News Article

Bridgestone Responds to Sony's "Kevin Butler" Lawsuit

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

All because of a game of Mario Kart Wii

Yesterday we picked up on the news of an ongoing court case between Sony and the actor behind Kevin Butler or, to be completely accurate, the actor's production company and Bridgestone. Sony's basic complaint was that the actor Jerry Lambert, so commonly known for his work as fictional Sony executive Kevin Butler, was so well known as a representative for PS3 in particular that it violated a range of contract and trademark laws for him to appear in an advert promoting Wii.

After the initial reaction to the news of the lawsuit, further details are coming to light. For one thing, The Hollywood Reporter has looked into details and discovered that Jerry Lambert did have an exclusivity agreement to not promote products rivalling Sony's systems, but that it expired three days before the infamous Bridgestone advert first aired. Sony's contention is that Lambert first appeared in a Bridgestone advert in February 2012, so is citing that to get around the issue of the expired exclusivity contract. Bridgestone is naturally contesting this, specifically on the grounds that it's not Kevin Butler in the advert in any case, but merely the actor in a different role.

Mr. Lambert is one of the actors who appeared in the commercial as a Bridgestone engineer. Bridgestone denies that 'Kevin Butler' appears in the Bridgestone commercial discussed herein and thus denies that he speaks or does anything whatsoever in the commercial.

What is clear is that Lambert wasn't seen in the vicinity of a Wii until after the exclusivity ended — it wasn't actually a Wii advert, but highlighting a promotion to receive a Wii — but that lawyers will argue over contracts and the relevance of Lambert starting with Bridgestone before the Sony deal ended. Aside from legal complexities, the basic argument seems to ultimately be about whether Jerry Lambert is inextricably linked to the Kevin Butler character, and whether appearing near a Wii game damages Sony in a meaningful way. There seems to be something in it for Sony, as Bridgestone did after all pull down the offending advert after it realised what was happening, meaning it might not be as confident in its case as lawyer-bravado suggests.

All because of a deal to get a free Wii system; the madness continues.

[via hollywoodreporter.com, eurogamer.net]

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User Comments (70)

Hokori

#1

Hokori said:

I think Sony overreacting is more damaging to them then KEVIN BUTLER being next to a wii

Ernest_The_Crab

#2

Ernest_The_Crab said:

So what it seems like is Sony is trying to win on a technicality which isn't very strong to begin with?

Frankly I'm not surprised. I doubt Lambert wouldn't know the details of his own contract. Sounds more like an overreaction than anything else.

Boo_Buster

#3

Boo_Buster said:

With the way Sony is acting in this case and the way they are talking about the Wii U, (add on the PS Move, LBP Karting and All Stars Battle Royale - All direct rip-offs of Nintendo) I'm leaning towards telling them to shove that more than likely ridiculously expensive PS4 up there stinky bungholes. I'll enjoy the PS3 while it lasts though, I mean Ni no Kuni hasn't arrived yet :P

Robo-goose

#5

Robo-goose said:

Poor Lambert, can't even be seen near a Wii without getting sued by his former employer.

LittleKing

#7

LittleKing said:

His contract with them ended three days prior, no? So it boils down to Sony saying the actor is forever linked to the character, and therefore cannot appear in any rival ads ever. Plus, the ad was for TIRES not the Wii; it simply promised people free Wii's for buying tons of tires. So, the actor appears in a commercial indirectly promoting the Wii three days after his contract ended, and not as the character in Sony's ads.

Apparently, once you've ever participated in one of Sony's commercials, you can't even go NEAR a Nintendo product without getting sued. Even if you aren't appearing as the character in said commercials and your contract is up. Sony is basically claiming to own this guy's face.

