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August 03, 2019

Phillies file lawsuit to keep Phillie Phanatic as the team's mascot

A New York-based creative company sent the team a notice of termination last June

Lawsuits Mascots
Phanatic disappointed Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports Images

The Phillie Phanatic shields his eyes.

The Philadelphia Phillies filed a lawsuit in New York federal court on Friday in an attempt to make sure the Phillie Phanatic remains the team's mascot.

The team filed the suit against Harrison/Erickson Inc., a creative company the team worked with in the 1970s to create the Phanatic's character and look. The Phanatic debuted in April of 1978, and has become wildly popular with the city's sports fans, even spawning a look-alike in Atlanta.

According to the suit, the team received a notice of termination from Harrison/Erickson lawyers last June, claiming that Harrison/Erickson had created the copyrighted character of the Phanatic. The club feels the company "ignored" the Phillies' role in designing the costume, according to the team.

The notice of termination claimed that Harrison/Erickson had the right to terminate the contract if the team and the company didn't reach a new agreement, which would take effect June 15, 2020.

The team called Harrison/Erickson's attempt to step between the Phillies and the Phanatic "legally baseless". Its lawyers believe that the continued renegotiation since the 1970s removes Harrison/Erickson's ability to terminate the agreement, particularly the renegotiated deal in 1984.

"The 1984 assignment expressly states that the transfer of these rights is 'forever,'" the suit claims.

The team also says in the suit that Harrison/Erickson "fraudulently" obtained its copyright registration, calling the Phanatic costume an "artistic sculpture" rather than a costume. And the team, of course, also makes the case to claim co-authorship of both the costume design, and of the Phanatic character in general.

Harrison/Erickson is known for its work with the Muppets, along with other pro sports mascots, according to NPR.

You can read the full suit here.


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