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10.07.14

Benoît Battistelli’s Balkan Standards in EPO: Part V

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: How the European Patent Office facilitated the inclusion of previously-connected elements that are best known for misconduct and dirty politics

WHEN we last wrote about the Battistelli-run EPO we provided evidence to show that the EPO had gone rogue. But just how rogue has it gotten? Let us recall who makes up the management in the EPO and look at some professional (or rather unprofessional) background, as we did in the first part of this long series.

We believe that readers will find the appended text useful, especially now that an English version exist and people can be brought up to date based on the original sources. First, here is some text prepared to summarise developments which occurred over the last year or so. Original (Croatian language) text is available online, but here is the English translation:

How Josipović protected Vojković:

Associate of Josipović who exercised supervisory control over HDS-ZAMP* on behalf of the Government was a former employee of ZAMP and EMPORION

Friday, 23/03/2012

The research associate of Ivo Josipović and former employee of HDS-ZAMP, Romana Matanovac Vučković, omitted information from her curriculum vitae concerning her employment in the company Emporion Ltd., owned by Marko Vojković, a friend of Josipović. In an interview with Index journalist, she confirmed that she omitted this information because she considered it to be irrelevant. It turns out, however, that it is precisely this information which is of crucial importance because it confirms the claims of Vesna Stilin, former employee of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), that the appointment of Romana Matanovac Vučković to the position of head of the Council of Experts for Copyright and Related Rights was illegal.

The rules which applied to others did not apply to Josipović’s associate, Romana Matanovac Vučković

To remind our readers, Romana Matanovac Vučković was appointed to the aforementioned position in 2005, after leaving HDS-ZAMP, while in the meantime she worked at the Zagreb School of Law. According to the Law on Copyright and Related Rights an independent expert should be appointed to the position of head of the Council: “The Council of Experts is not a lobbying body to which representatives of interested parties or government bodies may be appointed, but only and exclusively independent experts.”

However, Romana Matanovac Vučković was given this position despite being a former employee of HDSZAMP and Emporion, which, at that particular moment, was under inspection by the Ministry of Finance and the SIPO because of suspicious payments.

In a letter from whistleblower Vesna Stilin, it was noted that prior to the appointment being made, in response to the publication of the vacancy notice for the position being the then director of HDS-ZAMP, Tomislav Radočaj, and Mirjana Puškarić, an official of the SIPO, submitted their applications.

What proved to be a stumbling-block for Tomislav Radočaj, did not prevent the appointment of Romana Matanovac Vučković.

In a petition which Stilin sent to the Ministry of Finance, the Office of the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science this week, it is claimed that the SIPO turned a blind eye to this illegal practice. When warned about the impermissibility of Romana Matanovac Vučković’s appointment to the Council of Experts , the sole inspector in the SIPO responded laconically: “She is a special case!”

In her petition to the highest state officials Vesna Stilin, the former assistant director and one of the founders of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office claims that “the Director General of the SIPO [i.e. Topić] misrepresented my aforementioned warning [about the Council of Experts appointment] as ‘seriously disturbed relations with the Deputy Director’ [i.e. Romana Matanovac Vučković]”.

French expert concluded that Matanovac must resign

It is noted that the appointment of Romana Matanovac Vučković was the subject of repeated discussions within the EU CARDS project for Copyright and Related Rights and the conclusion of Patrick Boiron, chief advisor for the aforementioned project, was that Romana Matanovac Vučković should resign as head of the Council of Experts because of the specified legal prohibitions, and in particular in view of the fact that she had once worked for HDS-ZAMP whose fee list is based on the Council’s advice, all of which raised reasonable doubt about her impartiality.

