Torch Class/Bruce Kirby Inc.
The Kirby Torch: A “laser” with a new logo is looking like the pending outcome of a bitter battle between designer and builder.
On March 4, Bruce Kirby filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against LaserPerformance, its owner, Farzad Rastegar, the International Laser Class Association, and the International Sailing Federation, alleging multiple breaches of contract, counterfeiting, trademark infringement, and misappropriation of Kirby’s publicity rights, among others. The legal action furthers a long-running dispute between Kirby and LaserPerformance (operating under different names in North American and Europe). According to the complaint, LaserPerformance has failed to pay Kirby royalties since January 2011, a sum of more than $200,000, plus compounded interest.
The 127-page legal filling says Kirby (and Kirby Inc.) terminated LaserPerformance’s right to build the “Kirby Sailboat” in Europe and North America last year because of its failure to pay royalties and thus multiple contract breaches. The complaint then extends to the ILCA and ISAF, claiming that both entities continued to issue official class plaques bearing the trademark “Bruce Kirby,” despite knowledge of LaserPerformance’s termination notice.
Kirby, of Rowayton, Conn., says the protracted legal battle is not how he envisioned spending his golden years, but an original agreement between he and his first licensee in 1983 explicitly states his rights to royalties and his ability to terminate any builder in default. Because of the litigation he could not comment, but referred to the complaint, which provides, in detail, the original agreement and amendments that have transpired over the years between he and LaserPerformance (doing business in North America as Quarter Moon Inc., and in Europe as LaserPerformance Limited).
At the heart of the original agreement is a clause that grants Kirby the sole right to issue and assign hull and sail numbers, as well as the right to refuse said numbers to any builder that defaults on the agreement. Unofficial plaques issued by the ILCA and ISAF bear his name, and therefore, the complaint alleges, are trademark infringements. Further, boats bearing these plaques are considered counterfeit and illegal for sanctioned one-design class competition.
LaserPerformance does own the Laser starburst logo and the Laser brand name, but by default, Kirby says he now owns the build rights, the Construction Manual, and all tooling, moulds, and plugs, and can grant them to another entity. His October 2012 letter to the International Laser Class Association references a “new North American builder of the Kirby Sailboat,” which will be “fully recognized by your association.”
A PDF of the complaint is below.