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Sony vs Kevin Butler: actor sued for breach of contract

Sunday, 7th October 2012 23:47 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Sony has filed suit against Jerry Lambert, the actor who plays fictional PlayStation executive Kevin Butler in a series of popular ads campaigns.

As spotted by Neogaf users, Sony is suing both Wildcat Creek Inc, a company owned by Lambert, and Bridgestone, in whose ads Lambert has appeared in a quite Kevin Butler-like role.

In a statement given to VentureBeat, Sony claimed Lambert is in breach of contract.

“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.”

Lambert has appeared in a number of online and TV ads for the PlayStation brand, including the It Only Does Everything and Long Live Play campaigns. He’s also appeared live on stage at E3 and is regularly spotted roaming the social media wilds. A recent run of Bridgestone ads have featured Lambert in a role displaying similarly distinctive mannerisms and attitudes; some have been edited in the wake of Sony’s legal pursuit.

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32 Comments

  1. DSB

    I don’t think Sony really wants that kind of blowback.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. j1015

    F*ck off $ony! Defend this ps3fanboy!

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Ireland Michael

    Good job ruining one of the few good ideas you had this generation, Sony.

    Nice move.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Sini

    i do not see links to the commercials he did with bridgestone in this story.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. lexph3re

    It’s simple. He broke an legally binding agreement and now he and bridgestone are being sued. Bridgestone stole the likeness of a copyrighted character now they will have to defend themselves in court.

    End of story? Don’t sign on the dotted line of things you don’t read through.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Mike W

    Come on guys, this happens all the time with companies. I don’t know why it’s such a fucking big deal when Sony does it.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. lexph3re

    Because everything is a big deal when its about Sony. They are the devils of the gaming industry and only they can truely commit crimes against humanity and…urm…. gaming

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Hershel Linkton

    @4
    Old: http://www.gonintendo.com/?mode=viewstory&id=184686
    New: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9WRGjODZDQ

    #8 2 years ago
  9. LuLshuck

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0qf1f3KfB8&feature=relmfu

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Bilzac

    To be honest, I think it is pretty fair for Sony to do what it is doing. I am sure there was some clause in his contract to now promote competing products. I know he didn’t do it directly, but Bridgestone’s commercial clearly showed him participating in their Wii Game On commercial.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Ireland Michael

    Except he’s not playing Kevin Butler in the Nintendo ad.

    You can’t sue the actor for looking like himself. Christ.

    If his contract says he can’t promote other company’s product, fine, but that’s not what they’re saying. They’re saying it’s about the Kevin Butler character.

    This is typical Sony. If you can’t beat them, punch them.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. lexph3re

    To do a infringement of a copy righted character all you have to do IS LOOK like that character.

    And, with him portraying a goofy energetic character promoting a game it indeed did give people the impression that Kevin Butler is promoting a competitors product.

    It’s proven all over the net by the community who make jokes about it. And, it is also proven in bridgestones withdrawal of the characters portrayal of the character in the commercial.

    Has nothing to do with a “Typical Sony”.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. jonahfalcon

    Problem here is that the ad agency is liable, not Jerry Lambert, and incidentally, Sony signed a contract with the ad agency not Lambert. Doubly, if the ad agency owns the rights to the character (which is why there’s been no Kevin Butler ads since Sony dumped the agency), Sony has no say at all.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. jonahfalcon

    “He broke an legally binding agreement”. I’m a SAG actor. If an ad agency owns a character, they own it. Not the company.

    Furthermore, if there’s no Faith Dane clause, Sony can triply sit and spin.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. jonahfalcon

    Oh, and one more thing: who cares if Sony has legal rights to it? If Sony wants to go down this path, then gamers have every right to call out Sony if they like, like boycotting Sony. That’s THEIR right.

    If Sony wins, it’ll be a sort of Pyrrhic victory that both Nintendo and Microsoft will mock, not to mention the blowback they’ll get.

    I seriously doubt this will go to court. Sony will write a check as soon as possible to settle this if the PR gets too bad.

    Or, and by the way, there is one thing else: Fair Use.

    You can bet Mr. Lambert will start doing the role as “Wevin Wutler” or some parody of the character as revenge. And Sony can’t do a thing to stop it.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Dragon246

    How many people here know how law works before bashing sony?

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Ali

    So, they are saying that they own him ?

    #17 2 years ago
  18. polygem

    #15+1

    they cannot win this in any way. even IF they win in court. they have to pay by losing reputation. they would´ve been clever not to start this.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. CycloneFox

    It is clear, that Sony looses reputation this way with some people.

    But @the people trying to bash sony: Should they just acquiesce in this?

    People would see this ad and make fun of Sony, saying “look. Even Kevin Butler doesn’t believe in the PlayStation. haha”, anyway. So yes, Sony is right in saying, this is causing damage to the PlayStation brand.
    Of course, Kevin Butler is an actor and so he must play alot of different roles. And I can totally understand if he would say, he didn’t notice, that he already broke a copyright.
    But there are laws which define if a used character looks too similar to a copyrighted character, or not. And if you ask me, it is aggravating here, to have a very similar character, unsing a similar vers in a similar content, for a direct rivalry product.

