By Alyssa Adams

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Phillies are suing the design and merchandising firm that helped them create the Phillie Phanatic costume. Harrison and Erickson Incorporated sent the Phillies a letter in June 2018 threatening to make the mascot a “free agent,” allowing him to root for other teams if a new licensing agreement wasn’t reached.

The Phanatic debuted in 1978 after former Phillies Executive Vice President Bill Giles envisioned a new mascot for the Major League Baseball Club.

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He described the new mascot as being “green, fat, furry, big-nosed, and instantly accessible to children,” a lawsuit filed in New York states. Playful routines and teasing anyone in the ballpark were also set to be part of the new mascot’s identity.

Giles and other Phillies personnel partnered with Harrison and Erickson Incorporated to create the furry, green mascot.

Harrison and Erickson Inc. had the costume created in two weeks. Legal documents say the company paid various “costumers” $4 an hour to build it, a total cost of $2,000.

After the Phanatic debuted, Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson were paid over $200,000 under a 1978 and 1979 licensing agreement.

The Phanatic was a hit and in 1984 the corporation terminated the 1970 license agreement and bargained a new agreement worth $215,000, which the Phillies say handed over the rights to the mascot forever.

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The Club’s mascot became threatened in June 2018 when the Phillies received a letter claiming the firm would terminate the 1984 Assignment if a new agreement is not reached, despite its agreement that it would be forever.

“The letter falsely claimed that H/E had ‘created the copyrighted character’ of the Phanatic, and ignored the Phillies’ role in designing the Phanatic’s costume,” the lawsuit states.

It also says the firm, “has threatened to obtain an injunction against the Phillies’ use of the Phanatic and to ‘make the Phanatic a free agent’ if the Club does not renegotiate the 1984 Assignment and pay H/E millions of dollars.”

In addition, if the 1984 Assignment is terminated, the Club will no longer be able to use the mascot after June 15, 2020.

The documents state the Phillies are a co-author of the Phanatic character and have a 41-year investment in the mascot.

A representative of the Erickson and Harrison families tells CBS3 that under federal copyright law, an artist has the right to renegotiate the rights to their creations after 35 years and Bonnie and Wayde were in negotiations with the Phillies when they were sued by the Club.

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“At the Phillies request more than 40 years ago, we created the Phanatic, giving him a story and life. Over the decades since, we have taken care of him, even patching him back together when he needed it, and have had a good, professional relationship with the Phillies. We feel like he is part of our family and certainly a huge part of the fabric of Philadelphia. His value has grown with his popularity, and we felt that the Phillies franchise never offered a reasonable payment to extend the Phanatic’s license. Instead, we were sued by the franchise, which was incredibly disappointing. While we very much want the Phanatic to remain the Phillies mascot, we will not yield to this lawsuit tactic. We intend to respond to it and win,” said Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, professional artists and creators of the Phillie Phanatic.