Sony has sued Bridgestone Americas and an advertising firm over an advertisement starring an actor who used to feature prominently in Sony ads.
The tale began several years ago when Sony began an ad campaign for Playstation 3 that featured actor Jerry Lambert playing the role of fictional Sony VP Kevin Butler. According to Sony, Lambert’s contract with Sony ended August 1 and just days thereafter the actor appeared in an ad for tire manufacturer Bridgestone Americas’ “Game On!” promotion with Nintendo; in the ad, Lambert appears next to other actors playing (Sony competitor) Nintendo.
Sony is now suing Bridgestone and the advertising firm Wildcat Creek, alleging breach of contract, trademark infringement on the character of Kevin Butler, unfair competition, and a violation of the Lanham Act, among other claims.
According to Courthouse News Service, Sony’s complaint maintains that “Kevin Butler is a fictional character created, owned and used by SCEA to promote SCEA’s PlayStation video game systems and related products.” Moreover, the complaint continues, “For several years, an actor has portrayed ‘Kevin Butler’ pursuant to an exclusive contract with SCEA in which the actor, along with defendant Wildcat Creek Inc. agreed not to promote any competing video game products.”
Sony claims Lambert began working with Bridgestone on the Nintendo ads before his contract with Sony expired. Moreover, Sony claims that an exclusivity provision with Wildcat was also violated as the agency was prohibited from working with competitors.
Regarding the trademark claim, Sony claims that Kevin Butler has “come to serve as a source identifier for PlayStation products and services” and that its contract with Lambert gives it “sole and absolute” ownership of the Kevin Butler character in perpetuity.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, however, Bridgestone has expressed its intent to fight the lawsuit and “denies that ‘Kevin Butler’ appears in the Bridgestone commercial discussed herein and thus denies that he speaks or does anything whatsoever in the commercial.”
Sony seeks injunctive relief to stop the ad campaign.
What do you think of this lawsuit? Does Sony have a valid claim?