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09.08.14

Suspicion of High-Level Corruption at the European Patent Office (EPO): Part I

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Željko Topić
Image from jutarnji.hr

Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) Vice-President has a background of corruption and his appointment to the EPO too is believed to be reliant on systemic corruption

Who is Željko Topić? A lot of our readers probably never heard of him. The Western media has paid almost no attention to this bully, who in his own country had become the subject of much hate. His page at WIPO (patents maximalist) says “Appart [sic] of [sic] his expirience [sic] in the State Intellectual Property Office of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Topić was Managing Partner in Korper, Haramija & Topic Ltd.”

Putting the poor English aside, how did this man become a top executive at the EPO? A lot of people have wondered that, including his colleagues. Wikipedia says:

Topić’s appointment as EPO Vice-President has been controversial. Following the announcement of his appointment in March 2012, a number of critical news reports appeared in the Croatian media. These reports referred to a series of alleged irregularities which were said to have occurred during his period of office as Director-General of the State Intellectual Property Office and which it was claimed had not been properly investigated by the competent state authorities.[14][15][16][17] In response, the State Intellectual Property Office issued a press release on 30 April 2012 attributing the media reports to what it called “unprofessional journalism” and dismissing the allegations raised against Topić as “arbitrary”, “unfounded” and based on “malicious accusations”.[18]

A complaint which Topić filed in reaction to an article written by the journalist Slavica Lukić for “Jutarnji list” was, however, rejected by the Ethics Council of the Croatian Journalist’s Association (Croatian: Hrvatsko Novinarsko Društvo or HND) in September 2012. The Ethics Council found that Lukić had verified the relevant information with the appropriate official institutions and that the disputed article was not written with the intention of defaming anyone but rather in defence of the public interest.[19][20]

In December 2013, a Croatian NGO Juris Protecta raised questions about Topić’s EPO appointment and submitted a petition to the European Parliament calling for an independent investigation into the matter.[21][22]

This controversial appointment goes a couple of years back and in order to understand it we needed to read dozens of pages of articles, mostly automated translations. This case has been reported on extensively in the Croatian media over the last few years, but there has been complete silence in the Western European media and no coverage at all in English-speaking media such as Australia’s and north America’s. Surprisingly, despite covering the subject of patents in Europe for nearly a decade, we never wrote about Topić. There seems to be reluctance to look into the scandals, perhaps knowing how litigiously aggressive Topić has historically been.

The corporate media should have the guts to at least mention what happened with Topić. There’s not mere speculation but well-documented (by courts) evidence — one that only local press seems to have taken an interest in. Hence it was virtually impossible to become aware of this and openly discuss this where it matters. As Topić now works in an institution which affects the European Union and the world at large, a broader debate is needed. Topić is in a position of high power and as we have shown in recent years, the EPO is full of abuses. It’s a face, it is a swindle. This latest about Topić may be just one of the lesser-known ones.

Our sources say the only coverage (so far) outside of Croatia that they are aware of has been put out by IP Watch, a site critical of patents on software and other such matters, with focus on Europe. Earlier this year the site stated:

While it’s unclear whether either of these efforts will succeed, Topić’s suitability for office “is a fairly contentious issue” inside the EPO, the source said. Given the various accusations, and apparently uncontested press reports, the general feeling among EPO staff is that there are unanswered questions about Topić’s appointment,” the source said. Employees are also dissatisfied about what they see as an inadequate official response to the situation and believe “some kind of genuinely independent investigation would be required to clear the air,” he said.

The EPO Administrative Council (AC) “has maintained complete silence” and taken no official position on the situation, which is strange given that it’s responsible for the appointment and the organ of the EPO that exercises disciplinary authority over the president and vice-presidents, the source, who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution, said. The absence of a position was confirmed by EPO.

[...]

Topić should not have been reappointed due to his previous track record which, “if it had been properly taken into consideration, would have resulted in him being deemed unfit for public office,” Stilin said. The irregularities under his management at SIPO have not been properly investigated and the government wasn’t properly informed about them, she said. In addition, the procedure leading to his reappointment “was tainted by a whole series of flaws and irregularities, some of these involving actions which were prima facie [evidence]” of a type of person, she said.

