Sony, Bridgestone In Court Over 'Kevin Butler' Ad Character

Sony Computer Entertainment and Bridgestone Tire have gone to court over ads that both companies have featured with the actor Jerry Lambert.

Last month, Sony sued Bridgestone for poaching the “Kevin Butler” character that has been prominent in some 30 PlayStation spots that have aired since 2009. Sony also sued Wildcat Creek, the company that represents Lambert.

The Sony suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, focuses on an ad that Bridgestone aired in September on various TV networks including TNT, FX and ESPN that offered customers a Nintendo Wii system for buying a set of Bridgestone tires. The problem, per Sony, is that the Bridgestone ad features Lambert, who is seen testing a Nintendo game and speaking “excitedly about the Nintendo Wii” game system.

While Bridgestone argues that Lambert portrays a Bridgestone employee in the commercial, Sony alleges that enough “confusion” is created that consumers would conclude that Lambert is portraying “Kevin Butler” in the Bridgestone commercial, in violation of the agreement that Sony struck with Lambert’s agency that prohibits him from promoting PlayStation competitors.

According to Sony, it also owns the “Kevin Butler” character in perpetuity and Bridgestone is guilty of trademark infringement by using Lambert in a role that could be confused by consumers as the Butler character.

In addition to trademark infringement, Sony alleges unfair competition, misappropriation of intellectual property and breach of contract.

Last week Bridgestone denied the charges in a court filing insisting that Lambert has created a different character for Bridgestone -- as a Bridgestone engineer -- in ads that have appeared since February of 2012.  The company said it “acted in good faith,” and that there is “no likelihood of consumer confusion” about the two different characters portrayed by Lambert. Lambert's contract with Sony was in effect through Aug. 31, 2012.

Wildcat Creek, meanwhile, has been granted an extension until early November to reply to the Sony lawsuit.

 
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