The ICF Official Equipment Licensing Programme – an end to copying?

Thursday, 18 June 2009 04:26 | Written by 
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On a recent trip to Europe I was amazed to see no fewer than three copied surfskis offered for sale.  There were copies (with minor deck modifications) of the Epic V10, the Fenn Mako6 and the Fenn XT.  When I asked about the skis, I was told that it was "almost normal in Europe" and that the manufacturers concerned regularly copied K1s and had simply extended their operations to include skis. 


The Problem with Copies

Quite apart from the moral issues of copying, there is the very real consequence that copying stifles innovation. 

The design of a new ski - especially if you use CAD, naval architects, fluid dynamics specialists as some ski manufacturers do - is an expensive business.  And the costs can only be recovered through the sales of the resulting product.

Unfortunately it's very easy to take a mould off a ski - and then manufacture the stolen copy at a reduced cost, because you don't have to recoup the R&D investment.  Clearly this is unfair on the company that went to the trouble of creating the original design.

And this is why copyright law was invented in the first place.


In practice, there is very little protection for a boat design - you can register the hull shape, in some countries, but the costs of proving a copy and taking the copier to court are often prohibitive.

In some countries race organizers do not acknowledge (i.e. will not give a result to) paddlers on copied skis.  But this approach has its own difficulties - who has the authority to declare that a particular ski is a copy?


It sounds as though the ICF may have come up with a workable system - the Official Equipment Licensing Programme.

Of course surfski races are for the most part not (yet) part of the ICF, so this wouldn't necessarily apply.  But check this out - shouldn't surfski have a similar system?  Shouldn't we too have protection for ski designs?  There's no doubt that manufacturers worldwide have sinned in the past - but should copying be allowed to continue?  What do you think?

ICF Official Equipment Licensing Programme

The following bulletin was released a few days ago by the ICF Press Office:

The ICF is proud to launch its Official Equipment Licensing Programme that will benefit all manufacturers and providers of canoeing equipment from recreational canoeing to elite competition level.

The ICF Official Equipment Licensing Programme aims to certify that canoeing equipment is of the highest standard and to recognise the best materials and products in terms of safety, quality, performance and design.  As the International Federation for canoeing the endorsement of the product by the ICF will be recognised worldwide giving guidance and assurance to customers looking to purchase quality products for canoeing.

Frank Garner the ICF's Canoe Sprint Chair stated that "the ICF's Official Licensing Programme will bring a consistency of quality products to our sport.  We must be assured that our athletes and teams have the guarantee and confidence that they are receiving the best quality equipment available in the world today."

The programme is designed to protect the manufacturers that promote and help develop canoeing worldwide.  There is the potential that new technologies and designs are copied resulting in the initial investment being lost from innovative companies and the ICF would like to ensure the most upstanding canoeing producers are protected.

In addition, the ICF will allow companies that reach the required standards to use the ICF logo and be an ‘ICF Official Licensed Provider' for commercial purposes and promotion of their products.

"About 5 years ago, I suggested that the ICF should have its own certification system for boats and equipment. We decided to finally move forward after the 2008 ICF Congress in Rome approved the idea. The ICF met with boat suppliers and received very positive feedback about this idea. I'm really excited for the ICF to launch this important programme." said the ICF President Jose Perurena.

Ultimately all equipment at ICF events will be licensed products of the highest quality ensuring the best racing conditions whilst maintaining safety standards suitable for canoeing.  The programme will commence with competition boats, paddles and starting systems but will be opened to helmets, life vests and other canoeing accessories as well as equipment for recreational canoeing.

The main advantage for the manufacturers is that the ICF recognises the importance of these companies for canoeing and the quality of products they produce.  The ICF also wants to listen to the manufacturers by creating a commission for producers to discuss ideas, issues and future direction for canoeing equipment to help formulate the future direction of the sport.

The ICF: Always moving forward

For more information regarding the ICF Equipment Licensing Programme or to register your canoeing equipment and accessories with the ICF, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The original press release is at: