Interesting story if you haven't seen it.
- Basic facts about the market
- Weird way to sell an asset... by claiming its difficult to enforce
French Kiteboard Inventors Sell Patents as Knockoffs Multiply
2008-04-17 22:56 (New York)
By Anne-Sylvaine Chassany
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- On a windy day in 1985, Bruno
Legaignoux jumped into the ocean off France's Brittany coast with
a homemade kite harnessed to his waist and skis on his feet,
letting the wind pull him across the water.
Then, suddenly, a gust of wind lifted the 24-year-old
inventor into the air, before dropping him back down and sending
him skimming over the waves. Kiteboarding was born.
``It took me by surprise,'' recalled Bruno, now 47 and a
millionaire. ``I realized the sport had potential. It was fun.''
Now kiteboarders outnumber windsurfers on beaches from
Hawaii to Corsica and a professional circuit is sponsoring 10
events in 2008. This week, more than 50 kiteboarders are
competing at Mondial du Vent in Leucate, France, where 19-year-
old Briton Aaron Hadlow is defending his freestyle championship.
The kiteboarding boom has made Bruno and his brother,
Dominique, wealthy after they patented their kite designs. Now
they are in talks to sell their patents before a new technology
makes theirs obsolete.
``The patent can be questioned by counterfeiters at any
moment and a new type of more-advanced sail can be invented from
one day to the next,'' said Bruno, who like his brother lives in
the Dominican Republic. ``I prefer selling quickly and getting it
The sale could earn the brothers at least 2 million euros
($3.2 million), said Pierre Veron, a patent lawyer in Paris.
Once seen as an extreme sport, about 80,000 kiteboarders are
certified each year by the International Kiteboarding
Organization, based in the Dominican Republic. Fifty brands of
kites have popped up, and U.S. windsurfing star Robby Naish, who
founded his eponymous company, has developed his own technology.
A cross between paragliding and windsurfing, kiteboarding
uses large sail-like kites to propel the riders, who take short
flights as they jump above the water.
``It's a good time to sell,'' said Stan Bresson, a
spokesman for Montpellier, France-based kite maker Takoon. ``With
the market now growing and technology progressing fast,
competition and patent infringers exert more pressure. Bruno has
spent more time on legal battles than on research lately.''
The brothers declined to discuss the sale negotiations and
said they have no regrets.
``I've made enough money to sail around the world for the
rest of my life, my dream,'' said Bruno, who dropped out of
university at 18 to become a sailing instructor.
For Bruno and Dominique, their creation started with bits of
fabric and books on aerodynamics during a sailing trip along the
coast of Africa in 1984.
Their first prototype, a 20-centimeter polystyrene model
that they tested on Senegal's Casamance River, wasn't perfect.
They realized they needed a kite that would float and could take
off on water.
In November of that year, back in France, the two former
junior sailing champions applied for a patent on a C-shaped kite
with an inflated edge.
Ten years later, their patents were licensed by companies
including Hong Kong-based windsurfing gear maker Pryde Group and
The brothers get 12 euros a kite from equipment makers. More
than two-thirds of the world's kiteboarding kites use some
element of their safety-enhancing ``bow'' technology, according
to a 2006 survey by SBC Kiteboard Magazine. The concave structure
with a bridle is designed to release most of the wind in case of
As many as 120,000 kites were sold last year and the market
should grow 15 percent annually as technology becomes safer, said
Michael Raper, operations manager of Pryde's Cabrinha unit, one
of the three biggest brands.
``You get a feeling of absolute freedom,'' said Maximin
Thevoux, a one-time windsurfing instructor who now teaches
kiteboarding near Bonifacio, Corsica. ``When you take a jump, you
feel light, hanging in the air, with no sense of gravity.''
--Editor: Vidya Root, Melissa Pozsgay.
To contact the reporters on this story:
Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in Paris at +33-1-5365-5078 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Vidya Root in Paris at +33-1-5365-5018 or
BB FP <EQUITY>
-0- Apr/18/2008 02:56 GMT