Stilin applied for Topić’s position but was unsuccessful. Once reappointed, Topić dismissed Stilin and abolished her department, an action that was “a completely arbitrary and unjustified measure involving an egregious abuse of authority,” Stilin said. She filed a series of complaints in the Croatian courts, all of which were dismissed, after which she sought relief from the ECtHR. That case, filed in 2011, remains unresolved.

“What amazes us about this media silence,” said our sources, “is that many German journalists have been well-informed about the affair for at least a year now but due to some kind of peculiar “self-censorship” or an inability to carry out proper cross-border investigative journalism they have not managed to publish a single line about it.”

An introduction to the EPO “Topić Affair” was sent to us anonymous by a source familiar with Topić’s track record at home (Croatia) and abroad. It is written clearly enough to be quoted verbatim below:

Background

The first Director General (DG) of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) was Mr. Nikola Kopčić: http://www.forinpro.hr/index.php/our-team

He held this position from 1992 to 2002. From 1998 onwards, at the same time as he was SIPO DG, Kopčić was also a representative of his own private company (ForInPro) before the SIPO. This amounted to an undeclared conflict of interest which was in breach of official regulations. In December 2001, the Ministry of Science recommended Kopčić’s dismissal after having investigated the situation which had been brought to its attention. The decision to dismiss Kopčić as SIPO DG was taken by the Croatian Government on 10 January 2002. Kopčić was also expelled from the AIPPI (International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property) on the grounds that he had brought the Association into disrepute.

Following Kopčic’s dismissal as DG, the SIPO was under the direction of Mr. Hrvoje Junaševic from 2002 to 2004.

One of the persons instrumental in bringing about Kopčic’s dismissal was Ms. Vesna Stilin who was a career civil servant and one of the founding members of the Croatian SIPO. As an apparent act of revenge against Stilin who had also raised allegations about certain abuses of authority, Kopčic engineered her dismissal from the SIPO in 1999. However, she was reinstated at the SIPO in 2004 as an Assistant Director responsible for Copyright and Related Rights.

Appointment of Željko Topić as SIPO DG in 2004 In 2004, Željko Topić was appointed as the new SIPO DG for an initial four-year term. He had previously worked at the SIPO from about 1992 onwards but moved to the private sector in 2003 where, according to his CV, he worked in the field of “IP Management” as a Director of a company called Korper, Haramija & Topić Ltd. During his first term as SIPO DG, Topić clashed with Stilin over a number of issues including the implementation of the “Public Lending Right” (PLR) for writers in Croatia. Stilin claims that Topić blocked her efforts to implement the PLR. Stilin also raised concerns about issues falling within her remit relating to musical copyright royalties. According to press reports, she came into conflict with Topić after the Tax Office had sent an inquiry to the SIPO expressing doubts about the legality of business affairs between the SIPO and Emporion, a company involved in the collection and distribution of musical royalties which was owned by the entrepreneur Mark Vojković, a close associate of the Croatian President Ivo Josipović.

In 2008, Topić proposed Stilin’s dismissal from the SIPO inter alia on the grounds that the SIPO’s Copyright and Related Rights Department had been abolished and that, consequently, her position no longer existed. Although her dismissal was ultimately a decision of the Croatian Government, it was instigated and proposed by Topić. Stilin claims that the abolition of the SIPO’s Copyright and Related Rights Department which was invoked as a pretext for her dismissal was a completely arbitrary and unlawful act and that it was also in violation of formal undertakings which the Croatian authorities had given to the EU in the context of the CARDS Programme according to which the staffing of the Copyright and Related Rights Department was to be increased.

These matters are the subject of a number of pending criminal and civil lawsuits in Croatia. According to press reports, the real reason behind Stilin’s dismissal was because she had tried to warn the supervisory state institutions about irregularities occurring at the SIPO as well as the questionable relationship between the SIPO administration and Emporion. [1] Controversial re-appointment in 2008 Towards the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008, the SIPO was subject to a number of supervisory inspections by Government Ministries which uncovered various irregularities. In particular, an investigation by the Ministry of Adminstration which took place in response to a petition by a group of SIPO employees resulted in findings that certain contested actions by Topić entailed breaches of Labour Law regulations. There was also a budgetary inspection by the Ministry of Finance which resulted in findings that there had been various irregularities in accounting practices at the SIPO. These developments gave rise to expectations that Topić’s mandate as SIPO DG would not be renewed. However, contrary to these expectations, his mandate was renewed for a further four-year term in 2008 by the Government of Ivo Sanader.