According to Vesna Stilin, Boiron argued that such an appointment would not have been accepted in France because in the case of Romana Matanovac Vučković not only was there was one legitimate reason for objection, but two [i.e. previous employment at both HDS-ZAMP and Emporion]. Apart from breaking the law by appointing an official subject to a conflict of interest, the SIPO turned a deaf ear to the suggestions from the EU to hire an increased number of official/inspectors (at least 5) for the Department of Copyright and Related Rights. Only one inspector was appointed, which according to the opinion of Vesna Stilin, continued the illegal practices concerning the appointment of SIPO officials. It seems that such appointments were intended to ensure that the supervision of HDS-ZAMP was kept under the control of a very small circle of people.

How did ZAMP obtain official documents?

In order to demonstrate the problematic nature of the connection between the SIPO and HDS-ZAMP, Vesna Stilin drew attention to the issue of illegal leaking of official data from the SIPO to ZAMP. In her petition she stated that a confidential SIPO letter relating to the “Emporion case” was recently published on HDS-ZAMP website as proof that business cooperation between ZAMP and EMPORION was legal. Vesna Stilin warns that this was a violation of the law because “HDS-ZAMP was not supposed to have been given this official letter at all!”

She recalls that “the correspondence between the two government bodies, the Ministry of Finance and the SIPO, according to which each conducts the inspection of HDS-ZAMP within its area of responsibility, should not be available to HDS-ZAMP, especially if one of the government institutions has expressed its doubts about operations of the association in question and requested the verification of their suspicions by another state institution.”

“I was bribed!”

In her petition to the Ministry of Finance, Vesna Stilin also expresses concerns about the possible corruption of the staff of the SIPO. She describes one example of this. In June 2006, during the visit of a Macedonian delegation to the SIPO in connection with HDS-ZAMP, in response to a question from the head of the Macedonian delegation Olga Trajkovska to the sole Office inspector asking “how was her cooperation with ZAMP”, the SIPO official gave the following cynical reply:

“Excellent, I was bribed and we have great cooperation!”, the petition states.

Vesna Stilin noted that this statement was uttered in front of several members of the Macedonian and Croatian delegations, so she informed the Director General of SIPO [i.e. Topić] about it, as well as the State Attorney’s Office and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor. Despite the fact that she has written on more than one occasion to the Ministry of Finance, the State Attorney’s Office, President Josipović and Prime Minister Milanović, Vesna Stilin has received no response to her letters.

Željko Topić remains in office as Director General of the SIPO despite the fact that he was appointed as part of the HDZ contingent [i.e. under the previous HDZ government of Ivo Sanader], while Romana Matanovac Vučković has left her position at the SIPO in the meantime. Today she works as assistant professor at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb at the Department headed by Tatjana Josipović, the wife of the Croatian President.

Notes:

* Croatian: Hrvatsko Društvo Skladatelja – Zaštita Muzičkih Autorskih Prava HDS-ZAMP (Croatian Composers’ Society – Protection of Musical Authors’ Rights) is a “collecting society”, i.e. a professional service that deals with the exercise and protection of music copyrights and royalty payments on the basis of the approval of the State Intellectual Property Office and in line with the Copyright Act.

http://www.hds.hr/about_us/chronology_en.htm

In October 2013 the Croatian NGO Juris Protecta made a submission to the EPO’s Administrative Council (AC):

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Members the EPO Administrative Council
and Staff of the EPO,

As students of the “Arbeits- und Wirtschaftswissenschaftlichen Aufbaustudiums” (AWA) at the Technical University of Munich during the 1970s we followed the construction of the headquarters of the European Patent Office with respect and pride. This building was intended to be centre for the protection of intellectual property in Europe. Many of my colleagues subsequently became patent attorneys. Unfortunately, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the signature of the European Patent Convention, we are forced to conclude that our initial admiration no longer seems to be justified in view of the current composition of the senior management team of that institution.

It is our sincere belief that least one of the members of the senior management team does not properly belong there. That person is the former director of the Croatian Patent Office in Zagreb, Mr. Zeljko Topic. Unfortunately, it is common practice in Croatia that the leading positions in the state administration are reserved for people who have close links with the regime and connections to the mafia-like vested interest lobbies and it was in this manner that Mr. Topic, who comes from the provincial town of Banja Luka in Bosnia, began his career at the Patent Office in Zagreb.

