MANHATTAN (CN) – The Naked Cowboy, an underwear-clad, guitar-toting fixture in Times Square, has sued the Naked Cowgirl, claiming she is trying to “cheat the system” by performing on his beat in “virtually identical” costume – though she also wears a “brazier.” “Each day she goes into Times Square, she is cheating a system that is supposed to protect intellectual property rights. This is not fair and is un-American,” the Naked Cowboy says in his federal trademark complaint.
The Naked Cowboy, aka Robert John Burck, has become a tourist attraction in Times Square. He sued Sandra Brodsky aka Sandy Kane aka the Naked Cowgirl, saying that she is not part of his franchise and that she uses the name to falsely claim association with him.
And in a claim that would put cold fire into any cowboy’s eyes, the Naked Cowboy adds that the Naked Cowgirl makes “obscene gestures” at tourists’ cameras, and engages in an “un-American” disregard for his intellectual property.
In his 11-page complaint, with 30 pages of attachments, Burck says “pioneered” the idea of the Naked Cowboy in 1997. He says his character has “spread love, cheer, good humor, and fellowship throughout New York and indeed the world – putting a smile on many a face.”
The Naked Cowboy claims that his persona “has resonated with the public in a profound way. In short, the idea in which he pioneered has made him a part of the New York cultural dynamic, as he is observed, enjoyed, and appreciated by native New Yorkers and tourists from around the world alike.
“The idea, saw him dress up in: briefs; cowboy boots; a cowboy hat; and guitar so as to sing, speak with, and to meet and greet the public in New York City’s Times Square. Essentially, he dresses as a cowboy – only a virtually Naked one.” (Punctuation and phrasing as in complaint.)
After appearing “virtually Naked” in New York City, he says, he took “his act on the road” and appeared “in movies, radio, magazines, newspapers, and a variety of other mediums.”
He filed for his first trademark on Oct. 24, 2000 and re-registered on May 25, 2010.
Burck claims that a woman tried to register a “Naked Cowgirl” trademark in 2006, but was “summarily rebuked.”
Then in 2008, another aspiring “Naked Cowgirl” – Brodsky – “began showing up in Times Square,” according to the complaint.
Burck says he “initially thought it was just a joke,” but he learned that she was “seeking to earn a living by appropriating his intellectual property for her own commercial benefit.”
The Naked Cowboy says he developed a franchise agreement to “allow others to earn a living without diluting the Naked Cowboy brand or otherwise capitalize off of his unique, preserved, protected and trademarked idea.”
He adds: “Franchisees are required to have training and are informed as to how to conduct and comport themselves so as to uphold the quality, propriety, integrity, and reputation of the Naked Cowboy brand.”
After noting her appearances in radio, television and nightclubs, Burck says, he says he called Brodsky, “so as to explain that she could only use the Naked Cowboy Trademark under a franchise agreement.”
He claims that Brodsky told him she “was amenable to such an arrangement,” but then created and distributed a “Naked Cowgirl” CD, published by EMI Music – diluting his trademark, and falsely suggesting his endorsement.
The Naked Cowboy complains that Brodsky put out products of “low standards of quality,” used his bumper sticker on her guitar without authorization and allowed herself to be photographed while making “obscene gestures” and “flipping a bird at the camera.”
He claims her behavior has brought “ill repute, ill will, and disfavor upon the Naked Cowboy brand,” though it has been profitable for her.
“She is likely making the same amount of money that Naked Cowboy makes, which is no less than $100/hr,” the complaint states.
Burck claims that Brodsky has bought $200 per month in advertisements in the Nashville Music Guide and spent “no less than $10,000” on her musical recordings.
“Each day she goes into Times Square, she is cheating a system that is supposed to protect intellectual property rights. This is not fair and is un-American,” says Burck.
“While serious efforts have been made by Naked Cowboy Enterprises to avoid the filing of the instant Complaint, it has become apparent that her intentions have been to flaunt and otherwise disregard the process of operating under the rules,” Burke says, adding, “She has always said that she will sign a Franchise Agreement tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.”
Naked Cowboy dba Naked Cowboy Enterprises seeks damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution of mark, false description, false advertising, injury to business reputation and deceptive acts and practices.
He wants Brodsky enjoined from using his brand, and ordered to deliver or destroy all the promotional materials that infringe on his trademark.
The Naked Cowboy is represented by Joey Jackson with Koehler & Isaacs.