According to Stilin, Topić’s re-appointment was supported by the then Minister of Science, Dragan Primorac as a payback for the provision of an Audi 6 Quattro which had been placed at Primorac’s disposal at the expense of the SIPO. It is alleged that this arrangement between Topić and Primorac was unlawful and represented a misappropriation of public funds. In return for the alleged “favour”, Primorac is alleged to have recommended the renewal of Topić’s mandate to the Government. However, according to the applicable statute, at the time of the re-appointment Primorac was no longer competent to make such a recommendation. This is because in March 2008 the SIPO had been transferred from the remit of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports to the remit of the Ministry of Economy, Labour and Entrepreneurship. It remained under the remit of the Ministry of Economy until December 2011 when it was transferred back to the remit of the Ministry of Science.

Topić’s re-appointment in 2008 was the subject of a challenge by Stilin in a lawsuit filed with the Administrative Court and which was finally rejected by the Croatian Constitutional Court. Following exhaustion of domestic remedies, the matter is currently the subject of an application pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg.

The “ZAMP Affair” and appointment as EPO Vice-President The “ZAMP Affair” is a major contemporary political controversy in Croatia. The name “ZAMP” comes from the royalty collection management entity associated with the Croatian Composers Society (Croatian acroynm: HDS-ZAMP). The controversy concerns the management of royalty payments to musicians and encompasses various allegations of unlawful administrative acts, corruption, cronyism and conflicts of interest involving a clique associated with the Croatian President, Ivo Josipović, who was formerly the Secretary-General of the Croatian Composers Society. [2] Topić is perhaps a secondary figure in the “ZAMP affair” but as the former DG of the state institution which had the statutory responsibility for supervising the management of copyright and royalty payments, i.e. the SIPO, it is probable that his role as a “facilitator” was nevertheless a significant one. It has been claimed in the Croatian press and in an article published by the Deutsche Welle (in Croatian) that he enjoys the “protection” of Josipović. [3]

On 1 February 2012, the Croatian press reported that despite the controversy surrounding his management of the SIPO and ongoing official investigations into alleged irregularities, Topić had been re-appointed for a third term as SIPO DG on the recommendation of the then Minister of Science, Željko Jovanović. [4] Shortly afterwards in April 2012, it was reported that he had requested to be relieved of as his duties as SIPO DG in order to take up a more prestigious position as Vice-President of the European Patent Office in Munich. [5] Some of the articles published around this time referred to the fact that at the time of his appointment a number of criminal and civil lawsuits were pending against him in Croatia. [6]

“Dual Mandate” in April 2012

Topić took up office as EPO Vice-President on 16 April 2012. However, according to Croatian government records published in the official gazette “Narodne Novine”, his tenure as SIPO DG lasted until 30 April 2014. Thus for a period of around two weeks in April 2012, it seems that he effectively enjoyed a “dual mandate” as EPO Vice-President and SIPO DG.

In an article published by dnevno.hr in April 2013, it was claimed that one of his last actions as SIPO DG was to order the publication of a highly polemical four-page “Press Release” which he allegedly authored himself on the official website of the SIPO. [7] This “Press Release” concluded by expressing “grave concern that an extremely unprofessional media manipulation based on malicious accusations from a small number of people obviously driven by questionable motives can cause the reputation of a state institution and its Director to be called into question in such an outrageous manner, despite the notable results achieved by the Office and its professional reputation in the relevant national and international professional circles, which is incontrovertibly confirmed by the official reports of the European Commission, the international awards presented to Mr Topić and his appointment to a high executive function at the European Patent Office based inter alia upon the results achieved during his many years as the head of the Office.

We particularly regret that the competent institutions have also succumbed to this unprecedented pressure and have subordinated their actions to individual interests rather than objective reasoning based on relevant facts.” [8]

Despite the criticism of “unprofessional media manipulation” in the “Press Release”, the dnevno.hr article pointed out that a complaint against an article written by Slavica Lukić for “Jutarni list” which Topić submitted to the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) was dismissed by the competent “Ethics Council” of the HND in September 2012. In its conclusions the “Ethics Council” stated the following: “The Council finds that the colleague Lukić verified the relevant information with the appropriate official institutions [i.e. the Ministries of Science and Finance], so in that sense she was not under the obligation claimed by Mr. Topić [i.e. to obtain approval from him or from the SIPO]. The tone and style of the article are serious and balanced; there are no insults or muck-raking sensationalism (lit. “yellow elements”). This confirms that the article was not written with the intention of defaming anyone, but rather in defence of the public interest.” [9]

