Sony Sues ‘Kevin Butler’ Over Bridgestone Commercial
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 16:10
Sony is not very happy with Wildcat Creek Inc. and its owner, Jerry Lambert. They are so unhappy, in fact, that they’ve decided to enter into a lawsuit with the both of them.
Who are they, you’re probably asking? Well, Lambert is none other than the actor that played Kevin Butler, the star character from Sony’s wildly popular “VP of Everything” ad campaign. Wildcat Creek Inc. is the production company that Lambert owns and was behind a recent stint of ads for the Bridgestone tire company. In the advertisements, Lambert can be seen playing a Nintendo Wii while a Bridgestone technician extols the virtues of the company’s Nintendo cross-promotion.
Sony claims that Lambert was using a character contractually tied to the Playstation brand to talk up a competitor’s product, hence the lawsuit.
Now, the one nagging issue here is that at no point is Lambert’s character referred to as Kevin Butler in any manner. Sure, he may be acting in a similarly exuberant manner while playing a video game, something that the Kevin Butler character was wont to do, but there’s precious little hard evidence of a direct connection between the ad and Sony’s campaign. That being said, if the implied connection were to be deemed strong enough, it’s not impossible to see a judge coming down on Sony’s side in this.
Regardless, Bridgestone has since pulled that version of the ad from television and replaced it with an edited commercial sans Butler. The tire company is, of course, denying that Lambert’s two roles are in any way connected.
“Mr. Lambert is one of the actors who appeared in the commercial as a Bridgestone engineer,” Bridgestone said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “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.” Bridgestone will reportedly fight the suit on the grounds that Sony does not actually own a trademark for the Kevin Butler character, and that “the character has not acquired secondary meaning and that there is no likelihood of confusion among consumers.”
Sony had until last Friday to either proceed with the case or let it drop.
Sony issued their own statement explaining just how hurt they are about Kevin Butler’s defection.
“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.”
The moral of the story seems to be that if Sony’s public relations team offers you a job in one of its commercials, just remember that you’re never allowed to work for anyone else again.