Mrs. Vesna Stilin, a career civil servant, worked in the Croatian Patent Office since its inception in 1992 as Deputy Director General, later as an Assistant Director General until she was dismissed from her position in April 2008 by Mr. Zeljko Topic who at that time had risen to occupy the position of Director General of the Patent Office, again. At that time Mrs. Stilin had been on regular annual leave. Upon returning from vacation, she discovered that her office had been cleared so that she could not resume her work. The reason behind Mrs. Stilin’s expulsion appears to have been due to the fact that she had previously applied for the position of the Director General coupled with her attempts to draw attention to various breaches of duty and violations of the law alleged to have been committed by Mr. Topic, who had also been a candidate for the position of Director General. The alleged breaches of duty and violations of the law committed by Mr. Topic subsequently became the subject of several administrative and judicial proceedings. Mrs. Stilin has collected voluminous documentation about these matters and this documentation is available to anyone who is interested.

Under strong lobbying from the Croatian President, the newly elected socialist government decided to extend the mandate of Mr. Topic in 2012 despite that fact that the Croatian media had reported on numerous irregularities in which he was alleged to have been involved as Director-General of the Croatian Patent Office. There were reports of various official investigations, inter alia concerning allegations about the bribing of the Croatian Minister of sciece Dragan Primorac, whereby the Patent Office under the direction of Zeljko Topic provided the Minister and his wife with a brand new Audi A6 car free of charge. Mr. Topic was also alleged to have also taken possession of a new Mercedes Benz Limousine after the expiry of the lease agreement between the Patent Office and the leasing company.

It appears that various anonymous letters concerning these matters have been submitted to the German Ministry of Justice and the European Patent Office. However, so far the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Mr. Zeljko Topic as Vice President of the EPO has only been carried out in a very superficial manner. According to internal and external reports, the current President of the EPO is protecting the disputed Vice President Topic. Against this background, the motives which induced the incumbent President to endorse Mr. Topic’s candidature as Vice-President must be questioned. Certainly it cannot have been due to his professional competence. It would also be necessary to examine whether or not sufficient research had been carried out into Mr. Topic’s previous activities prior to his appointment as EPO Vice-President. It seems that during the selection procedure for the Vice President Mr. Topic was considered as the clear favorite from the very start. If that is the case, it would amount to a serious error of judgement on the part of the incumbent President who will have to face the consequences.

We therefore propose that an independent investigation should be carried out under the direct supervision of the Administrative Council with the aim of clarifying the circumstances surrounding the selection and appointment of the disputed Vice President Topic. Such an investigation should include within its scope an examination of the role played by the incumbent President of the EPO in the affair.

The undersigned remains at your disposal should you have any further queries concerning the above matters.

JURIS Protecta e.V.
Association for the advancement of the rule of law in Croatia
Zlatko Zeljko
Dipl-Ing.,Dipl-Wirtsch-Ing.
Director

Tel +385-98-212 449

Juris Protecta made a further submission to the AC in December 2013 and said: “It seems as if Balkan practices in appointing senior officials have now become an accepted European standard. ”

URGENT AND IMPORTANT!

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

We refer to our letter dated 14th October 2013 in which we have made submissions concerning the appointment of Mr. Zeljko Topic as a member of the senior management team of the EPO.

The letter can be read at http://jurpro.hr/pdf/TOPIC-mail_from_14-10-2013_Text_E.pdf (English) or http://jurpro.hr/pdf/TOPIC-mail_from_14-10-2013_Text_D.pdf (German).

The former Deputy Director General of the Croatian SIPO Mrs. Vesna Stilin has addressed the Administrative Council of EPO with her letter dated 4th December 2013 which can be read at: http://jurpro.hr/pdf/Vesna_Stilin_Letter_from_4-12-2013.pdf .