Dragan Primorac and the “Touareg affair”

One of the controversies relating to Topić’s period of office as SIPO DG, relates to alleged misappropriation of public funds to acquire expensive luxury vehicles for the use of a select group of SIPO employees and the then Minister of Science, Dragan Primorac, who exercised supervisory competence over the SIPO until March 2008. This matter was originally reported in the Croatian press in 2009 but has resurfaced recently due to a publication by the Croatian Public Sector Employees Union (SDLSN) claiming that no proper investigation into this alleged misappropriation of public funds ever took place. [10] The matter has acquired fresh relevance in Croatia in the light of pending criminal proceedings against the former Minister of Science, Dragan Primorac, in a similar case involving allegations of corruption and misuse of public funds at the National Standards Institute, another state institution which came under Primorac’s ministerial remit. In this case it is alleged that the former Director of the National Standards Institute, Dragutin Funda, provided a luxury Touareg SUV to Primorac at the expense of the Institute. The socalled “Touareg Affair” is currently the subject of court proceedings in Croatia and a hearing was held recently in May 2014. Primorac has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him whereas his co-accused, Funda, has pleaded guilty. [11] Other developments – Petition to the European Parliament In 2013, a number of letters voicing concern about Topić’s appointment as EPO Vice-President and calling for an independent investigation into the matter were submitted to the EPO’s Administrative Council by the Croatian NGO “Juris Protecta” which describes itself as an “Association for the Promotion of the Rule of Law in Croatia”. As the Administrative Council did not respond to these interventions, Juris Protecta filed a Petition with the European Parliament. The Petition has been registered with the number 2848/2013 and is expected to be examined for admissibility by the Petitions Committee during its next session, probably in September or October 2014. [12]

LINKS TO ORIGINAL CROATIAN PRESS ARTICLES

[1] Articles relating to Vesna Stilin and her dismissal from the SIPO:

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/obratila-se-linicu-zvizdacica-iz-zavoda-zaintelektualnovlasnistvo-trazi-reviziju-slucaja-emporion/605689.aspx

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/vesna-stilin-ravnatelj-dziva-topic-me-oklevetao-iprevario/

609228.aspx

[2] Articles relating to the “ZAMP Affair” and Emporion:

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/oglusili-se-na-zahtjev-eu-ne-moze-vam-samo-jednaosoba-u-hrvatskoj-biti-nadzor-za-zamp–/609083.aspx

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/sukob-interesa-josipoviceva-zena-za-sve-pise-zakoneradi-u-zampuemporionu-i-svira/605429.aspx

[3] Claims that Topić enjoys the “protection” of Croatian President Ivo Josipović:

http://www.tjedno.hr/index.php/categoryblog/1471-zampili-milijardu-kuna

http://www.dw.de/hrvatski -patent -za-autorska-prava/a-16035391

[4] Controversial renewal of Topić’s mandate as SIPO DG for a third term in 2012:

http://www.jutarnji.hr/zeljko-topic–sebi-i-kolegama-isplatio-milijun-kuna-honorara–a-vladamu-dala-jos-jedan-mandat-/1003663/

[5] Croatian press commentary on Topić’s appointment as EPO Vice-President:

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/index-doznaje–jovanovic-istrazuje-dziv-gdje-je-milijunkuna-tko-se-vozio-u-preskupim-automobilima/611883.aspx

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/nagradio-ga-pantovcak-umjesto-progona-ravnateljzavoda-koji-nadzire-zamp-promoviran/608936.aspx

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/unatoc-nadjenim-nepravilnostima-ministar-jovanovicpustio-ravnatelja-dziva-da-ode-u-mnchen-/612175.aspx

[6] Articles with references to lawsuits against Topić at the time of his EPO appointment:

http://www.tjedno.hr/index.php/categoryblog/998-protiv-topia-se-vodi-estpostupaka

http://www.jutarnji.hr/kazneni-progon-nije-ga-zaustavio–sanaderov-kadar-zeljko-topic–smijenjen-na-vlastiti-zahtjev–dobio-jos-bolji-posao/1024680/