    @15: Why would someone boycot sony now? Because they didn’t wimp out? It would be much worse, if they just put up with it.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. fearmonkey

    Kevin Butler was the best thing that Sony had this generation as far as advertisement or PR, and then they do this……

    Sony really is in self destruct mode….geez…

    I agree with Jonah and Michael on this, He didnt act like Kevin Butler on that commerical, it wasnt cocky, arrogant, extremely self assured, etc. All we saw was the actor looking like himself playing a bit part in a commercial that featured the Wii. Jerry lambert’s face isnt copyrighted, he didnt a pin on his coat that said Kevin Butler, he didnt talk or act like Kevin Butler, so Sony is going to lose.

    Sony should have handled this privately and not raised a big fuss, now they will probably ruin the cool character that they spent money developing.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. OrbitMonkey

    Jeez Sony stop suing people man, who you think you are? Apple?

    #21 2 years ago
  22. roadkill

    LOL!! I love console world! It’s full of such outstanding people..

    edit: Butler this is what happens when you sign a contract with a devil. :)

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Dragon246

    Well, first of all, sony IS NOT SUING jerry lambert, they are suing the ad company, which is completely correct as they purposely used his persona as a tool for wii campaign(not directly, but implied)
    Second, they are solving this case outside of court, as said by sony on 26th sep 2012.
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-10-08-sony-sues-kevin-butler-actor-for-advertising-the-wii

    #23 2 years ago
  24. KrazyKraut

    Yeah the court file is from 11th September. So its somehow done.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Da Man

    Poor Sony, even VP of bullshit department left you.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. ps3fanboy

    i was shocked when i did see this guy go to nintendo… and this is not acceptable at all. its like sony would have used sonic to promote their ps3…. so sony have my blessing to sue the hell outta this idiot.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. Clupula

    It’s completely within Sony’s rights to sue his agency. I know that to a lot of people here as long as Sony does something, it’s evil, and if Nintendo does it, it’s wonderful, but in the real world, there’s such a thing as breach of contract. It’s pretty obvious that he was in the Nintendo ad as a winking reference to the Kevin Butler ads and that is a pretty open and shut case.

    I wish some people would get over their system bias once in a while and look at the actual facts.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Clupula

    @25 – You know what’s funny? The fact that you said this shows that Sony have a case, because this is EXACTLY what they are saying his appearance in the commercial did to their reputation.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. DSB

    A lot of people talking about bias, while openly displaying their own.

    Sony isn’t a God, it’s not a person, and it’s not your religion. I think you can stand to hear a bit of criticism here and there, without having to alert the Human Rights Commission.

    Whether or not Sony are legally entitled to sue is kinda irrelevant. Fact is they’ve spent millions of dollars building up this media personality, and now they have the chance to either live with the fact that he might not be a lot of use to them anymore, or spend even more money turning that uniquely positive symbol for their business into a negative one.

    They don’t own Lambert as a comedian, they don’t own his style, they don’t own his appearance.

    No one comes close to having a symbol like Butler this gen. Sony does. They can choose to keep it that way, and continue to allow people to watch those commercials for the hilarity, or they can choose to rally their litigators, and make sure everybody thinks of a nasty lawsuit in which an entire corporation went after one actor. The latter option has no winners.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. ManuOtaku

    I dont know how laws work in the US, but here if someone is doing the accusation and/or prosecution, like sony is doing here, they need to have proofs that the actor is indeed portraying the Kevin Buttler character owned by sony (asuming there is some clauses on the contract indicating this or a copyright from sony to the character),and doing it without any shadow of doubt, and if this the case, i mean that the law process, works this way on the US too like it does here, it will be really hard to prove IMHO.

    And i think Sony is under their right to protect their creations, and if their creations are used for other purposses, especially for their rivals, but they also need to consider if their property was indeed used without any doubt, and that the actor was not portraying himself while doing the advertisement of other products, because if they cannot prove it 100%, then it will do it more harm than good to them, because of the big corporation messing with the little guy.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. Joe Musashi

    Reading comprehension is hard for some, it seems.

    JM

    #31 2 years ago
  32. fuchikoma

    Of course they are suing. In this, and countless other industries, there are contract clauses to keep someone from working for a competitor too soon after their contract. If you design a product, then turn around and make a competing product with what you learned; if you write software and turn around and use a similar design in a similar competing product; sometimes even if you manage a project and then try to work at a company that is running a similar project, you can often be found in breach of contract. Of course a spokesperson would not be allowed to immediately go and directly advertise a direct competitor’s product, even if they are not using a trademarked character name to do so.

    Video gaming usually seems quite lax about this, but this should not be a surprise. It’s like if Terry Crews (Old Spice guy) did a Right Guard commercial.

    #32 2 years ago

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