12 August 2021CopyrightAlex Baldwin

NY judge recommends Phillies keep using modified mascot

The Philadelphia Phillies should be able to continue using a modified version of their Phillie Phanatic mascot despite being embroiled in a copyright lawsuit with its creators, according to the recommendation of a New York judge.

The mascot’s creators, Bonnie Erickson and her husband Wayde Harrison, terminated the copyright assignment of the character to the baseball team, leading the Phillies to redesign the mascot costume and launch a suit challenging the pair’s authorship of the mascot.

In response, Erickson and Harrison launched a countersuit seeking a declaration that the redesigned mascot infringes their original copyright.

The Phillies moved for a partial summary judgment to dismiss the copyright and trademark infringement claims and to allow it to continue using the redesigned mascot.

On Tuesday, 10 August, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York suggested that summary judgment should be granted in part and denied in part, suggesting that the team should be allowed to continue using their modified mascot.

Additionally, US magistrate judge Sarah Netburn held that Harrison and Erickson’s copyright of the original design was valid and suggested that the court should deny the Phillies’ argument that they were co-creators of the character.

Case history

In 1978, Erickson and Harrison worked with the Phillies’ executive vice president Bill Giles to design the Phanatic costume.

In August 2019, the Phillies sued Erickson and Harrison, claiming that they had asked for “exorbitant” licensing fees from the club for using the mascot.

According to the Phillies’ original complaint, an agreement was signed between the designers and the team in 1984 that assigned the copyright of the character to the Phillies “forever”.

However, in 2018, the team said it received a letter from Harrison and Erickson’s attorneys giving notice of the termination of the agreement.

The Phillies claimed that this letter “ignored” the team’s role in designing the Phanatic’s costume, calling the letter “legally baseless”.

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More on this story

5 August 2019   A US baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, have filed a lawsuit against the creators of their “Phanatic” mascot after the pair allegedly tried to make it a “free agent”.
26 February 2020   The creators of the “Phillie Phanatic”, the mascot of the Philadelphia Phillies, have accused the Major League Baseball team of bad faith after the team unveiled a new version.
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