Bridgestone Tires and Jerry Lambert, the actor best known for his role as the fictional vice president of Sony, are being sued by Sony Computer Entertainment of America for creating an ad that the company says uses their character to help promote both tires and rival Nintendo.
Lambert began appearing in Bridgestone commercials in February during a Super Bowl ad. In Bridgestone's "Game On" promotions, Lambert is seen playing Mario Kart Wii. Shortly after the video went viral, it was removed from YouTube under a copyright notice. An alternate version, with Lambert removed, has since taken its place. Lambert has also been removed from the Game On site.
Sony filed their lawsuit on September 11th against both Bridgestone and Wildcat Creek, Inc, the business front for Lambert. Both companies are being sued for violations of The Lanham Act, which deals with a variety of trademark violations.
Sony is claiming that Bridgestone's use of Jerry Lambert, who is well recognized within the gaming community as Kevin Butler, is a strategic placement for their Nintendo Wii promotion.
"We invested significant resources in bringing the Kevin Butler character to life and he's become an iconic personality directly associated with PlayStation products over the years," Dan Race, SCEA's senior director of corporate communications told Polygon. "Use of the Kevin Butler character to sell products other than those from PlayStation misappropriates Sony's intellectual property, creates confusion in the market and causes damage to Sony."
Use of Mario Kart at a time while Sony is currently promoting LittleBigPlanet Karting with a cartoon Kevin Butler is a further exacerbation, Sony claims in the suit.
Attorneys for Sony also point out that the commercial began airing just three days after Lambert's contract with them expired. The attorneys reason in the suit that commercials usually take weeks or months to script, shoot and produce so Lambert must have been working on the commercial while still under contract with SCEA.
Lambert's Kevin Butler character first addressed fictional concerns in "Dear PlayStation" commercials and later acted as VP of everything from epic moments to inspiration and perspiration.