DrDingus

#8

DrDingus said:

If Sony hadn't filed a lawsuit, I wouldn't have even known about that Bridgestone ad, as I'm sure is the case with most people. They are just calling more attention to it. Saying "HEY LOOK, IT'S KEVIN BUTLER PROMOTING A WII! LETS SUE HIM!" is a lot more damaging than their actor appearing near a Wii. Also, the second Lambert knew there would be a Wii involved, he should have just walked away. If you're the guy who's known almost exclusively for your role as "that Playstation guy," shouldn't it click that it's a bad idea to be in anything promoting direct competition? This whole situation is just a series of poor decisions from everybody involved.

LordJumpMad

#9

LordJumpMad said:

Poor Kevin Butler , he should have known better not to touch the evil, that is Nintendo.
I hope he gets the full Sony punishment!

Ryno

#10

Ryno said:

My question with all this is who is the genius at Bridgestone that thought it was a good idea to have a promotion for a soon to be obsolete system?

GameLord08

#13

GameLord08 said:

@HarmoKnight: It's been six years since the Wii was first released, and there are practically zero new releases coming out for it presently. You really think that it's just "us gamers" who are aware that the Wii is obsolete? News travels faster than that, even on non-gaming related channels.

On topic, I really believe Sony's actions are proving absurd. I understand that any company would go to drastic lengths to protect what is perceived to be their IP, but Jerry Lambert was clearly not portraying Kevin Butler in the promotion - he was an entirely different character.

Although, on Sony's side of things, I can understand their aggressiveness seeing the exact terms outlined in the contract; Jerry Lambert himself must not be seen promoting any other rival consoles. So, I suppose legally he is in breach of his contract. The only saving grace Lambert's got right now is that those terms had expired three days before anything went public - perfect timing. I still think the whole lawsuit is being overplayed, and possibly even the contract regulations, but hey, law's a crazy field.

Sylverstone

#15

Sylverstone said:

Sony's just shooting themselves in the foot.

Barely any new Vita games (with no price drop), no superslim PS3 at a lower price, it's just terrible.

Hokori

#16

Hokori said:

@Sylverstone I wonder if we'll SE PS games on 3DS eShop and WiiU eShop in a few years? I'd buy a TON of them If they were on eShop

WaLzgiStaff

#19

WaLzgi said:

So technically Sony can't sue them over that Mario Kart ad, but the one before it. Now a judge needs to decide if the first one was in violation of his contract. If not, then the case is gone...or it should be, unless the lawyers pull some tricks...which they will :P

daznsaz

#21

daznsaz said:

no hope,abandon hope and bob hope.bunch of knobs.should try and make money from selling decent stuff,not half -ed lawsuits.

ultraraichu

#23

ultraraichu said:

Hmm I wonder if this have anything to do with the Sony fans going on the forums saying stuff like "wtf is Sony/Kevin Butler think letting this happen, traitors".

Granted Nintendo fans probably egged them on with comments like "ha even Kevin think Nintendo is better with games,that why he quit Sony", and the Xbox fans just read and watch in the shadows.

Drewroxsox

#24

Drewroxsox said:

This is really stupid. Unless it says otherwise in his contract, the guy who is Kevin Butler can go and work for any other company he wants to. In the commercial, it doesn't even say that his name is Kevin, so I don't see what the lawsuit is about. Sony doesn't own his face and voice...

Chunky_Droid

#26

Chunky_Droid said:

I doubt this would have happened had Jerry not played Mario Kart in a later commercial.

Also, it'd be interesting to see whether in the contract it states that he can't appear in any other ads other than Sony, or just competitors' products. I got the notion that it was the latter, meaning it would more than likely be ok to appear in a Bridgestone ad, as last time I checked, Bridgestone has never affected sales of Sony products.

Tasuki

#28

Tasuki said:

You know I would be interested to hear what Jerry has to say about all this.

BlatantlyHeroic

#31

BlatantlyHeroic said:

The months when the contract was still on, no one had seen him near the Wii system except those who were making the commercial. When the commercial was released, the contract was over. Morals, ethics, ideals, they should be held above the wants of greedy companies.

