Philadelphia Phillies fighting for custody of Phillie Phanatic

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: The Phillie Phanatic before a game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 26, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: The Phillie Phanatic before a game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 26, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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The Philadelphia Phillies have asked a federal court is asked to rule on the Phillie Phanatic’s parentage

Over the course of his 41-year career as mascot, the Phillie Phanatic has given fans cause to question many things about him: His fur, his size, his sanity. Soon, however, a court may be asked to settle a little-discussed aspect of the Phanatic’s existence: His parentage.

The Philadelphia Phillies on Friday filed a suit in New York federal court seeking to establish the team’s legal role in the Phanatic’s 1978 creation. At stake is nothing less than the Phanatic’s right to mascot free agency.

The Phillies are suing the owner of a firm called Harrison/Erickson, which apparently has advised the team that it intends to reclaim copyright rights to the Phanatic.

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In the complaint filed to block Harrison/Erickson, Phillies officials claim that the team’s executive vice president, Bill Giles, created the vision for the mascot — a green, fat, furry, big-nosed character accessible to children, a conception brought to life jointly by the team and Harrison/Erickson. The complaint says the firm was paid $215,000 for its work in designing the costume, which first appeared early in the 1978 season.

The team says it has been contacted by lawyers for Bonnie Erickson, principal of Harrison/Erickson, seeking to reclaim rights to the Phanatic under a provision of copyright law permitting the creator of a character to reclaim rights after 35 years. Phillies management asserts that Erickson is exaggerating her firm’s role in the Phanatic’s creation.

If Erickson’s claim is upheld, then Harrison/Erickson would be able to control the Phanatic’s appearance schedule, potentially including the creation of a bidding war for services of the mascot.

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The Philadelphia Phillies are asking for a declaratory judgment that their involvement in the mascot’s creation invalidates Harrison/Erickson’s claim. By doing so, it said, “the Court will ensure that Phillies fans will not be deprived of their beloved mascot of 41 years and that The Phillies’ investment of creativity, time, effort and money in the Phanatic will not be liquidated by H/E.”