To secure the future of our class and provide certainty to World Sailing that we can meet their new Olympic Classes requirements, the ILCA World Council is asking for your support by voting “YES” to approve an important class rule change: to remove the requirement for Builders to be licensed by Laser trademark owners.
In a vote of the ILCA World Council, this rule change was overwhelmingly approved by an 11 to 2 margin, including the unanimous approval of all six ILCA Regional Chairmen.
The class now needs YOUR support!
Your vote “YES” will:
1) Make sure that our class will remain in the Olympics.
2) Ensure that class-legal equipment is available in ALL parts of the world.
3) Give control of our class to the sailors, not the commercial parties.
If you are ready to vote, click here.
Background for Rule Change:
In May 2019, World Sailing overwhelmingly endorsed ILCA in our bid to have our class re-selected as Olympic equipment for the one-person dinghy events in the 2024 Olympics.
However, approval for the Olympics now requires that the commercial parties agree to the terms of World Sailing’s Olympic Equipment Policy, which requires that any qualified and interested builder can enter the market on Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms.
This is a big change from the past, and there is no guarantee that the commercial parties (builders and trademark owners) can come to an agreement before the 1 August deadline set by World Sailing.
Since the World Sailing meeting in May, ILCA has been actively engaged in discussions and meetings to help reach a FRAND agreement. But there is still a long way to go to reach that goal.
In fact, a status update issued on 30 June on behalf of the World Sailing Board states the following:
“The Board is pleased that progress has been made in areas where there was no movement for a substantial period of time. However, the Board is very concerned that much work needs to be done…to meet World Sailing’s deadline of 1 August.”
The ILCA World Council is also highly concerned that our Olympic future is now in the hands of commercial parties, several of which are controlled by non-sailors.
As sailors, we understand the importance of being prepared. We believe that we need a back-up plan to ensure our Olympic future.
ILCA now needs your support!
Vote “YES” today to make sure our class remains in the Olympics, to ensure the supply of class-legal equipment in ALL parts of the world, and to give control of our class to the sailors, not the commercial parties.
This is NOT a vote to change the name of the class. The class will continue to operate as always as the International Laser Class Association. This is only a vote to ensure that new builders can enter the market, and only if necessary, sell class-legal equipment under an alternate brand name.
Approving this rule change DOES NOT require that the name of our boat will change. ILCA will continue to work towards an agreement with the Laser trademark holders. This change only allows us to make sure that we can comply with World Sailing’s Olympic Equipment Policy if the current Laser trademark owners are unable to come to an agreement before 1 August.
If members vote “YES” for the proposed rule change it will remove the requirement for class builders to be linked to a Laser trademark holder and will provide ILCA with an independent path to meet the requirements imposed by World Sailing in their 2024 Olympic Equipment Policy.
If members vote No on the proposed rule change the class’s future will remain dependent on decisions made by Laser trademark owners. In this case ILCA cannot guarantee that our class will be able to meet World Sailing’s requirements for maintaining Olympic status, and there is a very strong chance the Laser Standard and Laser Radial classes will be out of the Olympics after 2020.
Even if you are not personally concerned with the Olympic status of the class, voting “YES” for the proposed rule change will provide greater independence from commercial parties and allow new manufacturers worldwide to produce class-legal equipment for the market, improving supply and introducing real competition in providing equipment, all of which will address many of the equipment issues that sailors have highlighted over recent years.
Voting No on the proposed rule change will mean remaining dependent on the current trademark holders to serve the market in an effective monopoly situation.
The ILCA World Council is asking sailors to assert control of their class by voting “YES” for the proposed rule change.
If you would like additional information about the proposed rule change, click on any of the following links:
A summary of the reasons for the rule change
The text of the proposed rule change
Detailed information about the rule change
Questions and Answers.
To vote now, click here.
The Proposed Class Rule Change
Change the ILCA Class Rules, Part 1, as follows:
Definition of Builder:
A Builder is a manufacturer that
has the rights to use a Laser trademark, is manufacturing the hull, equipment, fittings, spars, sails and battens in strict adherence to the Construction Manual, and has been approved as a Laser Builder by each of World Sailing and the International Laser Class Association.
If approved, other class rules affected by this rule change will be modified to be consistent with the amended definition of Builder. This will include all rules covering the brand name of the equipment.
For 50 years ILCA has been working to develop and support Laser sailing world wide, creating the most successful youth and adult racing class in the world. An important aspect of this has been the role of the class in the Olympics and World Sailing Youth Championships.
In the past year the Olympic status of the Laser was placed under review by World Sailing (WS) as part of their anti-trust review.
This review has in part been driven by European Union competition law. Over the past half decade, legal developments in the European Union have forced major changes to the organization of sporting events that use equipment with ‘monopoly’ issues.