LittleKing

#32

LittleKing said:

@Andrewroxsox There was a clause. He was not to promote competing goods. However, the contract came to a close three days before the ads appeared on TV. The only thing they have him for is that he started work on the ads a little bit before the contract ended.

Drewroxsox

#33

Drewroxsox said:

@Metabble_King oh, I just read the article, but I wrote my comment without reading this because I already found out about the lawsuit this morning. I still think that the actor is in the clear, because the ad didn't air til after his contract was over.

True_Hero

#34

True_Hero said:

Poor Mr. Lambert. Something tells me that he's not giving Sony a "BEST BOSS" coffee mug this year...

warvad

#35

warvad said:

Hahahaha, what a horrible company Sony is.

It just shows how low they've sunk: suing their own commercial image.

Linkuini

#36

Linkuini said:

At first I thought Sony might've been within their rights here, but if Lambert's contract had already expired when this happened, then it looks like the whole thing was as silly as it sounded after all. That's never good for a reputation.

nindocrash

#40

nindocrash said:

@wing0black that's just hateful, Sony has shamed
the name of gaming, completely!

@wing0black:
"Lik-Sang.com
Out of Business due to Multiple Sony Lawsuits
Tue Oct 24 2006 21:58:51 Hong Kong Time - Corporate Info"

Sir_Deadly

#41

Sir_Deadly said:

Is Sony this broke that they have to convert to a lawsuit to get money? Dirty Sony! Very dirty!

Bankai

#42

Bankai said:

Armchair 'experts' are JUST AWESOME. Whoever needs lawyers any more. We should just ask Nintendolife for their balanced and informed judgements on all matters.

Bankai

#44

Bankai said:

@HarmoKnight If it was genuinely unfair then the courts will throw it out. "Unfair according to some dude that hasn't read the precise wording of the contract and doesn't have a degree in law," is not really a perspective of strength.

Gamer83

#45

Gamer83 said:

@HarmoKnight

Couldn't agree more and it's further evidence that Sony is run by a bunch pea-brained morons. You'd think with all the bad publicity this company has had since about 2006 that they'd try and change but no, this is an immature and stupid overreaction, period, end of discussion. And I don't say this as somebody who hates Sony, I actually really like the Playstation brand and want to see it stick around but Sony is doing everything in its power to run itself right into the ground. Get these imbeciles running the show out and get some real people who have an ounce of humanity in them in there to take over and turn this show around.

Bankai

#46

Bankai said:

@Gamer83 You're right. Sony, a company of 162,000 employees, is run by a bunch of pea-brained morons.

I bet Gamer83 with his wealth of management experience would be able to do a far better job.

Once again. Armchair experts. Always reckon they know more than the actual experts.

Hokori

#47

Hokori said:

Still it's a very dumb reason to sue, and I've seen you defend "others" when they obviously ripped off Nintendo

Bankai

#48

Bankai said:

When. HarmoKnight. When have I ever defended another company or individual actually stealing IP from Nintendo? Find me one genuine example in any of my posts on NintendoLife (or anywhere else on the Internet, ever) and I will happily apologise to you.

Here's the difference between you and I. I actually have qualifications in media law. I know what I'm talking about. I would never defend plagiarism or patent infringement. In fact, I hate the very thought of either.

Your idea of both is "did Nintendo do something similar? Yes? STEALING."

VincentV

#50

VincentV said:

@TheRavingTimes Sucks for Sony like being betrayed in an ironic hilarious way; on the other hand, Lambert's relations w/ Sony are a bit shaky. I lived those PS3 ads though - they're hilarious.

Zombie_Barioth

#51

Zombie_Barioth said:

Not to start an argument but whats the point in coming into a news blog on a gaming site knowing full well most people posting won't know anything about the subject at hand and complaining about armchair experts? Nobody here is telling the lawyers how to do their jobs, only sharing their opinions on the matter.