[7] Article mentioning Topić’s last “Press Release” as SIPO DG on 30 April 2012:

http://www.dnevno.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/85582-bivsi-ravnatelj-dziv-a-zeljko-topic-zakinuojehrvatske-knjizevnike-za-milijune-kuna.html

[8] The original Croatian version of the “Press Release” dated 30 April 2012 can be found
here: http://www.dziv.hr/files/File/novosti/Priopcenje_za_javnost_30042012.pdf

[9] Dismissal of a complaint submitted by Topić to the Croatian Journalists’ Association
against Slavica Lukic in 2012:

http://www.hnd.hr/hr/Zakljucci7sjednice2012/show/66192/

[10] Articles relating to the controversy surrounding acquisition of luxury vehicles by the
SIPO originally appeared in 2009:

http://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/strah-od-bmwa-direktor-drzavnog-zavoda-sakrioskupocjeni-mercedes/428050.aspx

http://www.nacional.hr/clanak/55956/umjesto-u-garazu-ravnatelj-svoj-luksuzni-mercedesparkira-u-arhivu

More recent articles on this subject were published in April 2014:

http://www.tjedno.hr/index.php/categoryblog/4837-uz-touareg-sporan-je-i-a6-kojim-sesluzio-bivsi-ministar

http://www.sdlsn.hr/index.php/?article=9121&category=1

http://www.dnevno.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/118172-foto-sindikalci-odabrali-zaljubljeni-pargodine-

zeljko-topic-i-njegov-a-mercedes.html

[11] A report dated 16 May 2014 relating to the recent court hearing in the “Touareg Affair” can be found here:
www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/slucaj-touareg-dragan-primorac-se-ne-osjecakrivim/747836.aspx

[12] The Petition to the European Parliament is mentioned in the following article by
Intellectual Property Watch:

http://www.ip-watch.org/2014/05/15/epo-internal-strife-spills-over-into-europeanparliament-human-rights-court/

Here are press/news clippings [PDF] about the above items and what follows is the aforementioned petition to the European Parliament:

PETITION REF. NO.: JP-2013-0001-EPO

For the urgent attention of:
The President of the European Parliament
Rue Wiertz
B-1047 BRUSSELS

PETITION
TO THE
EUROPEAN
PARLIAMENT

Submitted in accordance with
Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
and
Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The present Petition concerns a matter which the Petitioner considers to be indicative of a serious deficiency in the governance of the European Patent Organisation.

Notwithstanding the fact that the EPO is not an organ of the EU and, as such, lies outside of the formal jurisdiction of the European Parliament, it is submitted that the European Parliament has both a legitimate interest and an obligation to ensure that proper standards of governance prevail at the EPO in consequence of the duties entrusted to the EPO by the EU under the unitary patent scheme.

The European Parliament is therefore requested to investigate the matter detailed herein and to exert its influence on the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation to take appropriate corrective action with regard to the same.


I. BACKGROUND

1. The European Patent Organisation is an international organisation established under the terms of the European Patent Convention (EPC) of 1973.
The text of the EPC is accessible online at the following URL: http://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/epc/2013/e/ma1.html

2. According to Article 4 EPC, the organs of the European Patent Organisation (EPO) are
(a) the European Patent Office; and
(b) the Administrative Council.

3. The Administrative Council is the governing body of the European Patent Organisation and it is composed of delegates from the contracting states, i.e. the signatory states of the EPC. Pursuant to the provisions of Article 11 EPC, the Administrative Council is the appointing authority for senior employees of the EPO, in particular the President and the Vice-Presidents of the European Patent Office.

4. Whereas the EPO is not an organ of the EU, the EU has a legitimate interest in the proper governance of said Organisation. This interest derives inter alia from the following considerations:

(i) Article 17 (2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (hereinafter CFR-EU) states that “Intellectual property shall be protected”. The EU thus has an acknowledged statutory responsibility for protecting the intellectual property rights of its citizens.

(ii) In 2012, EU Member States and the European Parliament agreed on the so-called “unitary patent package” – a legislative initiative consisting of two Regulations and an international Agreement laying the foundation for the creation of unitary patent protection in the EU. In the context of this unitary patent scheme, the EPO has been entrusted with the task of granting unitary patents. It is also foreseen that the EPO will be in charge of centrally administering the unitary patent, levying the annual renewal fees and distributing them to the participating EU member states.

