Sony has settled its dispute with Kevin Butler actor Jerry Lambert over is appearance in a Bridgestone tyre advert.
In September 2012 Sony sued Bridgestone and Jerry Lambert after a US telly ad showed Lambert advertising tyres by playing the Nintendo Wii, which customers could receive as part of a gaming promotion. The ad was later edited to remove Lambert.
Sony, citing a breach in US trademark law, claimed the ad “depicts a Bridgestone employee who consumers reasonably perceive to be Kevin Butler promoting the Nintendo Wii, a product that competes directly with SCEA’s PlayStation products”.
To back up its claim, Sony said Kevin Butler had appeared in more than 30 ads, had a presence on Twitter and Facebook and had waved his arms about on stage at E3 pimping PlayStation. A Kevin Butler costume was available for LittleBigPlanet Karting as a pre-order bonus.
Sony continued: “With the intent of unfairly capitalising on the consumer goodwill generated by Kevin Butler, Bridgestone has used and is using the same or confusingly similar character, played by the same actor, to advertise its products or services in the commercial.”
Responding, Bridgestone insisted Kevin Butler did not appear in its ads at all, “and thus denies that he speaks or does anything whatsoever in the commercial.”
Sony also claimed Lambert was in breach of contract. The contract between Sony and Wildcat Creek, Lambert’s company, was entered into on 7th August 2009 and contained an exclusivity clause that prevented Lambert from working for PlayStation competitors, such as Nintendo. The contract expired at the end of August 2012. The Bridgestone ads appeared on TV three days later. Sony said Lambert started work for Bridgestone in February 2012 while still under contract with SCEA.
The court fight went dark following the news, but now Lambert has settled with Sony Computer Entertainment America.
According to the settlement, spotted by MediaPost, Lambert admitted his contract with Sony prevented him from promoting or endorsing competing game systems, and he admitted confusion was created in the minds of some consumers who believed he was playing Kevin Butler in the Bridgestone ads. He has agreed not to appear in any ad or promotion that mentions “any other video game or computer entertainment system or video game company” for a period of two years.
The Kevin Butler character remains property of Sony, as you’d expect, and Lambert can’t play the character without Sony’s say so. For the first two years Lambert is able to do video game ads again, he must give Sony prior notice and details of any video game ad he wishes to work on so the PlayStation manufacturer “can assess whether or not Lambert’s intended performance violates [Sony’s] rights in the Kevin Butler character”.
This settlement applies to Lambert and Sony only. Sony and Bridgestone are still duking it out in the US District Court for the Northern District of California over the issue.