Phillies sue Phanatic creator to prevent mascot from becoming a ‘free agent’

By Oona Goodin-Smith
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Phillies Phanatic leads the Philadelphia Phillies onto the field
on Opening Day prior to action against the Kansas City Royals
on Friday, April 5, 2013, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. (Steven M. Falk/Philadelphia Daily News/MCT)

Is the Phillie Phanatic a free
agent? Perhaps, if the creators
of Philadelphia’s own mean,
green, hot-dog-gun-firing
machine get their way.

In a federal lawsuit filed
Friday in U.S. District Court in
New York, the Phillies accused
Harrison/Erickson Inc., the
creators and designers of the
Phanatic, of threatening to
withdraw from their 1984
agreement to let the Phillies use
the mascot “forever.”

According to the suit, the
designers have “threatened to
obtain an injunction against the
Phillies’ use of the Phanatic”
and “make the Phanatic a free
agent,” selling the rights to the
furry, green-beaked creature
to another sports team if the
Phillies do not renegotiate with
the mascot’s creators and pay
them “millions of dollars.”

But the New York-based
creators’ claims are “legally
baseless,” the Phillies’ lawsuit
argues, and selling the Phanatic
to another team would violate
the Phillies’ trademark rights.

The Phillies initially paid
$215,000 for rights to the
Phanatic in 1984, the lawsuit

Over the past year,
the mascot’s creators have
threatened legal action against
the team, according to the
Phillies’ lawsuit, claiming they
had “created the copyrighted
character” of the Phanatic
while ignoring the Phillies’ role
in marketing the popular ATVriding
mascot that first took the
field in April 1978.

“Over the last 41 years,
the Club has devoted millions
of dollars to developing and
promoting the Phanatic,” the
39-page lawsuit reads. “Without
the Club’s contributions, the
Phanatic would not have been a
character at all.”

Standing 6-foot-6 and
boasting a 90-inch waistline
with a “slight case of body
odor,” the Phanatic hails from
the Galapagos Islands, and
enjoys eating cheesesteaks, soft
pretzels, hoagies, scrapple, and
Tastykakes, according to his
biography. His favorite movie
is Rocky and his favorite song is
“Motown Philly.”

Bonnie Erickson, one of
the Phanatic’s creators and a
defendant in the lawsuit, is
also known for her work with
Jim Henson and the Muppets,
creating puppet characters such
as Miss Piggy and Statler and

The lawsuit seeks to
maintain the 1984 copyright
agreement between Harrison/
Erickson, while blocking any
other entity from using the
Phanatic or selling Phanaticrelated
merchandise, to collect
unspecified damages, and “to
ensure that Phillies fans will
not be deprived of their beloved
mascot of 41 years.”

No lawyers for the
defendants were listed in court
documents. The Phillies said
the team does not comment on
pending litigation.

(c)2019 The
Philadelphia Inquirer.

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