5. It is evident that the protection of intellectual property prescribed under Article 17 (2) CFR-EU can only be guaranteed in an effective manner if the institutions responsible for administering intellectual property rights are subject to proper governance.

6. Notwithstanding the fact that the EPO is not an organ of the EU and, as such, lies outside of the formal remit of the European Parliament, it is submitted that the European Parliament has both a legitimate interest and an obligation to ensure that proper standards of governance prevail at the EPO in consequence of the duties entrusted to the EPO by the EU under the unitary patent scheme.

7. The submissions which follow concern the appointment of a senior official of the European Patent Office. The Petitioner is of the view that this is a matter which raises questions about the standards of governance at the European Patent Organisation and on that basis respectfully submits that this is a matter of public interest which merits investigation by the European Parliament, in particular having regard to the observations set forth under items 4 to 6 above.

8. The Petitioner has already made two submissions to the Administrative Council of the EPO concerning the matters raised in the present Petition: a first submission in advance of the Council’s October 2013 meeting and a second submission in advance of its December 2013 meeting (Annex I). No response to these submissions has been received from the Administrative Council so far.

II. DETAILS

9. The present Petition concerns the appointment of a senior official of the EPO, namely the appointment of Mr. Željko Topić as the Vice-President of Directorate-General 4 of the European Patent Office.

10. Mr. Topić’s candidature for the aforementioned position was supported by the current President of the European Patent Office, Mr. Benoît Battistelli, and his appointment was approved by the Administrative Council of the EPO in March 2012 as announced on the official Internet site of the EPO: http://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2012/20120328.html

11. Mr. Topić was formerly the Director-General of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO). He was initially appointed to that position in 2004 and was re-appointed for a second term in 2008. Shortly after being re-appointed for a third term in 2012, he resigned voluntarily from his position at the SIPO following his appointment as a Vice-President of the European Patent Office where he took up his duties in April 2012.

12. Mr. Topić’s appointment to the EPO was the subject of much critical press coverage in his home country of Croatia. For example, an article by the journalist Ms. Slavica Lukić was
published in Jutarni List on 28 April 2012: http://www.jutarnji.hr/kazneni-progon-nije-ga-zaustavio–sanaderov-kadar-zeljkotopic–smijenjen-na-vlastiti-zahtjev–dobio-jos-bolji-posao/1024680/

Mr. Topić filed a complaint about this article with the Croatian Journalists’ Association (Hrvatsko Novinarsko Društvo). However, Mr. Topić’s complaint was dismissed by the Association’s tribunal. An English language translation of the disputed article and the findings of the tribunal are provided as an annex to the present Petition (Annex II).

13. According to the information at the disposal of the Petitioner, apart from various civil proceedings, there were at least two criminal law cases pending against Mr. Topić prior to his appointment as Vice-President of the European Patent Office. One of these cases concerned the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Ms. Vesna Stilin, a former Assistant Director-General of the Croatian SIPO, and the other one concerned matters which the Croatian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport as the government department with supervisory authority over the SIPO had failed to investigate properly despite its statutory obligation to do so. Evidence to support the foregoing assertions is provided in Annex III to the present Petition (Annex III-A1 and III-A2).

14. Concerning the first of the criminal law cases referred to above, it is noted that Ms. Stilin’s dismissal from the post of Assistant Director-General of the SIPO in 2008 was based on statements by Mr. Topić which Ms. Stilin considers to have been untrue and which prompted her to initiate criminal proceedings against Mr. Topić for defamation. In appeal proceedings held before the competent court of appeal in Croatia in December 2012, a judgment was delivered in Ms. Stilin’s favour to remit the case back to the court of first instance where it is still pending (Annex III-B).

15. Ms. Stilin additionally filed criminal charges against Mr. Topić with the Croatian State Prosecutor’s Office (Annex III-C). This case which includes a charge relating to bribery is likewise still pending before the courts in Croatia. A key accusation here is that Mr. Topić effectively “purchased” his re-appointment as Director General of the SIPO by bribing the former Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Mr. Dragan Primorac, who was responsible for proposing Mr. Topić’s re-appointment for a second term to the Croatian government in 2008 (Annex III-D). There is further extensive documentation about this matter, including a complaint which Ms. Stilin filed with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A copy of this documentation can be provided on request.

16. In response to the legal actions which Ms. Stilin had initiated against him, Mr. Topić belatedly filed a private action for defamation against her at the Municipal Criminal Court in Zagreb on 22 April 2013. Mr. Topić’s action was dismissed by the court which delivered its judgment in Ms. Stilin’s favour in September 2013 (Annex III-E).

