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Sony sues Kevin Butler actor for breach of contract

Sony sues Kevin Butler actor for breach of contract

Mon 08 Oct 2012 7:39am GMT / 3:39am EDT / 12:39am PDT
AdvertisingLegal

Jerry Lambert appears in Nintendo Wii promotion for Bridgestone tires

Sony Computer Entertainment America is suing Jerry Lambert, the actor who plays fictional Sony exec Kevin Butler in PlayStation 3 ads, along with his company Wildcat Creek and tire company Bridgestone.

The issue appears to stem from an advert for Bridgestone which features Lambert in a promotion where customers can get a free Nintendo Wii - the ad has since been removed from Bridgestone's official YouTube account, according to postings on Neogaf.

"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," said Sony in a statement to VentureBeat.

"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."

Although Lambert isn't playing the character, it appears his association with a rival console manufacturer is enough for Sony to claim "misappropriation, breach of contract and tortious interference with a contractual relationship."

13 Comments

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

730 410 0.6
What?

So, by this reasoning he can never work in the industry for anyone else but SONY for the rest of his life? Surely his likeness is HIS IP, not SONYs and he's not even playing the character or claiming to be the character!

Stupid companies... Clever lawyers...

Posted:A year ago

#1

Scott Davis
Product Analyst

16 8 0.5
@James Prendergast
His contract most likely stated that he cannot appear in commercials using a competitors product during the time in which he is active as the Kevin Butler character for Sony.

Sony probably has a suite of Christmas commercials with Kevin Butler in that have already been produced and are ready to go out - hence why they've got a bit touchy with this one

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Scott Davis on 8th October 2012 9:44am

Posted:A year ago

#2

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

477 434 0.9
"tortuous interference with a contractual relationship"
The term you're look for is "tortious interference", not "tortuous", which sounds far more painful!

Edited 2 times. Last edit by John Bye on 8th October 2012 10:02am

Posted:A year ago

#3
You're right, John. I'm blaming autocorrect for that. It's almost as if those John Grisham books aren't enough legal training for me.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Matt Martin on 8th October 2012 10:08am

Posted:A year ago

#4

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

730 410 0.6
@Scott, that would be fair enough if he has an exclusivity agreement in the contract... but that's not what the statement they released says, is it?

"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," said Sony [snip]
"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."


This statement appears to conflate "Kevin Butler" with the actor who plays him.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

962 1,160 1.2
I'm sure he has a non-compete clause in his contract. It's rare to NOT have one in a major advertising job like that. Still, this is sad. The end of the Kevin Butler era.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Christopher Lee
Web Developer

5 0 0.0
It's a shame really. Sony's probably not throwing him enough bones for him to make a living. The Verizon "Can You Hear Me Now" guy or Jared the Subway sandwich guy probably made more than him to not have to look for other opportunities.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Andrew Jakobs
Lead Programmer

208 73 0.4
I understand Sony and I also think the actor would have had a clause in his contract that he cannot appear in an advertisment, which has products in the same line as the playstation line, for an ammount of time after the Kevin Butler character is retired (propably a few years). Were it a bridgestone commercial solely about tires, I don't think Sony would have sued..
I personally still think they should reinstate the Kevin Butler character as it is one of the best advertisementgadgets EVER.. There are many brands that use one kind of actor for their productline, so why not use Kevin Butler..

Posted:A year ago

#8

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

1,993 902 0.5
It's probably also a case of an actor having to work regularly and a good offer coming his way. Residuals (which I think diminish over time, as they did when I did my one TV commercial back in the 90's - I really need to try and track it down, as the tape I got vanished during a move) don't last forever, that's for sure.

Granted, it also doesn't bode well for Sony when your most popular fake spokesperson is doing ads for the competition's product.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Doug Paras

117 61 0.5
The argument could be made that he isn;t competing with Sony as the add is for a tire sompany that just happens to have a free Wii as part of the add.

Posted:A year ago

#10

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

765 997 1.3
And once again the Kevin Butler character makes me laugh....but for a different reason entirely. Sony should be glad that he didn't appear in a Microsoft commercial lol. But still he has become pretty popular for them so I think they should cancel the lawsuit and try to work this out so that he can still appear as their spokesperson. Because if they don't work it out you just know he's going to start doing regular Nintendo or Microsoft commercials and probably for much more money.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Craig Page
Programmer

381 216 0.6
Sony is justified in suing, they paid him to pretend to be a company executive in commercials, he can't go on and work with competitors.

But what I'd really like to know is how much better off Sony would be as a company if they promoted this actor into a real executive with them. It's not like he could do much worse than the actual Sony executives...

Posted:A year ago

#12

Igor M
Rebel Without a Cause

22 18 0.8
>But what I'd really like to know is how much better off Sony would be as a company if they promoted this actor into a real executive with them. It's not like he could do much worse than the actual Sony executives...

Ha-ha. Good point and totally agree, that company wouldn't be worse with him as an exec.

To me it look stupid that they didn't resolve this in private manner and went on to sue him - that doesn't do any good publicity for the company at all.

Posted:A year ago

#13

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