Sony suing 'Kevin Butler' actor

Sony has filed a lawsuit against Bridgestone Tires and advertising firm Wildcat Creek, for actor and WC president Jerry Lambert's appearances as a character similar to Kevin Butler.

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As corporate characters go, Sony's Kevin Butler has been a breakout star. The character has been brought out on stage during press events and even made game cameos. But part of being a fake executive means you're beholden to the Sony brand, and the company is holding the actor to that commitment with legal action.

This tale of legal happenings is a bit roundabout. Actor Jerry Lambert, who plays Kevin Butler, is the president of the advertising firm Wildcat Creek, Inc. Last February, Wildcat began promotions for Bridgestone Tires, and Lambert personally appeared in the ads. This didn't seem to make waves until just recently, when Bridgestone began a "GameOn" promotion that offers a Wii console as one of the prizes. In one ad, Lambert appears with a Wii and a copy of Mario Kart Wii.

This prompted Sony to file a lawsuit against Bridgestone and Wildcat Creek on September 11, claiming that it violated their intellectual property of the character Kevin Butler. Sony cited "violations of the Lanham Act, misappropriation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with a contractual relationship" in a statement to VentureBeat. "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."

You can see a brief moment of Lambert in a Bridgestone commercial at the end of this Super Bowl spot, to judge for yourself how similar he is to the Kevin Butler character.

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  • reply
    October 8, 2012 9:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Sony suing 'Kevin Butler' actor.

    Sony has filed a lawsuit against Bridgestone Tires and advertising firm Wildcat Creek, for actor and WC president Jerry Lambert's appearances as a character similar to Kevin Butler.

    • reply
      October 8, 2012 9:09 AM

      hhaha, this is hilarious. Talk about bitting the hand that feeds you. This guy does wonder to the Sony image.

      • Zek legacy 10 years
        reply
        October 8, 2012 9:25 AM

        Yeah, how dare he show his face on television again for some other company. That face is Sony's property now.

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      October 8, 2012 9:19 AM

      I'd say they are going to have a hard time proving that infringes on the Kevin Butler character.

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      October 8, 2012 9:25 AM

      So in essence, Sony are filing a lawsuit against Jerry Lambert for likeness rights? If this actually goes in Sony's favour, Holiday Inn should research Sony's commercials and sue him as well.

      Completely ridiculous.

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      October 8, 2012 9:28 AM

      John Fogerty sounds too much like John Fogerty!

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      October 8, 2012 9:56 AM

      "No one is more authentic than Kevin Butler!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVMnesyAsjQ#t=05m38s

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      October 8, 2012 10:04 AM

      I think this one comes down to the contract. We won't be able to read it unless it goes live during discovery, so until then it's a guessing game.

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        October 8, 2012 10:40 AM

        Yeah, not to be Internet Armchair Lawyer here, but if the actor is under contract (or, depending on how the thing works, the company he's president of) then Sony may have a case.

        Another case that comes to mind is the one Bette Midler did back in the 80's. When she shot down Ford to do a car commercial, Ford's advertising agency went and found her vocal coach who sounded more or less identical to Midler and then had her sing a Midler song for the commercial. Midler sued, and while the case against Ford was dismissed, she won against the agency for $400K.

        http://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/31/business/y-r-ordered-to-pay-midler.html

        (the story there identifies the real singer as one of her backup singers but I've read other stories that peg her as the vocal coach).

        So you can successfully be sued for misappropriating someone's likeness.

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      October 8, 2012 10:14 AM

      lol the phrase "You really couldn't make this up" comes to mind.

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      October 8, 2012 10:29 AM

      I was wondering if that was going to happen

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        October 8, 2012 11:12 AM

        Yeah dude is commercials with a Wii that wasn't going to end well.

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      October 8, 2012 11:11 AM

      wait

      fucking seriously?

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      October 8, 2012 11:31 AM

      I wonder what his contract says. So whacky.

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      October 8, 2012 11:42 AM

      It probably depends on what the contract says, but most "spokesperson" contracts require you to not take any other jobs promoting a competing brand until a while after the campaign is over. Not sure why everyone is automatically jumping on Sony, it seems like a pretty stupid move by Mr. Lambert.

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        October 8, 2012 11:59 AM

        Because armed with only the basic facts and no knowledge of the law (Sony hires actor to play a role in a commercial then later sues him for a different commercial) it does seem like ridiculous behavior from an already somewhat unpopular company.

        And in the "FRIST POST!!1!" culture of Internet message boards, the fastest gun in the west wins.

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          October 8, 2012 12:02 PM

          Yeah, you really have to know the details for these kind of things, because so many areas of law are potentially implicated.

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        October 8, 2012 12:14 PM

        That's probably what it is. Back when Pierce Brosnan was playing James Bond his contract stated that he couldn't appear in a full tux in any other movie. So that's why in The Thomas Crowne Affair his bow tie was undone, his shirt unbuttoned, and he had the jacket over his shoulder.

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