Actor Settles With Sony In Kevin Butler Case

VP of settling cases.

This might come as a shock to you but Kevin Butler isn’t a real person. No, really. He was a character, created by a savvy advertising team and played (with aplomb) by Jerry Lambert. He appeared in over 30 adverts for PlayStation and replaced their increasingly bizarre campaigns with a likeable face and a sense of tongue-in-cheek self awareness that many of us connected with.

And then the Butler ad campaign drew to a close and the VP of Amusing Job Titles was sent packing. Lambert, though, was obviously still a working actor. He went on, just three days after his contract with Sony expired, to appear in an advert for Bridgestone in which he could be seen playing on a Wii. To many of us, the game-buying community, it looked like Kevin Butler was now joyfully playing a Wii.

Sony filed a lawsuit against the actor, claiming that his face was so closely associated with PlayStation that this new endorsement of the Wii would be confusing to gamers.

That lawsuit has now concluded with a settlement between Sony and Lambert that will preclude the actor from appearing in any adverts featuring videogames for the next two years. In addition, after those two years, he’ll let Sony know if he’s appearing playing games in enough time for them to assess whether his performance violates their “rights in the Kevin Butler character.”

Kevin Butler is a trademark of Sony and the company claimed that Lambert’s appearance with a Wii was a misappropriation of their intellectual property. The case was settled out of court.

Source: MediaPost

15 Comments

  1. Really liked the KB ads, easily the best thing Sony did this generation even if they restricted it to US only.

    Weird this case happened, if I was an actor I’d be reticent about working with Sony, seeing as they want to essentially own your face, even on projects aired after your contract ends & exclusivity period expires.

    • Part of his contract with Sony was, apparently, a clause that excluded him from advertising other video games after he left them. The Bridgestone ad wasn’t that but the argument is that it was potentially confusing.

      • Bridgestone ad aired 3 days after exclusivity expired, downside for the Lambert is that he obviously worked with them during the exclusivity period which is wrong, but a further 2 years exclusivity, really?

        So he signed a 3 year deal with them, but ends up locked in for 5 years, for appearing in a tyre commercial, albeit playing a rival console.

        Bridgestone did later edit him out so they know it was wrong, but still what’s he supposed to do… wear a mask because he was unfortunate enough to deal with Sony?

        Do people get confused when Ryan Gosling is a getaway driver one moment & then the next a 1940’s gangster?

      • Yes he should be locked in for 5 years. Actually he should be locked in for life. As you’re so keen to point out CC – Sony is the Devil – and when you dance with the devil you don’t get to pick the tune.

      • I don’t understand – An actor isn’t the character.

        Except in your mind, obviously.

      • Its important to note that he was in several different Bridgestone commercials, it wasn’t as if he was hired to exclusively play a wii in only that add.

    • I don’t entirely disagree, but Lambert cannot have missed the significance of his character to the Playstation brand (see E3 2010!!) and the damage appearing with a competitors console could create.

      Queue the old adage about never burning your bridges.

      • Although apparently Bridges made of Stone don’t burn… so… hmm. :)

  2. I can’t believe Sony got their way in this case. It’s quite scary that a company can forbid an actor to appear in any commercials that involve some kind of video gaming for two years after the actual contract ran out. I personally believe Sony are overstepping their rights but obviously at least one judge agreed with them…

    • No different to not working for or taking your “old” clients with you when you leave a company. It’s about them looking after their interests and you sign up for it in the contract.

      To be fair, this time was not so clear cut but I can understand why the courts ruled this way. For anyone to think it was truly confusing is just being dull. However, I can appreciate them looking after their branding/campaigns/etc.

      • I still think this is too broad of a claim (and quite silly) from Sony. Have you ever heard of a movie actor getting banned from playing action movies where he was shooting a gun because he was playing a character in another action movie where he was also shooting a gun because the audience could get confused?

      • The same goes for voice actors (including in video games)…

      • Its no different than a singer moving to another recording label, or Harrison Ford playing Han Solo, and then Indy. Or a race car driver switching sponsors or car makers… when the contract is expired, its expired. spokespeople leave what they’re speaking for all the time. Its common for actors like Brad Pitt to make one or two commercials to endorse a product like channel5, but that’s it. You don’t hear channel complaining when Brad wears a different cologne in a movie. but your right to say that it wasn’t clear since we haven’t seen the contract which could have been written very strictly and signed in blood, but since Sony settled I would guess they were afraid of taking this to court.

    • They settled it out of court, so its safe to assume that Jer got a little bit of extra cash for signing a new contract, and in this economy you can’t be upset if you’re getting paid not to look for a job :) But I agree with your sentiment.

  3. In the words of caster troy…I’d like to take his face off :)

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