In response, World Sailing’s anti-trust policy now requires that all Olympic classes “be open to any interested and qualified manufacturer” in order to be selected as Olympic equipment. To meet this requirement, ALL Classes of equipment used in Olympic sailing will need to meet what World Sailing calls Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms to license new builders to manufacture Class equipment. Classes that do not have FRAND compliant arrangements in place for new builders will be removed from Olympic consideration.
At their recent mid-year meeting, the World Sailing Council strongly supported the ILCA in their bid for re-selection as Olympic Equipment for 2024, but confirmation is entirely conditional on ILCA, the Builders and Laser trademark holders agreeing to the terms of World Sailing’s new Olympic Classes Contract by August 1, 2019. This requires having in place a new builder and equipment supplier process that allows additional qualified builders and equipment suppliers access to the market on FRAND terms.
To the extent the boat or equipment is protected by trademarks or other intellectual property, as is presently the case with the Laser and Laser Radial classes, the owners of the IP rights are required to grant a license to any qualified new manufacturer on FRAND terms.
World Sailing has made it absolutely clear that without full agreement to these policies by 1 August, the Laser and Laser Radial will lose their Olympic status and World Sailing will select different equipment for the men’s and women’s single-handed dinghy events for the 2024 Olympics.
A change to an open builder model is of course a major change for the class, which has operated for the last 50 years under a restricted builder model, but this is non-negotiable if we are to remain an Olympic sailing class.
There are two options by which this change be achieved:
Option 1. By all current Laser trademark holders licensing that trademark on FRAND terms. This would enable new qualified builders to manufacture and sell equipment with Laser branding.
Option 2. By the class changing its rules to allow qualified builders access to the market without use of the Laser trademarks. This would involve allowing new class legal equipment to be manufactured and sold under an alternate brand name.
Option 1 is strongly preferred by the ILCA World Council. It is the subject of ongoing discussions between the existing builders, Laser trademark holders, ILCA and World Sailing.
While ILCA is actively working with World Sailing and making every effort to engage with the Builders and Laser trademark holders to have them adopt the requirements of the Olympic Equipment policy and allow FRAND licensing of the Laser trademark, we cannot guarantee that they will decide to take that course, or meet the 1 August 2019 deadline.
We recognize and appreciate that the new World Sailing requirements represent a big change for the current Laser trademark holders, who have historically enjoyed exclusive trademark territories and that they may believe that licensing their trademark to new builders under the new Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory terms is not necessarily in their commercial interest. ILCA understands that, as private companies, the Laser trademark holders have the right to do as they wish and they may or may not agree to license their trademarks to new manufacturers.
Although ILCA continues to support and work towards an outcome in which all current builders and Laser Trademark holders agree to World Sailing’s new Olympic Equipment policy, no signed agreement has yet been reached, and it is not certain that an agreement satisfactory to all parties will be in place by the 1 August deadline.
If any one of the trademark holders decides not to agree to the terms of the Olympic Contract and its FRAND licensing requirement, the Laser and Laser Radial will be out of the 2024 Olympics as of 1 August.
Option 2 is the backup position which the World Council believes must be in place in case option 1 does not succeed. The rule change to facilitate option 2 requires member approval.
Under existing class rules, we are dependent on all current Laser trademark owners agreeing to comply with Olympic Equipment policy requirements by licensing their trademark.
The proposed rule change, if approved by voting class members, will enable ILCA to implement World Sailing’s Olympic Equipment policy regardless of decisions made by current builders and trademark holders.
The ILCA World Council believes that the class MUST have a viable option in case negotiations between the trademark holders cannot be satisfactorily completed by 1 August, and is therefore seeking member approval of the class rules change.
It is important to note that voting for this proposed rule change does NOT require the class to sail in alternate branded equipment, it only makes the option available if it is needed.
Olympic Status of the Laser and Laser Radial classes not only brings worldwide recognition through the Olympics but sustains the pathway from 4.7 through to the senior classes, as MNA’s around the world select the Laser for their youth training programs. This leads to the continuous introduction of new sailors to the class, helping to ensure worldwide participation, supporting the growth of the class and maintaining its strength.
In view of this, the ILCA World Council believes emphatically that it is in the best interests of the class, the sailors and the sport of sailing to remain Olympic. Losing Olympic status would be detrimental to the class, both in the short term where we would expect quickly to see the erosion of youth sailing as MNAs switch to newly selected equipment for their Olympic pathway, and in the long term as fewer and fewer sailors compete in and identify with the Laser class.
Because we see the Olympics as critical to maintaining the global reach and growth potential for our class, ILCA is fully committed to ensuring that we are retained in the Olympic program.
Our strongly desired outcome is to see this happen under the Laser brand. However, ILCA is committed to maintaining Olympic status, even if it might involve moving away from the Laser trademark for class legal equipment in order to comply with trademark law and World Sailing’s policies. A new brand could be determined with input from ILCA members.
