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Patents in the Moth Class?

Below are the patent applications made by Bladerider, available at www.ipaustralia.gov.au
Patent Application Type Provisional
Australian Application Number 2006906524
Applicant(s) KA Sail Australia Pty. Ltd.
Inventor(s) McDougall, Andrew Graeme
Title Single Sided Tensioning of a Membrane within a Frame
Status Filed
Filing Date 22 November 2006
Date of Patent 22 November 2006
Agent /
Address for Legal Service Watermark Patent & Trademark Attorneys
Level 2 302 Burwood Road Hawthorn VIC 3122 Australia
Patent Application Type Provisional
Australian Application Number 2006906523
Applicant(s) KA Sail Australia Pty. Ltd.
Inventor(s) McDougall, Andrew Graeme
Title Hydrofoil Mounting System
Status Filed
Filing Date 22 November 2006
Date of Patent 22 November 2006
Agent /
Address for Legal Service Watermark Patent & Trademark Attorneys
Level 2 302 Burwood Road Hawthorn VIC 3122 Australia

To our knowledge this is the first time in the long history of the class that anyone has attempted to gain a patent for their innovation or to prevent others from using it. So what are the implications?

We believe free use of others’ innovations is an essential characteristic of a development class. If Ian Ward had patented the Unilfoiler or John Ilett had patented the wand/flap control system, other boat building companies would have been strongly discouraged from attempting copies even with some modifications. There is no guarantee in patent law that making a small change lets you off the patent if it is shown that you are employing the innovation of the patent holder. Fullforce, Aardvark, Thorpe and indeed Bladerider could all have been sued if patents had been established.

There are many examples of design innovation in the Moth class that have never been patented and have therefore been widely copied and improved to the benefit of the sailing community. The danger we perceive is that by seeking to patent its innovations Bladeider will deter other builders from building Moths and hinder development. The irony is that Bladerider have contributed minimal innovation but benefitted freely from the open source development of others. To be fair,they are doing what many large companies would do but that does not mean it is good for our class.

The issue we see, is that our class rule and philosophy relies on not having normal corporate behaviour imposed on it. The open source philosophy of new tech companies like SunMicrosystems has in fact been practised in the Moth class for 75 years. Without it we would be sailing Europes made by Rondar.

We’d welcome responses, especially from Bladerider.