As copyright battle plays out in court, will Phanatic go free agent?

Paul Kurtz
October 11, 2019 - 7:18 am
Phillie Phanatic

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — While the Phillies' front office search for a new manager, the ball club's lawyers are locked in a battle over the rights to their iconic mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. 

The lovable, whacky Phanatic is also a merchandising machine, and the two people who designed the character's costume back in 1978 want their cut. This week Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson filed a countersuit to the Phillies' August complaint regarding the copyright of the mascot.

Harrison/Erickson, the design firm that helped to create the Phanatic says the Phillies are using their complaint as a weapon to get them to accept a lower amount of money to renew the 1984 agreement that granted the Phanatic copyright to the team.

That agreement, and the $215,000 price the Phillies paid is the central element of this legal battle. The team believes that Harrison and Erickson tried to strong-arm them into a new deal for a lot more money. In its countersuit, Harrison/Erickson claims the Phillies complaint leaves out a critical clause in the '84 agreement that acknowledges the design firm owns the copyright of the Phanatic.

But Harrison/Erickson also failed to mention that agreement assigned all of the company’s rights in the Phanatic to the Phillies "everywhere and forever."

The designers claim the Phillies have known and acknowledged for decades that Harrison and Erickson are the sole authors of the mascot and that they have the right to renegotiate under the Copyright Act.

This case is playing out in New York in front of a federal judge. If this case goes to trial and the Phillies lose, they could lose rights to the Phanatic next season on June 16. And then the Phanatic could theoretically become a free agent.