October 10, 2021
It appears that the two-year-long legal dispute over the fate of the Phillie Phanatic at Citizens Bank Park may finally be coming to an end.
The franchise settled its lawsuit Friday with the mascot's creators, Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, clearing the way for the lengthy court battle between both parties to come to a close. The settlement was issued by Senior U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Both parties have 30 days to finalize the settlement, the Inquirer reported.
Attorneys representing Erickson and Harrison in the lawsuit declined to comment on the matter at this time to PhillyVoice. The Phillies had yet to respond to PhillyVoice for comment.
The ongoing copyright dispute began in August 2019 when the Phillies filed a lawsuit to keep the Phillie Phanatic as the team's mascot after the New York-based Harrison/Erickson Inc. sent the organization a notice of termination in June 2018.
The notice of termination claimed that Erickson and Harrison created the copyrighted character and had the right to end the contract if both parties didn't reach a new agreement by June 2020. Artists are permitted by federal law to renegotiate their rights after 35 years.
The Phillies argued that a 1984 renegotiation with the company transferred the rights "forever." The team also pointed to its role in creating the costume, character and personality of the beloved green mascot from the Galapagos Islands.
A new, modified Phillie Phanatic was unveiled by the ball club during spring training last year in order to bring the company's legal argument to a close.
The updated features included new shoes and socks, different shades of green, scales underneath the arms, a new nose, a shortened and reshaped snout, a longer tail and new-looking eyes. The modified Phanatic is also noticeably lighter in weight than the original one.
The mascot's creators issued a statement last year blasting the team's updated Phanatic, calling the changes "an affront to our intellectual property rights."
A federal magistrate judge in New York ruled in August that the Phillies have a legal right to continue using its updated, modified Phillie Phanatic. The organization's updates to the fan-favorite mascot were enough to protect it under the Copyright Act's Derivative Works Exception, which allows a copyright holder to continue using amended versions even when said rights no longer exist.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn also said that Harrison/Erickson Inc. should be allowed to reclaim the copyrights to the original Phillie Phanatic and prevent the team from challenging the legitimacy of those rights.
Harrison/Erickson was hired in the 1970s by the Phillies to create the Phanatic, which debuted at Veterans Stadium in April 1978. The company is also known for its work with the Muppets.