screen during the episode, but CBS titled the YouTube clip of the show "The Bold and the Beautiful - Naked Cowboy."

Still, Burck does not have a monopoly on near-nude, cowboy-themed minstrelsy, Judge Jones ruled.

"The Naked Cowboy costume is indeed distinctive, but ... the similarities between Oliver's costume and the Naked Cowboy costume are minimal at best," Jones wrote. "Moreover, the complaint contains no allegations of actual confusion."

Burck also announced no plans to become a soap opera star, she added.

"Plaintiff performs on the street, predominantly in Times Square, and although he has appeared throughout the country, his performances are heavily concentrated in the New York area. Plaintiff does not market or provide any services that are in competition with a daytime television series. In addition, while plaintiff has on numerous occasions appeared as himself on television, none of his television appearances suggest a desire to transition into creating and producing a daytime soap opera, so there is no likelihood that plaintiff will bridge the gap between the two markets," Jones wrote.

The 20-page order was filed on Wednesday.

Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.