I understand Sony's concern but I think they're jumping the gun a bit by assuming people will automatically think Kevin Butler is playing a Wii. I've never seen anyone foolish enough to think their favorite actor/actress is playing the same character in every role, except maybe little kids.

Ernest_The_Crab

#52

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@HarmoKnight @WhiteKnight

Play nice you two. I'd hate to have to call in the teachers to give you both detention.

WhiteKnight you may bring up some fair points but you really got to work on your delivery. Your attitude makes your arguments rougher than they should be.

I've almost had a full day to mull about this and something does seem to be odd about this case (other than Bridgestone replacing Lambert in the commercial). Lambert himself doesn't seem to have commented on the case which strikes me as being strange especially if he really is completely or mostly free of guilt in this case. Of course, he could just be busy off doing something else.

Bankai

#53

Bankai said:

@Zombie_Barioth Complaining? No. Setting the record straight. Too many people seem to think that just because they can voice an opinion that 1) it makes them right, and 2) they're entitled to be taken seriously.

No, and no. If people were more concerned about being factually correct, than simply being about to say anything and hiding behind it as 'having an opinion', the whole world would be in a far better place.

Bankai

#54

Bankai said:

@ThePillowGolem I've tried speaking reasonably with people in the past. The problem with being reasonable is that it only works when the other side of the debate is also being reasonable. With certain people that's just become a completely pointless exercise.

If you are a frequent visitor to the forums you'd see that when people are actually interested in being engaging and reasonable, so am I.

jkshaz

#56

jkshaz said:

@WhiteKnight Lol......you couldn't resist could you. Like an addict. Your manner of addressing those (probably plebs to your thinking) on the other topic seemed anything but reasonable. It it upsets you that much maybe you should avoid it.

True_Hero

#58

True_Hero said:

@WhiteKnight
Yes. The people here are not law experts. We get it. That doesn't mean that you have to be so rough on them. Be courteous when correcting. As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. :)
@ThePillowGolem
Yes, I do find it odd that Mr. Lambert has not said anything about this issue. I wonder...

WesCash

#59

WesCash said:

@jkshaz, @Geonjaha and @The_Other_M are right.
@WhiteKnight: If you want to make a point and be taken seriously, you can't be talking down to the people you are addressing. That's not how you present a persuasive argument. Intelligence alone does not command respect.
And just because people aren't experts on a subject, that shouldn't prevent the discussion of it. Everyone's entitled to have their say. That's one of the best things about posting and reading comments on NL and elsewhere.

Geonjaha

#60

Geonjaha said:

@WesCash - I'm sorry were you talking to the three of us, or WhiteKnight? Because you seem to have gotten everything the wrong way round.

Jaco

#65

Jaco said:

Bridgestone is not a rival company to Sony (unless Sony makes tires) so Mr. Lambert is fine in that sense. also the contract ended with Sony so he could do what he wanted and the advertisement wasn't directly for Nintendo, its just a promotion from Bridgestone. Sony is overreacting to this and its making them look like little kids who complain to their parents because something didn't go their way.

jarreboum

#66

jarreboum said:

"an exclusivity agreement to not promote products rivalling Sony's systems"
Breaking news: Sony is starting a new tyre business!

[it should be "not to promote" instead of "to not promote" in the news]

theblackdragonAdmin

#67

theblackdragon said:

@WhiteKnight: Look, we get that you're not a fan of the Great Unwashed popping off and having their say whenever they please, but we sorta encourage that kind of thing here at Nintendo Life. If you could stop jumping down people's throats just for stating how they feel about something, it would be greatly appreciated; some of your statements in both this and our other articles about the Sony vs. 'Kevin Butler' lawsuit have crossed the line of civility tbqh and are venturing into the 'downright insulting' range. :(

jkshaz

#69

jkshaz said:

@WesCash: I will not deny that the points brought up that actually pertain to the the topic are good, thought out and at least seemingly educated points (I am indeed one of the insidious common folk on law). However, I could do w/o the extracurricular on those points.

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