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 said.
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 ATV-riding 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.”
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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 Waldorf.
The lawsuit seeks to maintain the 1984 copyright agreement between Harrison/Erickson, while blocking any other entity from using the Phanatic or selling Phanatic-related 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.