DISPUTE: Laser class not ready to be called the Torch

Published on April 10th, 2013

These are interesting times for the International Laser Class Association (ILCA), a self-administered, self-funded international organization which provides co-ordination, organization and communication for the class worldwide.

On March 4, 2013, Laser designer Bruce Kirby filed a complaint in the U.S. Federal Court system against builder LaserPerformance, an act that followed years of disputes regarding royalty fees that Kirby was owed by the builder. The complaint also named the ILCA and ISAF, as they were deemed complicit in allowing the continuing construction of unauthorized boats by LaserPerformance.

After reviewing the correspondence and complaint, ISAF concluded that LaserPerformance was no longer licensed by Bruce Kirby and/or Bruce Kirby Inc. to build the Laser class boat, and on March 25, 2013 instructed the ILCA to no longer recognize LaserPerformance as a builder of the Laser.

This meant the largest of the three class builders was now shuttered, but this didn’t solve all the problems. LaserPerformance held part ownership to the name. They may not be able to build the Laser, but Kirby couldn’t replace them either.

Kirby didn’t see an easy way forward. He saw countless sailors enjoying his boat, but not enjoying a high level of service from the builder that covered the North American and European regions. So he re-branded his design, which is now called the Torch. Identical boat, different name.

What happens next is not clear. The Laser class may have better endured this assault if not for Kirby’s control over the other two builders. The Asian builder was found in default this week, and the Australian builder has partnered with Kirby to now build the Torch. A class without a builder is a class in trouble.

Kirby hopes that the ILCA will follow his lead and re-brand itself as the Torch class, but the ILCA is not yet ready to make that move. Here is their official statement posted on April 10, 2013:

“The International Laser Class Association (ILCA) is disappointed to learn about the actions by Bruce Kirby Inc concerning the introduction of a new class association whilst there is an unresolved legal dispute between Bruce Kirby Inc and some Laser builders. The ILCA continues to believe that it is necessary to resolve the current legal issues before considering possible alternatives, and remains committed to working towards a resolution.”

Here is a copy of the complaint

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