Professor Amy Landers offered insights on a federal lawsuit embroiling the Philadelphia Phillies’ beloved mascot in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 12.
A lawsuit filed by the Philadelphia Phillies alleges that a couple who designed the Phanatic costume have threatened to make the green-nosed mascot a free agent in 2020 and sell the rights to another franchise unless the team pays them millions more dollars in copyright fees.
The designers contended in a statement to the Inquirer that they hope the mascot will remain in Philadelphia but that the team “never offered a reasonable payment to extend the Phanatic’s license.”
For its part, the team contends it negotiated a $250,000 agreement with the designers in 1984 that provided the Phillies with a copyright to the Phanatic that would last “forever.”
Landers, who directs the Intellectual Property Law program, explained the overlap between trademark and copyright law that color the dispute.
While a trademark protects “a word or logo or thing that is used to identify a brand,” Landers said, copyright “is a formal way of protection for creative expression, like books, art, and movies, and more recently, for costumes and clothing.”
The Phillies own the trademark, while the copyright has been the subject of negotiation between designers Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison and the team, who claim in their lawsuit that they gave personality to the lifeless costume, making them a co-author of the Phanatic character.
That distinction will boost the team’s argument, Landers told the Inquirer, since it could force the judge to treat the designers’ copyright on the costume separately from the mascot’s personality, for which the Phillies claim credit.