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Phillies can again use the original Phanatic, settlement says

The Phillie Phanatic is staying in Philadelphia after its creators threatened to send him into free agency.

The Phillie Phanatic gets set to launch hot dogs during a game at Citizens Bank Park in September.
The Phillie Phanatic gets set to launch hot dogs during a game at Citizens Bank Park in September.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

The old Phillie Phanatic will soon be the new Phillie Phanatic as the Phillies will be permitted to again use the original version of their famous mascot after finalizing the settlement of a lawsuit on Monday.

The Phillies unveiled an altered Phanatic in February 2020 after they sued the creators — Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison — in 2019 when they threatened to obtain an injunction against the team’s use of the mascot and send the snout-nosed, shaggy, flightless green bird into free agency.

The settlement, which included the Phillies paying an undisclosed amount of money to the creators, allows the Phillies to now use either the new or old Phanatic.

“We welcome the original Phillie Phanatic back with open arms,” Phillies Executive Vice President David Buck said in a statement released on Tuesday. “We are so proud of the 44-year history of the Phanatic and what the character means to the organization, to the City of Philadelphia and to Phillies fans everywhere. Our goal throughout this process was to come to an amicable solution that guaranteed the Phanatic could continue to entertain future generations of fans.”

The settlement was reached last month, but both parties had more than 30 days to finalize the terms.

“Ever since we created the Phanatic in 1978, Philadelphia has been his home. We are thrilled to see the original Phanatic back where he should be, in Philadelphia, for the fans of the Phillies,” said Erickson and Harrison in a statement.

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The new costume was altered just enough — a bigger backside, shortened snout, feathery eyelashes, new shoes, and added wings — to be different, but was still close enough for fans to recognize as resembling the popular mascot. The original creators, who also developed several of Jim Henson’s Muppets, including Miss Piggy, said it was an affront to “our intellectual property rights and Phillies fans everywhere.”

The creators sold the Phanatic’s copyrights to the team in 1984 for $250,000. According to federal copyright law, after 35 years, artists can renegotiate the rights to their creation. Monday’s settlement said the old Phanatic and the new Phanatic are “derivative works prepared by The Phillies under authority of the 1984 Assignment.”

The Phillies, in their original 39-page lawsuit, said Erickson and Harrison were seeking “millions of dollars” and threatened to sell the Phanatic to another team. The Phillies said they have “devoted millions of dollars to developing and promoting the Phanatic” and “without the Club’s contributions, the Phanatic would not have been a character at all.”

“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 team’s lawsuit was filed. “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.”