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International Laser Class Association: results of fundamental rule change voting PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 17:38

Statement from the International Laser Class Office regarding the results of the fundamental rule change vote.

 

 

After the approval by the World Council and the Advisory Council on March 7th 2011 a change in the fundamental rule of ILCA was submitted to the member for voting on March 23rd 2011 with following explanation:
For 40 years the ILCA Class Rules and associated agreements concerning the management of the class have given the sailing world the most successful youth and adult racing class in history with over 200,000 boats built and racing in over 125 countries.
This success, we believe, is based fundamentally on the ILCA Class Rules, which requires that a builder of class-legal boats must (among other things) (i) manufacture the hull, equipment, fittings, spars, sails and battens in strict adherence to the Construction Manual and (ii) have the Laser trademark rights.
In addition, a builder also needs a building agreement from Bruce Kirby or Bruce Kirby Inc. This provision is mostly historical. The rule was insti¬tuted at a time when Bruce Kirby held certain design rights. The ILCA is not a party to any of these “Kirby” agree¬ments.
Unfortunately, a dispute has arisen between parties who claim to be representing Kirby’s interests: a New Zealand company called Global Sailing; and Laser Performance Europe (LPE), one of the manufacturers, which holds the Laser trademark rights for Europe, South America, Africa and Asia (excluding trademark rights owned by Performance Sailcraft Japan for Japan and South Korea). The dispute centers on whether a valid “design rights holder” agreement exists with LPE. Under the current ILCA Class Rules, if there is not a valid building agreement, then a manufacturer, even a trademark owner, would not meet the requirements to be an International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and International Laser Class Association (ILCA) approved builder.
Each of the parties to the conflict has threatened ILCA in various ways – Global Sailing has said it may form a new class association for a “Kirby Sailboat”. LPE informed the ILCA that it intends to form its own “Laser” class. We may therefore end up with three different classes and may lose the Olympic status. The “one design / out of the box principle” would also be threatened.
One other possible result of this conflict is that due to uncertainty over ISAF and ILCA approval, there may not be a sufficient quantity of new Laser boats compliant with the ILCA Class Rules available in Europe and other countries in 2011 and beyond to satisfy the demand of its current and future ILCA members.
The class officers made numerous attempts to get the two conflicting parties to end their dispute: meetings were held in different parts of the world and written compromise proposals were made, unfortunately with no success. While discussions between the two parties continue we are unsure of the outcome and running out of time.
We also took legal advice. The above rule changes were deemed the only possible solution in order to promote the uninterrupted supply of class legal Laser boats and to maintain ILCA in its current set-up. The lawyers also informed us that the Kirby design patents had in fact expired.
Therefore, we are proposing to change the rule to eliminate the “building agreement from Bruce Kirby or Bruce Kirby Inc.” requirement. Manufacturers who have trademark rights and who build in strict adherence to the ILCA Rules and to the Construction Manual, which is controlled by ILCA, will continue to have the right to build Class legal boats. We believe that this change will eliminate uncertainty over ISAF and ILCA approval, give manufacturers continued reasons to support the class and satisfy the demands of current and future class members.
Discussions on the different web forums during the 6 months voting period showed that there were some misunderstandings on certain element of the proposed rule change. These were attempted to be clarified by the ILCA President with a statement of 19 September 2011, which was published on the International Class web site and circulated to all National Laser Associations:
1.    The whole issue started when ILCA was advised by Global Sailing, who purports to be representing Kirby’s interests, that as per July 11 2010 they had terminated the license agreement with Laser Performance Europe. ILCA is not a party to these agreements and does not even know their exact content. Therefore to pretend that the purpose of the rule change was to terminate the royalty payments to Global Sailing is not correct. The only reason of the rule change is to assure the supply of a sufficient quantity of new Laser boats compliant with the ILCA Class Rules available in Europe and other countries in 2011 and beyond to satisfy the demand of its current and future ILCA members.  
2.    We understand that currently negotiations might be under way between Bruce Kirby and Global Sailing for Bruce to get his rights back. Under the current ILCA Class Rules a valid builder agreement is required between the “design rights holder” and the licensed Laser builder. Who the owner is of the design rights is unimportant in this context. Since the licence agreement with Laser Performance Europe has been terminated, only a new (or the renewal of the old) licence agreement between the “design rights holder” and Laser Performance Europe would solve the issue and potentially make the rule change unnecessary. We have informed all parties involved (Global Sailing, Bruce Kirby and Laser Performance Europe) of that and have asked them to inform us if they had come to a new agreement. This has not been the case up until today.
3.    ILCA has always preferred a peaceful solution. If all three parties are close to agree on a solution, we will not stay in their way and give them reasonable time to conclude their negotiations on a new licence agreement with Laser Performance Europe.

Latest situation:
Unfortunately, up until today no new licence agreement between the “design rights holder” and Laser Performance Europe has been signed or is close to an agreement, nor has the old agreement been confirmed by all parties concerned.

Result of the membership vote:
The voting for the change to the Laser Class Fundamental Rule and other Technical Rule Changes closed at midnight Friday 23 September 2011. Thereafter the votes were verified for membership validity by each District or Region. The results were then audited by an independent audit firm, which reported 1017 ‘yes’ votes (89,3%) and  122 ‘no’ votes (10,7%), showing that over two thirds of the voting members approved the rule change as required by the ILCA Class Rules, part five, article 30(c).

Therefore we will seek the approval of ISAF within the next few days as required by the ILCA Class Rules, part five article 30(d).

Jeff Martin                        Heini Wellmann
Executive Secretary ILCA                President ILCA

October 28th 2011

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2011 17:41
 

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