KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: A Brazilian court has ordered world football federation FIFA to pay compensation to a man who has been fighting for years to be recognised as inventor of the free-kick spray.
The 14th Civil Chamber of the Court of Justice of Rio de Janeiro ruled that FIFA should pay Spuni Comércio de Produtor Esportivos, owned by inventor Heine Allemagne, for acting in bad faith and improperly appropriating its invention. FIFA is expected to appeal.
A panel of three judges decided unanimously to overturn an initial judgment in favour of FIFA in July last year. Then Judge Fabelisa Gomes Leal, in the 7th Business Court, agreed with FIFA’s claim that use of the spray from other suppliers did not constitute patent infringement.
In April this year, the Superior Court of Justice ruled that FIFA could be held responsible only for use of the spray in Brazil. The latest judgment followed this ruling though Heine Allemagne’s lawyers had asked for a worldwide order.
Lawyer Gustavo Kloh said: “It was a great victory even over just what happens in Brazil. I think our courts have stood up for justice.”
Heine Allemagne had originally claimed compensation of $40m to cover misuse of the spray since 2012. FIFA also faces a further financial claim over the use of the spray at the 2014 World Cup finals – coincidentally in Brazil.
Judge Pessanha Filho said: “The evidence is plentiful, crystal clear and evident that FIFA had undertaken initial negotiations with the appellant. These are photos of meetings, exchanges of emails.
“There is no mistake. There was even a formalized proposal by email trying to buy [the patents].”
Judge Gilberto Campista Guarino agreed that “bad faith is clear and evident.”
FIFA denied making a formal promise to acquire the Brazilian’s patent.
The spray used to keep a defensive wall 10 yards [9.15 metres] from the ball during free-kicks was first used in the Copa Belo Horizonte 2000 – a junior football tournament overseen by the Minas Gerais Football Federation.
Heine, from Minas Gerais, saw the regional federation adopt the spray in the state championship in 2001 before, in 2002, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) commissioned its use in the João Havelange Cup.
In 2006, Heine joined forces with Argentinean Pablo Silva to improve the technical quality of the spray. It was then renamed 9.15 Fair Play.
In 2012, IFAB (the law-making body of the game) authorised the product to be used by all international football federations following tests in 18,000 professional games.