The Philadelphia Phillies Sue to Keep Their Mascot From Becoming a Free Agent

soxhop411

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Dec 4, 2009
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No, this is not an onion article. This is an actual lawsuit in an actual courtroom.

The Philadelphia Phillies are doing more than just competing for a place in this year's baseball playoffs. On Friday, the club filed suit in New York federal court over an attempt to grab ownership to the "Phanatic," the team's mascot.

According to the complaint, Bill Giles, Phillies' executive vp, created the vision for the mascot in the 1970s — a green, fat, furry, big-nosed character accessible to children. The team says it worked with a company called Harrison/Erickson to develop the costume for the Phanatic. The firm was paid $215,000, according to the complaint. Dave Raymond, an intern in the Phillies' marketing department, is said to have donned a costume and brought the Phanatic to life at an April 25, 1978 home game.

Now 40 years later, after the Phanatic has become incredibly popular, the team says it has received a notice of termination from lawyers for H/E, which was founded by Bonnie Erickson, a designer who once created Miss Piggy and other muppets working with The Jim Henson Company. (She also has apparently done work creating other mascotsincluding those for the Montreal Expos, the Washington Wizards, and Jacksonville Jaguars.)

In a federal complaint filed on Friday in Manhattan, the Phillies accused Harrison/Erickson Inc and its principals, Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson, of reneging on a 1984 agreement to let the Phillies use the Phanatic “forever.”

The Phanatic made its debut in April 1978, and the team said it has spent millions of dollars to promote him as he became “wildly popular” and “beloved,” while obtaining several trademarks.

But the Phillies said the defendants, who are from Brooklyn, have threatened to end its use next June, making the Phanatic a “free agent,” and sue for copyright infringement unless the team renegotiated the 1984 agreement and paid millions of dollars. The Phillies said the original payout was $215,000.


Harrison/Erickson “does not have the right to deprive the Phillies’ fans of the Phanatic” or liquidate the team’s “huge, 41-year investment” in him, the complaint said.

The Yankees should sign him if it becomes a “free agent”

Here is the complaint, complete with pictures and sketches
 
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Ford Frick's Asterisk

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May 5, 2017
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I'd hate to see the Phillies overpay for past performance, but I'm afraid Screwball just doesn't look like he's ready for promotion.

screwball.jpg

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InstaFace

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Sep 27, 2016
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This is the thread I needed after tonight's debacle.

Because I have no imagination and can't keep riffing on the other mascots, I just read most of the filing and it seems (IANAL) like they have H/E dead to rights. You only need to get to paragraphs 14-19 to figure out where they're at, and the value of the following 25 or so pages is mostly in the pictures of the Phanatic being funny.
 

No Pepper

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The Phanatic probably looks at the San Diego (ex-KGB) Chicken as its own personal Andy Messersmith.
 

maufman

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This is the thread I needed after tonight's debacle.

Because I have no imagination and can't keep riffing on the other mascots, I just read most of the filing and it seems (IANAL) like they have H/E dead to rights. You only need to get to paragraphs 14-19 to figure out where they're at, and the value of the following 25 or so pages is mostly in the pictures of the Phanatic being funny.
Maybe, but I’m not so sure. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, intellectual property belongs either to the person who created it or his/her employer. The club’s pleading lays out several plausible grounds on which the court could rule in the club’s favor, some of which would preserve their right to use the “Phanatic” but would not preclude the agency from independently exploiting the IP — obviously a bad result for the Phillies. It’s good to have lots of arguments, and it’s ok to like some better than others, but I wouldn’t raise some of these arguments unless I thought my argument that the rights were exclusively mine by contract was less than a slam dunk.