After years of doubt the Philadelphia Phillies will officially keep their fan-favorite mascot, Phillie Phanatic, by settling a lawsuit with its creators on Friday. Phillie Phanatic creators Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison previously threatened to sell the mascot to another team, and the Phillies responded by filing a federal complaint against them in 2019.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Amid the legal proceedings, Philadelphia altered Phillie Phanatic’s look in February 2020 by giving it a lighter green color, shorter snout, red shoes, a larger backside, blue socks and numerous other changes. The team made those alterations to avoid copyright infringement claims from Erickson and Harrison — who called the new Phanatic a “affront to our intellectual property rights and to Phillies fans everywhere” — while keeping the beloved green mascot recognizable to Philadelphia fans.
In August, United States Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburin said the Phillies were in their legal rights to keep using the altered Phanatic despite their ongoing legal saga with the mascot creators. The judge then gave the case to Senior U.S District Judge Victor Marrero, and he was the one to issue Friday’s settlement.
The Phillies commissioned Erickson and Harrison to create a mascot in 1978, and the pair sold Phillie Phanatic’s copyrights to the team six years later for $250,000. After 35 years, however, federal copyright law gives artists the right to renegotiate the rights to their work — a path Erickson and Harrison attempted to take by threatening an injunction against the Phillies.
“At the Phillies’ request more than 40 years ago, we created the Phanatic, giving him a story and a life,” Erickson and Harrison said in a statement after the Phillies sued them. “His value has grown with his popularity, and we felt that the Phillies franchise never offered a reasonable payment to extend the Phanatic’s license.”
Philadelphia countered Erickson and Harrison’s legal argument by revealing its contract with the two allowed the team to use Phillie Phanatic “forever.”
The Phillies ended their season with a disappointing 82-80 record last week, but the team and its fans should take comfort in knowing they locked up their longest-tenured and most-beloved free agent: Phillie Phanatic.