As sailors, we think it is extremely important to have a back-up plan, just as we wouldn’t go out to sea without a life vest. The proposed rule change, if adopted, would allow us to have an alternative path forward in case any builder decides to reject World Sailing’s FRAND policy, or simply fails to come to a decision in time to meet the 1 August deadline.
The ILCA World Council has determined it is critical to proceed with a member ballot and make option 2 available should option 1 not succeed. They therefore request that you vote FOR the rule change below to provide the class with a future independent of commercial trademark owners.
The ILCA World Council firmly wishes that LP, PSA, PSJ and the Laser trademark holders are able to reach an agreement that will comply with the requirements of the Olympic Equipment Policy and ILCA rules. However the World Council also believes it is critical to have a viable option in place to remain an Olympic class if such an agreement is not reached by the 1 August deadline. Voting FOR the proposed class rule change will make that option available to the class.
Q: World Sailing Council just voted to re-select the Laser as Olympic Equipment in 2024, why is any additional action necessary?
A: The vote conducted by the World Sailing Council was conditional on the Class, its builders and trademark owners meeting the terms of the new World Sailing Olympic Equipment Policy and having signed agreements with World Sailing by 1 August. If agreements are not in place by that date, then the Laser and Laser Radial classes will NOT be retained as Olympic Equipment and World Sailing will select different equipment.
Q: Why wouldn’t an agreement be reached between ILCA, World Sailing and the builders and trademark holders? Don’t they all want to remain Olympic equipment?
A: The ILCA World Council cannot speak on behalf of builders or trademark holders. We believe that they would like the Laser to be retained as Olympic equipment. However, the Olympic Equipment Policy REQUIRES current trademark holders to license the use of their trademark, for a reasonable fee, to any qualified builders who want to access the markets. The ILCA World Council acknowledges that this is a big change for those parties, and recognizes that they may not believe it to be in their best interests to agree to those conditions.
Q: Why are we dependent on the builders and trademark holders to come to an agreement with World Sailing if we want to continue to remain an Olympic sailing class?
A: Our current class rules define a builder as an entity that has the rights to use a Laser trademark. Therefore, we can only sanction equipment supplied by the entities who have that right. Because ILCA does not control the Laser trademark for manufacturing sailing equipment, we cannot license it ourselves and so depend on those who control the trademark to license it in accord with the Olympic Equipment Policy. That makes the class dependent on these other parties. If any of the builders or trademark holders is not able to reach an agreement consistent with the Olympic Equipment Policy, we will no longer be considered for inclusion in Olympic Sailing for single handed men’s and women’s dinghy.
Q: Can we just wait and see if the current builders and trademark holders are able to come to an agreement, and then take action if no agreement is reached?
A: If the ILCA waits until the 1 August deadline to see whether an agreement will be reached with World Sailing and the builders and trademark holders, it will be too late to take action. Our class rules require a one month voting period. It will also take time to verify and tally votes. This is why ILCA is asking your support now to put in place a contingency plan to allow ILCA an option to take action as the 1 August deadline approaches.
Q: Is the ILCA World Council against or does it favor an agreement between World Sailing and current builders and trademark holders?
A: The ILCA World Council STRONGLY FAVORS a solution in which the current builders and trademark holders are able to reach an agreement that will comply with the Olympic Equipment Policy. However, given the risk that this MIGHT not happen, the ILCA World Council strongly believes that it would be prudent to be prepared with a contingency plan.
Q: How will the proposed change in class rules allow ILCA to comply with World Sailing’s Equipment Policy?
A: By changing the definition of a builder to no longer require the right to use a Laser trademark, the ILCA and World Sailing can approve other builders to supply equipment, consistent with the Olympic Equipment Policy, independent of trademark holders. This would involve manufacturing and selling the equipment without using the “Laser” brand, presumably under an alternate brand name.
Q: If the proposed rule change is approved, will that prevent trademark holders and builders from being able to reach an agreement with World Sailing?
A: No, the trademark holders and builders may come to an agreement with each other and with World Sailing to license their Laser trademarks under FRAND terms regardless of the proposed rule change. The rule change does NOT REQUIRE the class to take any specific action. It allows ILCA the OPTION to take action to meet Olympic Requirements if the builders and trademark holders cannot or choose not to come to an agreement on their own.
Q: If the proposed rule change is approved, does the class need to change the name of the boat?
A: No, even if the definition of a builder is changed, it does not require ILCA to sanction the use of non Laser branded equipment. It only provides the option to do so if it becomes necessary.
Q: Are there other options to comply with the World Sailing Olympic Equipment Policy?
A: There appears to be only two paths to reaching compliance with the Olympic Equipment Policy:
(1) ALL current builder’s and trademark holders agree to meet the conditions of the Olympic Equipment Policy.
