LEGAL: What led Bruce Kirby to rename his boat

Published on April 9th, 2013

It is important to understand that Bruce Kirby loves the Laser. He designed it, and he considers it his child. But while Kirby owns the Laser design, he does not own the Laser name and logo. The later was owned by a partner, but over time the ownership of the name and logo went to the authorized Laser builders.

As long as the Laser builders paid royalty fees to Kirby, they could build the boat that we have come to know as the Laser.

When the builder for North America and Europe – LaserPerformance – stopped paying Kirby the royalty fee, Kirby was ultimately forced to halt their production. This decision did not come lightly, and not without significant legal expense.

But since Kirby did not have the right to seek another builder for his boat using the Laser name, he chose to continue its legacy under the Torch name. Same boat, different name.

The kicker to all this is the International Laser Class Association no longer has any authorized builders. The class had three builders, with LaserPerformance as the largest. But since their agreement has been voided, the Asian builder has also been forced to halt Laser production, and the Australian builder has joined Kirby’s new Torch initiative.

So the Laser class has no builders, and the Torch boat is in need of a class organization. Will the two entities merge?

“We would like the Laser class to become the Torch class,” explained Kirby. “We would love for it to be seamless, but the class has not yet indicated their plans. Torchs will not be legal to sail in Laser events, but Lasers will be allowed to sail in Torch events. The boats will be identical. Hopefully we can merge, but if not, then the Torch will set up its own class association. The reality is the Laser class hasn’t been serviced well for years, and we desperately want to take care of the sailors’ needs.”

Given that the Australian builder already has the equipment, production can commence soon. As for the other two Torch builders – The Netherlands and Canada – Kirby has the master plugs, and intends for the Torch sail numbering to pick up where the Laser numbers stopped.

Kirby is particularly excited about the North American plan. “The Canadian group involves the Fogh family – Hans and Thomas – and John Kerr, with the boats to be built by Dirk Kneulman, who is well known as an excellent Etchells builder. The Foghs have been handling Laser boats and parts for years. They are very familiar with the dealer network in North America, and should easily be able to hit the ground running.”

Will the Laser become the Torch? No announcement yet from the Laser class.

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