Heat rising within Laser Class conflict

Published on April 2nd, 2019

When the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) revealed on March 27, 2019 it was terminating the build agreement with LaserPerformance (LP), its largest manufacturer, anyone with a sense of history knew it would not be as easy as distributing a press release.

As one of three Class builders, the response by LP on March 28, 2019 was firm, stating how they intend to fully protect and enforce their intellectual rights property, including Laser intellectual property. They also took issue with how the ILCA offices were located in the USA and not in Europe where over 75% of active Laser class members and sailors reside.

The conflict between LP and the ILCA has legs, and recent exchanges this year on January 17, January 21, and January 23 indicated a worrisome trend. But for the ILCA to cut ties is big-time drama.

Considering that World Sailing is in the midst of a review process to determine whether the Laser and Laser Radial will continue as the equipment for the one-person events at the Paris 2024 Olympics, this clash could have significant ramifications.

Here’s the latest update from LP on April 2, 2019:

LASERPERFORMANCE (“LP”) finds the recent events deplorable as well as potentially catastrophic for the Laser sailors and the class organization as configured today. It is important to know the background to the current dispute.

The falsehoods and misrepresentations contained in the official ILCA announcement are disturbing since they reflect on the class organization and bear on the credibility of governance of the class.

LP makes the following statements and responds to ILCA’s misleading statements:

• LP has granted ILCA certain rights to use the Laser Trademark for its activities pursuant to an intellectual property license dated February 1998 (the “1998 Agreement”).

• LP has been seeking a renewal of the 1998 Agreement which expires after multiple extensions on 31 August 2019.

• ILCA has steadfastly refused to enter into a renewal agreement of like substance and has refused to have any meetings with LP on the matter.

• LP refused to have ILCA undertake an inspection of LP’s facilities five months before expiry of 1998 Agreement and after three years of ILCA refusing to renew its license under the 1998 Agreement.

• LP does not and has not refused inspection of its manufacturing facility or its products by other legitimate regulatory bodies. Indeed, LP has formally requested World Sailing to inspect LP’s facility given that they are the ultimate authority for compliance and the issuance of the boats’ plaques.

• ILCA has not shared any of this with the sailors nor have they proposed how it would operate without a valid license from LP after August 2019.

• ILCA is not legally able to seek new manufacturers for Laser products in LP territory without LP’s consent. LP territory covers the world excluding Australia, New Zealand (PSA) and Japan, Korea (PSJ). This is a simple matter of ownership of intellectual property and LP will enforce against any party who attempts to violate LP’s intellectual property rights.

• ILCA can indeed appoint new builders in Performance Sailcraft Australia (PSA) and Performance Sailcraft Japan (PSJ) limited territory; however, neither of them can supply boats into LP territory without LP’s consent.

• PSA has tried in the past to import illegally into LP territory by a variety of schemes. LP has successfully enforced its property rights against PSA and will continue to enforce its rights against PSA and any collaborating dealers or persons. The last of such legal action was in Belgium and it was adjudicated in favor of LP with the dealer involved filing for bankruptcy to avoid payment of award pursuant to the court judgment.

• PSA is unable to supply LP’s output even if they could legally sell into LP territories. Indeed, the last time PSA agreed to support a class event – also a World event – was the Youth Worlds 2016 in New Zealand with 105 boats which ended up in PSA withdrawing its support three months before the event.

• PSA’s withdrawal meant cancellation of the event except for WS reaching out to LP to step in both to save the event and to prevent the adverse effects a major cancellation impacting the Olympics standing of Laser.

• The 2024 Olympic is in Paris, France – an LP territory and LP can be the only authorized supplier of Laser boats at such event.

• ILCA decertifying the most established and the original manufacturer of Laser sailboats will not end the supply of LP Lasers to our markets. However, it will signal to the Olympic authorities that the most popular Olympic sailing event has poor governance and leadership, leading to unpredictable supply.

• LP, in partnership with its outstanding dealership network, has consistently shown that it is the only supplier that can consistently provide support to events and sailors at a global level.

LP proposes the following to prevent the implosion of the Laser class organization:

A. ILCA sign the renewal agreement to the 1998 Agreement in order to continue to use the granted trademark rights.

B. ILCA move back to Europe where 75% of Laser sailors live and sail.

C. ILCA appoint a professional executive team to run the class operations paid for by increased plaque fees charged to the builders.

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