(2) ILCA, through a vote of its membership, changes the definition of Builder, and implements measures to comply with the World Sailing Olympic Equipment Policy.
Q: What if I don’t care about the Olympics? Why should I support the proposed rule change?
A: Although only a small number of Laser sailors compete at the Olympic level, tens of thousands of us are part of the system that leads there! The boat’s stature as the premier Olympic single-handed dinghy helps inspire kids everywhere, maintaining the Laser as the top choice for youth sailing in every nation. Olympic inclusion means more worldwide sales and interest, which means more boats available at lower prices for young sailors and newcomers to the sport.
The ILCA World Council strongly believes that losing Olympic status would be detrimental to the class both in the short term, where we would expect quickly to see the erosion of youth sailing as MNAs switch to newly selected equipment for their Olympic pathway, and in the long term, as fewer and fewer sailors compete in and identify with the Laser class.
Q: What Does the ILCA World Council think about FRAND?
A: The ILCA World Council support’s World Sailing’s FRAND licensing policy and has been working to get all the current builders and Trademark holders to develop a licensing agreement that will meet the FRAND conditions. Having more qualified builders to supply equipment around the world, which would be the direct outcome from complying with FRAND, will be a significant improvement from the status quo in which sailors depend on monopoly suppliers to provide equipment in their area.
Adopting World Sailing’s FRAND licensing, regardless of your interest in the Olympics, means that more areas of the World can be better served by additional equipment manufacturers.
Q: If any qualified builder is allowed to build ILCA class legal equipment, under FRAND terms, won’t there be difficulties controlling quality and the strict one design nature of the Class?
A: Any new builders would have to adhere to the same process as existing builders in terms of strict compliance with the class Construction Manual, including regular inspections to ensure that the equipment is uniform and fully meets all class specifications.
Q: What happens if the membership approves the proposed rule change?
A: If the membership approves the proposed rule change, AND the builders and trademark holders are able to come to an agreement with World Sailing that meets the requirements of the Olympic Equipment Policy, then the class will continue to compete in Laser branded equipment. There will be additional builders appointed worldwide who will be able to produce Laser branded equipment as specified under the requirements of the Olympic Equipment Policy.
If the membership approves the rule change, BUT the builders and trademark holders are NOT able to come to an agreement and meet the requirements of the Olympic Equipment Policy, then ILCA can submit the member approved rule change to World Sailing for approval and, if accepted, ILCA will move forward with a plan to achieve compliance with the Olympic Equipment Policy, which will involve new class legal equipment to be manufactured and sold under an alternate brand name. All existing Laser branded equipment will remain class legal.
Q: What happens if the membership does NOT approve the proposed rule change?
A: If the membership rejects the proposed rule change and the builders and trademark holders are able to come to an agreement with World Sailing that meets the requirements of the Olympic Equipment Policy prior to the 1 August deadline, then the class will be confirmed for the 2024 Olympics and continue with Laser branded equipment. There will be additional builders worldwide who will be able to produce Laser branded equipment as specified under the requirements of the Olympic Equipment Policy.
If the membership does NOT approve the rule change, AND the builders and trademark holders are NOT able to come to an agreement and meet the requirements of the Olympic Equipment Policy prior to the 1 August deadline, then the Laser and Laser Radial will be rejected as Olympic equipment for the 2024 Olympic Games. The existing Laser trademark limitations and class rules will continue to apply. Reinstatement of Laser Performance as a Laser builder, or appointment of alternative builders to the parts of the world previously serviced by Laser performance would be subject to future negotiations and agreement between ILCA, The Laser trademark holders and Laser Performance.
Q: If the class ends up competing in equipment that is not ‘Laser’ branded, can it still be the Laser Class?
A: Yes, the International Laser Class Association will continue to remain the name of the class association, and sailors will continue to sail using “Laser Class” equipment, controlled by the same strict one design principles, regardless of the name under which equipment is manufactured and sold.
The “Laser” brand does not define the equipment used by ILCA members and is actually applied to a number of different products (Laser Pico, Laser Bahia, Laser Vago, etc) that have nothing to do with “Laser Class” equipment.
Q: If the brand of the equipment needs to be changed, what will the new brand be?
A: Although the idea of using ILCA as a brand has been discussed and presented as an example, this is NOT a vote about using a specific brand. Alternate branding can be determined at a later date, with input from the sailors.
Q: Does the ILCA Constitution need to be changed?
A: No, there is nothing in the ILCA Constitution that is dependent on the brand under which equipment is manufactured or sold.
Q: This rule change sounds vaguely familiar. Has the class done something like this before?
A: Yes, the definition of Builder was previously changed by vote of the members in 2011 to remove the requirement for builders to have an agreement with Bruce Kirby.