When it comes to their rights to the Phillie Phanatic, the iconic, fuzzy, green-beaked mascot’s designers aren’t afraid to play a little hardball.
After being accused by the Phillies in a federal lawsuit of trying to make the Phanatic a “free agent,” New York-based puppet makers Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison filed a counterclaim this week asserting that the baseball team had no part in creating the gyrating, flightless Galapagan mascot, and claiming that “the Phillies are allergic to the real facts."
The pair asks a judge to award them full copyright rights to the Phanatic as of June 15, 2020 — when a 1984 agreement between the creators and the Phillies expires.
Furthermore, the filing claims, the Phillies’ August lawsuit against Harrison and Erickson is an attempt to “bully” the puppet makers and is being used as a “weapon” to pressure them into accepting less money from the Phillies for the renewal of the Phanatic’s copyright.
“Despite the twisted allegations of the complaint, it is undeniable that for four decades the Phillies absolutely knew and repeatedly acknowledged that [Harrison and Erickson] were the sole authors of Phanatic copyright,” the counterclaim reads.
In August, the Phillies sued Harrison and Erickson, accusing them of threatening to withdraw from a 1984 agreement to let the Phillies use the mascot “forever” and forcing the team to either renegotiate the rights to the hot dog-launching menace for “millions of dollars” or “make the Phanatic a free agent.”
The Phillies bought the copyright rights to the Phanatic in 1984 for $250,000. According to federal copyright law, after 35 years, artists can renegotiate the rights to their creation.
The Phillies claim the baseball franchise is just as responsible for the success of the Phanatic as Harrison and Erickson, giving the team the right to use the mascot it says it coauthored.
Meanwhile, Harrison and Erickson — who also created the famed Muppet Miss Piggy — say they solely created the Phanatic’s character and backstory, from his megaphone-shaped snout (“because the name Phanatic implied a loud and boisterous character”) to his verdant fur (“a green mascot would stand out among the multicolored seats”).