Bridgestone Denies Kevin Butler Was in Its Ad

Bridgestone Denies Kevin Butler Was in Its Ad

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Bridgestone remains confident that no one was confused by the man behind Kevin Butler playing Wii Sports.

Bridgestone's tire promotion hit a snag when Sony barged in demanding its Kevin Butler back. Actor Jerry Lambert and Bridgestone were jointly sued for their role in what Sony's describing as a breach of contract "and tortious interference with a contractual relationship." Except that Bridgestone - predictably, you may argue - doesn't see it that way. It denies that Sony has any proprietary interest in Kevin Butler, but in any event it doesn't matter because Lambert, not Butler, appeared in the Bridgestone ad.

"Bridgestone denies that 'Kevin Butler' appears in the Bridgestone commercial discussed herein," said the tire manufacturer in a statement published by the Hollywood Reporter, "and thus denies that he speaks or does anything whatsoever in the commercial." Bridgestone also argues that Sony never registered any trademark on the Kevin Butler persona and that customers wouldn't be confused by Lambert's appearance in a Bridgestone commercial.

A lack of a registered trademark - assuming Bridgestone's allegation is correct - may explain why Sony opted to take action under the Lanham Act. Subchapter III Section 41(a) of that act is all about what to do if an unregistered trademark is infringed, and it set guidelines for the likelihood infringement causing brand-harming confusion. The two most important factors in likelihood of confusion cases are similarity in overall impression created by the two marks, and the similarity of the goods and services involved. So while Bridgestone tires being in the tire business wouldn't normally have a leg to stand on, the promotion of a rival console to Sony's PS3 is what makes this a sticky legal mire.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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IT wouldn't be so bad if it was just tires themselves. However, the commercial has him promoting the Wii. I would say that it's not only a slight confusion (the PS3 guy gave up on PS3 and now works at Bridgestone selling Wii's?), but it also has to be some sort of breach of contract that he would have signed when he did the PS3 commercials in the first place. Usually it's something like "will not work to promote other competing products in the same sense within 6 months" is usually the stipulation.

Since they are taking the stance of "Trademark infringement" against Lambert and Bridgestone, this isn't about a breach of a "don't endorse competition" clause in a contract somewhere.

As far as trademark infringement goes, they don't have a case. The character of Kevin Butler does not appear in that commercial. He's not even playing "eccentric CEO". he's playing "enthusiastic lab tech". The only thing the characters have in common is their face and voice (but not even Butler's iconic manner and tone).

Sad day if Sony wins this.

Didn't anyone at Sony watch Scooby Do as a kid? The Butler never did it!

So Bridgestone is denying that Kevin Butler was in a commercial that everybody and their mother saw? I see.

DJ_DEnM:
So Bridgestone is denying that Kevin Butler was in a commercial that everybody and their mother saw? I see.

But it's NOT Kevin Butler. He is a fake name/character made for the Sony commercial. The real person: Jerry Lambert. Nowhere in the Bridgestone commercial do they say Kevin Butler or reference that name. THAT would be an infringement.

Deathfish15:

DJ_DEnM:
So Bridgestone is denying that Kevin Butler was in a commercial that everybody and their mother saw? I see.

But it's NOT Kevin Butler. He is a fake name/character made for the Sony commercial. The real person: Jerry Lambert. Nowhere in the Bridgestone commercial do they say Kevin Butler or reference that name. THAT would be an infringement.

Okay, now I see it. Thanks for clarification, this makes more sense now.

still it is a face that people recognize, i do not think that you can dismiss it out of hand saying noone will get a tad bit confused if that guy from the sony commercials is suddenly pimping wii.

cerebus23:
still it is a face that people recognize, i do not think that you can dismiss it out of hand saying noone will get a tad bit confused if that guy from the sony commercials is suddenly pimping wii.

I simply cannot see Sony winning an argument that their advertising department owns the rights to a contracted actor's face. It would basically squash his ability to ever work as an actor in a commercial remotely related to gaming ever.

If he had appeared or conducted himself as Butler, they would have a case. Under contract I am sure they own the rights to the character. I just don't see it here.

Jhereg42:

cerebus23:
still it is a face that people recognize, i do not think that you can dismiss it out of hand saying noone will get a tad bit confused if that guy from the sony commercials is suddenly pimping wii.

I simply cannot see Sony winning an argument that their advertising department owns the rights to a contracted actor's face. It would basically squash his ability to ever work as an actor in a commercial remotely related to gaming ever.

If he had appeared or conducted himself as Butler, they would have a case. Under contract I am sure they own the rights to the character. I just don't see it here.

But there is a slight difference here he was not pimping just some other brand he was pimping a direct rival console, if he was just selling tires, pies, bubble gum, i do not think there would be much of any type of confusion. But the fact that wii and ps3 are rivals puts this in a different category.

cerebus23:

But there is a slight difference here he was not pimping just some other brand he was pimping a direct rival console, if he was just selling tires, pies, bubble gum, i do not think there would be much of any type of confusion. But the fact that wii and ps3 are rivals puts this in a different category.

No, the same statement applies. He was in a commercial involving another console. I understand that. But the only thing remotely connecting him to Kevin Butler is his face. Hence, the statement that Sony is claiming to own a contracted actor's face. He was not pimping to spite Sony, he got another job and played a different part.

What Sony is saying is that because Harrison Ford played Han Solo, he should not play Indiana Jones because it might cause some brand confusion. The two roles were completely unrelated, regardless of what was being advertised. . . UNLESS he had a contract to never be employed as an actor involving the use or promotion of another console. That changes the game. Sony never claims that though.

Contracts anyway tend to take it if there is no mention of preventing him of appearing with xyz brands, there is not much they can do.

But i still would tend to believe there there can be some confusion in the ad world vs movies, either way maybe sony better think of it the next time they hire an actor for a part quite possibly.

Hey, past self, gimme that Youtube link you found of Lambert playing a suit in a national ad campaign before Kevin Butler ever existed as a concept.

Thank you, past self.

Formica Archonis:

Fantastic acting. Give that man an Oscar, not a lawsuit.

Also, what this thread is saying is that the character of Kevin Butler does not appear in the advertisement, it's simply the actor, but even if he did Sony don't actually have a trademark on that character anyway, so they have to go through a special remedial copyright law to sue him, and the advertisement sells tires, not games consoles, so there's no brand confusion, and even if it did Sony didn't place a clause in his contract that would have restricted him from appearing in other advertisements for similar products.

Yeah, well done Sony, this case is totally in the bag.

I.... we need to round up a few lawyers and flay them with sticks to teach them a proper lesson about legislation.

You cannot Infringe on an UNLICENSED trademark.

Why? Because it is an UNLICENSED trademark. THERE IS NO TRADEMARK TO INFRINGE UPON! It would be like Mars Inc. suing other peanut candies for infringing on the Unlicensed trademark of Semi-spherical chocolate balls covered in a candy sugar coating.

If it isn't licensed. It should not be possible to sue over something.

Seriously where are the lawyers that thought that law up?

At this point it really seems like Sony will continue only to try to save face although its likely they will lose the case and lose face anyway.

 

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