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Sony sues Kevin Butler actor and Bridgestone after Kevin Butler actor appears in Nintendo-related Bridgestone ad

It was perhaps inevitable. Sony is now officially suing both Bridgestone and the company owned by Kevin Butler actor Jerry Lambert over Lambert's appearance in a Bridgestone ad which promoted a Nintendo tie-in deal. The gist is that Lambert's involvement, after his long-standing promotional portrayal of a fictional Sony executive, consitutes IP infringement.

The ad in question turned up online early last month, as part of an ongoing Bridgestone campaign Lambert has been involved in for some time. The problem came when Bridgestone set up a customer rewards scheme which in part offered a free Wii to buyers of certain tyres, leading Lambert to be seen onscreen playing Mario Kart. 

Sony is suing for IP infringement, and has issued the following statement:

"Sony Computer Entertainment America filed a lawsuit against Bridgestone and Wildcat Creek, Inc. on September 11. The claims are based on violations of the Lanham Act, misappropriation, breach of contract and tortious interference with a contractual relationship. We invested significant resources in bringing the Kevin Butler character to life and he’s become an iconic personality directly associated with PlayStation products over the years. Use of the Kevin Butler character to sell products other than those from PlayStation misappropriates Sony’s intellectual property, creates confusion in the market, and causes damage to Sony."

Given the wording, it seems that Sony's chances of winning this one will seemingly depend on its ability to prove that Lambert was playing Kevin Butler in the offending Bridgestone ad, rather than simply a character who looks a lot like Kevin Butler (which would have been hard to avoid, given that he has Kevin Butler's face). Though logically that might also raise the issue of why "the Kevin Butler character" being in straight Bridgestone ads previous to this wasn't an issue. Sony's reaction is of course completely understandable, but as for the legal argument? We'll see.

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21 comments

  • Cyberninja - October 8, 2012 3:54 a.m.

    So in a ad where he didn't explicitly say he was Kevin Butler, they can sue him? wow Sony that's the best way to handle a situation, now you look bad and you probably lost the actor for good and he may be in ads just for competitors now which makes you lose even more money. Seriously if you are going to do BS like this you have to be giving him work almost daily or a steady check or he was going to need to find more work elsewhere.
  • moh82sy - October 8, 2012 4:02 a.m.

    Jerry Lawler ? I think you mean Jerry Lambert.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - October 8, 2012 6:10 a.m.

    Of course I do. I have no idea how my brain managed to autocorrect that for the entire story. I'm blaming lack of coffee for now.
  • DarthPunk - October 8, 2012 9:34 a.m.

    Watching too much wrasslin'
  • KnowYourPokemon - October 8, 2012 6:03 a.m.

    What the... I just... really Sony????? This is just so mind bogglingly stupid I can't...
  • Bloodstorm - October 8, 2012 7:05 a.m.

    So, now actors count as intellectual property? So because this guy got popular playing 'Kevin Butler' in Sony's Playstation ads, he is now their property, and can't play himself in any other commercial featuring a competing product, directly or indirectly as in this case? This is a great example of the gross misuse of our legal system. Law suites over an actor being an actor. It's like if Dreamworks sued Jack black for voicing a character in a Pixar movie. Ridiculous.
  • SentientSquidMachine - October 8, 2012 9:07 a.m.

    Actually it's more akin to the actress that plays 'Flo' in the Progressive auto insurnce commercials doin a State Farm commercial (if you're not american, youtube these commercials). Logical step by Sony.
  • Cyberninja - October 8, 2012 12:51 p.m.

    No because this isn't a Nintendo company its a company outside the game industry, so it would be like flo commenting on State Farm in a cooking commercial
  • Bloodstorm - October 9, 2012 7:36 a.m.

    What Cyberninja said. He was doing a commercial for Bridgestone tires, in which he was seen playing a Wii which was one of the prizes for something Bridgestone was doing. It's not really the same thing. Unless Sony has gotten into the tire business.
  • J-Fid - October 8, 2012 8:41 a.m.

    So I guess no Kevin Butler in the Sony Smash Bros. game? Darn...
  • LordZarlon - October 8, 2012 8:53 a.m.

    They never used his name in this ad. This is outrageous! There is legal precedence for performers appearing in a competing company's commercial or t.v. show and impersonating characters they have played before. In the mid-nineties Scott Hall and Kevin Nash left the WWF and appeared on WCW Monday Nitro acting like their former characters. They even said, "You know who we are and you know why we're here." They even acted like their former characters. The WWF sued WCW and LOST! This was an even more blatant example than the Bridgestone/Nintendo commercial because the performers in question referred to their old characters. None of the people in the commercial called Jerry Lambert Kevin Butler or referred to that character. This is just a waste of time and money.
  • ChiChiRocket - October 8, 2012 9:09 a.m.

    How dare he show that you can have fun on a system that isn't made by Sony!
  • JarkayColt - October 8, 2012 9:46 a.m.

    This is simultaneously unsurprising and mind-bogglingly absurd at the same time. I think it all boils down to what exactly Jerry Lambert's contract ruled out when he signed for the Sony Kevin Butler ad campaigns. You would think Sony would allow such a person to star in such an ad on the grounds that they do not appear in any other videogame related ads or promotions that would have otherwise caused character protrayal confusion (like the case is here). By signing a contract, such as is implied here, Mr Lambert would've had to at least relinquish a small amount of his freedom as an actor and willingly comply. So, if such a clause did exist, then Sony actually do have a shot at a case (not that I'd know anything about the intricacies of that). But they'll probably still lose, and hell, who even cares anyway? It's not like Sony were even putting him to use anymore.
  • CROZILLA - October 8, 2012 9:58 a.m.

    R.I.P. Kevin Butler
  • winner2 - October 8, 2012 11:02 a.m.

    A case of idiots being idiots fighting over the use of other idiots. Naw, it's pretty funny lol. Just seems a bit of a waste of time to me
  • Divine Paladin - October 8, 2012 11:30 a.m.

    Had they sued over something else, this could've worked, and Sony would've had a great case to make. They could've said that their brand was damaged because of the "Kevin Butler betrayed Sony" comments that exploded on the internet when this story broke, and they would have been able to make their case much more easily. Now they've gotta stretch just to make their case.
  • jackthemenace - October 8, 2012 2:03 p.m.

    Can Sony ever just NOT sue someone?
  • ranivus - October 9, 2012 12:36 a.m.

    You're thinking of Apple sir. Sony just screws up and gives away our private information.
  • spankyj25 - October 9, 2012 4 a.m.

    One has to assume that there is a clause in the contract that states that he can't be in a competing company's advertisements. Technically, he wasn't in a Nintendo ad, but he's in an ad with a Nintendo product being used as an incentive. We don't know the details of the "Kevin Butler" contract, but I don't blame Sony for the suit.

Showing 1-20 of 21 comments

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