The copies of the relevant documents can be found at 1- I) http://jurpro.hr/pdf/Annex_1-I.pdf ; 1-II) http://jurpro.hr/pdf/Annex_1-II.pdf ; 2) http://jurpro.hr/pdf/Annex_2.pdf ; 3) http://jurpro.hr/pdf/Annex_3.pdf ; 4) http://jurpro.hr/pdf/Annex_4.pdf ;

http://jurpro.hr/pdf/Annex_5.pdf .

It is further noted that no action in this regard appears to have been taken by any member state of the Organisation so far. It seems as if Balkan practices in appointing senior officials have now become an accepted European standard.

Best regards

JURIS PROTECTA

Zlatko Zeljko, President

At the same time, the former Assistant Director of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office, Ms. Vesna Stilin, addressed a letter to the AC [PDF]. Here it is as HTML:

VESNA STILIN

Biokovske stube 4, 10 000 Zagreb, HR

Zagreb, December 4th 2013

EUROPEAN PATENT ORGANISATION
ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some time ago, I received a query from an anonymous source in Munich asking if I could provide any information as to whether or not there was any substance to accusations which had been published in the Croatian media concerning Mr. Željko Topić, the former Director General of State Intellectual Property Office of the Republic of Croatia (SIPO). Following his appointment by the Administrative Council of the EPO, Mr. Topić has occupied the position of Vice President DG4 of the European Patent Office since May 2012. In view of the evident public interest in the controversy surrounding his appointment, I hereby address these submissions to the Administrative Council of the EPO.

By way of introduction, I would like to inform you that I was previously a former Deputy Director General of the Croatian SIPO and later an Assistant Director General in charge of the Copyright and Related Rights Department.

To the best of my knowledge, apart from various civil proceedings, initiated by several persons (from SIPO and outside of SIPO), there were at least two criminal law cases pending against Mr. Topić prior to his appointment to the position which he now holds in the EPO. One of these cases concerned the circumstances surrounding my dismissal from the SIPO, and the other one concerned matters which the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport as the government department with supervisory authority over the SIPO had failed to properly investigate despite its statutory obligation to do so. Evidence to support these assertions is enclosed (Annex 1).

My dismissal from the post of Assistant Director General of the SIPO in 2008 was based on statements of an untruthful nature by Mr. Topic which prompted me to sue him for defamation. In appeal proceedings held before the County Court (Komitätsgericht) in December 2012, for the second time, a verdict was delivered in my favour(Annex 2). The case was remitted to the court of first instance. The case is still pending before the County Court for the third time. Additionally, I filed criminal charges against Mr. Topić with the Prosecutor’s Office (Annex 3). The latter case which includes a charge relating to bribery is likewise still pending. (Annex 3). A key accusation here is that Mr. Topić effectively „bought“ his re-appointment as Director General of the SIPO by bribing the former Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Mr. Dragan Primorac, who proposed to the Government that Mr. Topić be re-appointed for a second term in 2008 (Annex 4). There is extensive documentation about this matter, including a complaint which I filed with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. I can provide copies of this documentation on request. As a tactical manoeuvre in response to the legal actions which I had initiated against him, Mr. Topić belatedly filed a private action for defamation against me at the Municipal Crimial Court in Zagreb on 22 April 2013. However, Mr. Topić’s complaint was dismissed by the court which recently delivered its judgment in my favour (Annex 5).

I am also in possession of documentation which shows that 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 60 343) where the EU provided Croatia with about 2 million € to assist the development of the SIPO, including 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 me, responsible for dealing with these matters. However, instead of increasing the number of legal staff in accordance with the recommendation of French experts and as formally agreed in his own 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 who was involved in the so-called HDS-ZAMP* affair. Mr. Topić’s actions in this regard were carried out without any coherent explanation and, according to my considered opinion, in an illegal manner.

