The character portrayed in a series of ads may be played by actor Jerry Lambert, but he's definitely not "Kevin Butler." That's according to Bridgestone Tires, which is facing a lawsuit from Sony over the use of its intellectual property.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bridgestone claims that Lambert's role was too minor to be akin to Sony's character. "Mr. Lambert is one of the actors who appeared in the commercial as a Bridgestone engineer," a statement from Bridgestone reads. "Bridgestone denies that 'Kevin Butler' appears in the Bridgestone commercial discussed herein and thus denies that he speaks or does anything whatsoever in the commercial."
Even more boldly, Bridgestone denies that Sony has protectable property in the character at all. It plans to fight the suit by claiming that Sony did not register any mark on "Kevin Butler," that the character has not acquired secondary meaning, and that there is no likelihood of confusion. Further, the ads only aired after the agreement between Sony and Lambert's company expired, though Sony alleges that he began working with Bridgestone "in or around February 2012" while still under SCEA contract.
The crux of the case seems to be whether consumers could confuse one character for the other. That could have broad-reaching implications on actors portraying regular characters, especially if they're as successful as Lambert was in creating an identifiable mascot.