Sony Suing Former PS3 Mascot

You probably remember those silly ‘Kevin Butler’ ads for PS3 that aired fairly often prior to Sony’s 2011 root key hack debacle? In case you don’t, Butler (played by actor Jerry Lamber) was fictional VP of a slew of totally fake Sony departments. It wasn’t quite Flo from Progressive or the Can You Hear Me Now guy, but the actor and the role were pretty closely associated; that makes sense, since the actor’s own personality informed the performance. The problem, of course, is that it can make it difficult for you to find more work once the campaign ends.

Of course, the best case scenario in this circumstance would be to have been typecast. It sucks, it happens, but hopefully you can bounce back. A worst case scenario? Get hired by someone else to somewhat recreate what you did in a previous, unrelated campaign. Because not only do you risk reinforcing your typecast, your also might draw the ire of litigious former employers. That’s what has happened to Lamber. After the Sony campaign ended, he took a job shilling Bridgestone Tires with a character whose personality is similar to the Kevin Butler character. Sony is not amused.

“Sony Computer Entertainment America filed a lawsuit against Bridgestone and Wildcat Creek, Inc on September 11th,” SCEA senior director of corporate communications Dan Race said to VentureBeat. “The claims are based on violations of the Lanham Act, misappropriation, breach of contract and tortious interference with a contractual relationship.”

The Lanham act, passed in 1946, governs trademark infringement and dilution. Since Sony owns the rights to the Kevin Butler character, their case is that Lamber’s new gig aped it closely enough to meet the legal threshold. Unfortunately, the Bridgestone Tires ad isn’t online presently, so we can’t compare, but our heart goes out to Lanham. He’s just a working actor trying to make a living in a very tough climate for people who aren’t pretty and young. Here’s hoping he prevails.

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3 Comments on Sony Suing Former PS3 Mascot

Bruce

On October 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

How is this any different than using a comedian as a sponsor? They have a particular flavor, and the company would like to use that flavor for their own gain. Another proud day in gaming history…

R.J.

On October 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm

@Bruce

The difference would be in the contracting. An established comedian would likely have something in the contract basically saying the company is paying for the use of his performance/character, but the comedian retains it. Here, Sony would likely say that the character of Kevin Butler was made just for Sony’s use, so having the actor that played that character doing something similar makes them mad. I don’t know how valid the claim is, but that seems to be the gist of it.

Aedelric

On October 9, 2012 at 9:43 am

“so we can’t compare, but our heart goes out to Lanham”

” (played by actor Jerry Lamber) ”

“The Lanham act, passed in 1946″

I think you mixed up the names a bit, unless your heart really goes out to the poor unfortunate horribly abused legal act Ross. ;)