Sony is suing Kevin Butler, the PlayStation 3 Vice President of Everything. Well, technically, the gaming company is suing Jerry Lambert, the actor who plays the executive, over a recent bit of advertising he did for Bridgestone Tyres.
Lambert is an actor as well as an ad-man, appearing in all sorts of tv shows, films and telemovies as a fatherly figure. He’s not in trouble for working with a company that’s not Sony.
On the surface, there’s no conflict of interest between a games company and a tyre company. They promote totally different products, and while many people use both, they’re hardly competitive. In fact, Lambert has been appearing in Bridgestone ads since February of this year.
So why is Lambert in trouble over this particular ad? …because Bridgestone is running a campaign where, if you buy a complete set of tyres, you can win a Nintendo Wii – and the Wii is in direct competition with the PlayStation 3.
Dan Race, senior director of corporate communications at Sony explains to GamesBeat:
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.
…so the problem is that people may become confused when they see “Kevin Butler” in an ad for a rival company – a problem that’s only made worse by Lambert acting in a typically Butleresque manner mid-advertisement, and essentially playing the same character in a different uniform.
That little detail has resulted in Sony filing at least a couple of lawsuits: One against Bridgestone Tyres, one against Lambert, and one against Wildcat Creek, Inc – the advertising company Lambert runs.
It looks like Bridgestone (and Lambert, presumably), realised that something was up before the ad became too widespread – the video in question has been removed from the official Bridgestone YouTube page, and Lambert has been completely edited out of the promotion shown on air.
We’ll keep an eye on this – a court date has been set for October 15th.