The Phillies moved closer to keeping the Phillie Phanatic on Friday as they settled a lawsuit with the mascot’s original creators. The team had sued the creators in 2019, after 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 terms of the settlement were not disclosed, as both parties have 30 days to finalize them. The Phillies and the lawyers for Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, who were commissioned by the Phillies in 1978 to create a mascot, declined to comment.
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.
The Phillies, in their original 39-page lawsuit, said Erickson and Harrison, who also developed several of Jim Henson’s Muppets, including Miss Piggy, were seeking “millions of dollars” and threatened to sell the Phanatic to another sports 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.”
With the legal case ongoing, the Phillies unveiled an altered Phanatic in February of 2020 that the creators said was an affront to “our intellectual property rights and Phillies fans everywhere.” The 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.
A federal magistrate judge recommended in August that the Phillies have a legal right to continue using their modified Phanatic before moving the case to Senior U.S District Judge Victor Marrero, who issued Friday’s settlement.
“The most critical issue in our case was whether we could continue to utilize the redesigned Phanatic,” said David J. Wolfsohn, attorney for the Phillies, after August’s recommendation. “We are pleased that Judge Netburn agreed with us that the redesigned Phanatic and related artwork are derivative works that the Club can continue to utilize under the Copyright statute.”