It is a matter of record that the President of the EPO, Mr. Benoît Battistelli, sponsored Mr. Topić’s candidature for Vice President of DG4. Would he have done so if he had been fully informed about these matters, in particular the criminal proceedings pending against Mr. Topić prior to his appointment? It should be emphasised here that, in contrast to Mr. Topić, it appears unlikely that the other candidates for the position were the subject of criminal proceedings and such public controversy in their home countries.

I believe 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 and, where appropriate, to exercise its disciplinary authority in the matter. On the face of it, it would appear that Mr. Topić abused the trust of the President of the EPO by concealing or misrepresenting important facts such as those relating to criminal cases pending against him in Croatia. Either that, or Mr. Battistelli was aware of the aforementioned matters and, despite this, supported Mr. Topić’s candidature. For the moment, it is only possible to speculate about these matters. The truth can only come to light if a proper independent and impartial investigation is carried out.

Some of the major political scandals in Croatia in recent times have been those relating to the prosecution of the former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader on corruption charges, accusations against the former Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Dragan Primorac (who Mr. Topić is alleged to have bribed), and the HDSZAMP affair relating to the collection of royalty payments for musicians. The details of these various political scandals may not be familiar to people who are not well acquainted with Croatian current affairs but I am willing to assist any impartial inquiry conducted under the auspices of the Administrative Council by providing a more detailed explanation accompanied by supporting evidence, including the documentation referred to above.

Yours sincerely
Vesna Stilin

__________________________
* The HDS-ZAMP affair relates to alleged irregularities and conflicts of interest in the area of musical copyright management. The name is derived from an acronym for the Croatian composers’ society – a „collecting society“ which is responsible for protecting the rights of of copyright holders on musical works and, in particular, for managing the collection and distribution of royalty payments.

Enclosures

Annex 1: Minutes of proceedings before the Criminal Court of Zagreb – May 4th 2010,

Letter from Ms. Stilin to the Ministry of Science – June 21th 2012

Annex 2: Court Judgment Kž-368/2012-5 from December 12th 2012

Annex 3: Criminal charges against Mr. Topić, from January 9th 2013

Annex 4: E-Mail correspondence betwen Croatian President Mr. Ivo Josipović and Ms. Stilin

Annex 5: Court Judgement 9.K-99/2013 from September 30th 2013

Copies of the annexes referred to in Ms. Stilin’s letter can be accessed above.

The EPO’s Administrative council failed to make any response to these submissions, so Juris Protecta proceeded to file a Petition with the European Parliament requesting it to carry out an independent investigation into the matter. The Petition is pending before the European Parliament and is expected to be discussed during one of the forthcoming sessions of the Petitions Committee in September or October of this year (that’s this month). The story was given some coverage earlier this year in May by the Geneva-based IP news service Intellectual Property Watch, as noted here before.

Our first Techrights article in this series included some Croatian press cuttings and our sources sent the most recent version (Croation press cuttings up to September 2014) for those who understand Croatian. It’s the same as before but further expanded. This now embodies the most recent version which includes a translation of this article.

The relevance of the material above is that it shows how corrupt people came to occupy positions of power in the EPO, in part thanks to nepotism and a corruptible process (more on that in future parts of this series). “The EPO’s Administrative Council,” say our sources, “is actively and improperly colluding with the EPO President Mr. Battistelli in protecting Mr. Topić’s appointment from any independent investigation.”

There is additional information indicative of long-standing professional connections between Messrs. Topić, Battistelli and Kongstad. We will present it separately in some future date (there is an ongoing investigation which we wait to see resolved).

“This causes us to suspect,” say our source, “that both the EPO President and the AC Chairman are placing personal and/or professional loyalties before the public interest in this case.”

Some of this covered in Part III about Battistelli, whose relations with Topić we will provide more proof of. There is a connections between the patent offices [PDF], but also between these individuals (not just organisations they work for). The 2008 annual report of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office records details of a visit to the Croatian SIPO by a delegation of the French National Intellectual Property Institute (INPI) headed by Battistelli and shows a photograph of Battistelli and Topić signing an Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation [PDF].

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