17. Further documentation is available which shows that during his period of office as Director General of the Croatian SIPO Mr. Topić ignored the recommendation made by independent EU experts in field of Copyright and Related Rights in the context of the Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation (CARDS) Programme for South-Eastern Europe (Official Reference No. 96-022 and 60343) where the EU provided Croatia with about € 2 million to assist the development of the SIPO, in particular with the aim of strengthening its Copyright and Related Rights Department. At that time the number of legal staff in the Copyright and Related Rights Department was insufficient as there were only two persons at the SIPO, including Ms. Stilin, responsible for dealing with these matters. However, instead of increasing the number of legal staff in accordance with the recommendation of experts appointed by the EU to which he had formally assented in a commitment given to the EU on behalf of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Topić proceeded to effectively abolish the Copyright and Related Rights Department, by reducing the personnel dealing with these matters to a single person. Mr. Topić’s actions in this regard were carried out without any coherent explanation and in a manner which appears to have amounted to an egregious violation of his official obligations. A copy of the relevant documentation relating to this matter can be provided on request.

18. The Petitioner respectfully submits that it would be in the public interest for the Administrative Council of the EPO to initiate an impartial and objective investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Topić’s appointment as a Vice-President of the European Patent Office and, to the extent appropriate, to exercise its disciplinary authority in the matter.

19. The Petitioner has already made representations to the Administrative Council of the EPO in this regard (Annex I). However, the Council has so far given no indication that it intends to carry out an independent investigation into the matter. The lack of any substantive response on the part of the Council leads the Petitioner to fear that it may be unwilling to take appropriate action on its own initiative to face up to its public duty in this regard.

III. RELIEF SOUGHT

In view of the foregoing, the European Parliament (hereinafter “the Parliament”) is hereby petitioned to take the following action in respect of the matter detailed above:

1. The Parliament is requested to conduct its own independent investigation into the matter.

2. Insofar as this investigation may lead it to conclude that the matter warrants further action on its part, the Parliament is requested to exert its influence on the Administrative Council of the EPO to take appropriate corrective action.

3. More specifically, the Parliament is requested to adopt a resolution calling on the Administrative Council of the EPO to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Topić’s appointment as a Vice-President of the European Patent Office and, to the extent appropriate, to exercise its disciplinary authority with regard to the same.

The Petitioner hereby wishes to assure the Parliament of its full co-operation with any investigation which it may see fit to conduct in response to the present Petition. The Parliament is further advised that Ms. Stilin, former Assistant Director-General of the Croatian SIPO, has informed the Petitioner of her willingness to co-operate with any independent investigation to be carried out under the Parliament’s authority into the matters detailed above. In particular, Ms. Stilin has indicated that she is prepared to provide copies of any relevant documentation at her disposal which might assist the Parliament in it endeavours in this regard.

In the meantime, the Petitioner respectfully remains at the Parliament’s disposal should it have any further queries or require any further assistance in order to assess the merits of the present Petition.

Request for confidential treatment pursuant to Rule 201(11) of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament

In view of the fact that legal proceedings are pending in Croatia involving parties mentioned in connection with the present Petition, the Petitioner considers that it would be advisable to treat the contents of the Petition with an appropriate degree of confidentiality in order not to prejudice the interests of any of the parties to the aforementioned legal proceedings.

Accordingly, a request for confidential treatment is made pursuant to Rule 201(11) of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament.

The Petitioner notes in this regard that it has no objection to it being entered into the public record that the present Petition has been lodged with the Parliament. However, the Parliament is respectfully requested to consult with the Petitioner to obtain its approval in the case that it is intended to make any further details of the Petition public.

ANNEXES

I. Copies of submissions made by the Petitioner (Juris Protecta e.V.) to the Administrative Council of the EPO.

II. English language translation of an article by the journalist Ms. Slavica Lukić published in Jutarni List on 28 April 2012 accompanied by an English language translation of the findings of the tribunal of the Croatian Journalists’ Association dismissing a complaint filed by Mr. Topić against Ms. Lukić.

III. Copies of documents pertaining to alleged irregularities in the administration of the Croatian SIPO and related matters.

In the next part we are going to relate this to more abuses and swindles at the European Patent Office.

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