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09.03.17

EPO Silencers of the Media – Part IV: Response to SLAPP Tactics From EPO Vice-President Željko Topić

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MoU signed by Bergot
From left to right: Željko Topić, Benoît Battistelli, and Elodie Bergot

Summary: Point-by-point rebuttal to a strategic lawsuit filed by Željko Topić to chill and silence media that covers scandals associated with him

THE ABOVE IMAGE demonstrates a lot of what’s wrong at the EPO, especially the management. It’s cliquish and resistant to any form of dissent/criticism. It’s intolerant of truth itself. As we explained a couple of days ago, Mrs. Bergot’s husband has just been promoted by Battistelli (both pictured above) to a top position (‘succession’) and Topić (also pictured) continues to be their ‘bulldog’. In part 1, part 2 and part 3 we explained the role these three people have played in attacking the media or bribing the media. In Croatia, as we showed in the previous part, the EPO was willing too use that liar, Mrs. Bergot, as a witness. What a rogue institution. It’s just trying to protect its image in the face of serious abuses.

Today we deal with a reply to the SLAPP action, initiated by Mr. Topić a couple of years ago. Here is the cover page.

Tjedno reply

Here is our explanation in English.


The respondent in the Zagreb SLAPP case Pn-195/15 is Udruga Pisac i Novinar (“Association of Writers and Journalists“) which is the publisher of the news portal Tjedno.hr.

The respondent is represented by the Zagreb law firm Farčić & Šarušić and its reply to the complaint of 19 January 2015 was submitted to the Municipal Civil Court of Zagreb in May 2016.

In the reply the respondent stated that it opposed the lawsuit and the plaintiff’s claims in their entirety and it contested the factual allegations on which the lawsuit is based.

The respondent started off by pointing out that the disputed article of 18 October 2014 entitled Laži Željka Topića u Munchenu” (“The Lies of Željko Topić in Munich”) referred to an article previously published on 15 May 2014 by the international Geneva-based journal Intellectual Property Watch (IPW) and to the associated “Right of Reply” by Vesna Stilin published on 6 October 2014.

It was noted that the IPW article raised questions about the suitability of the plaintiff (Topić) for his current position at the European Patent Organisation and also raised questions about his previous position as Director of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office (DZIV).

Concerning the claim that Topić had appeared before the Municipal Criminal Court of Zagreb at a hearing held on 29 September 2014 “solely as a prosecutor” it was noted that at the same court, Topić had also been the defendant in a prosecution initiated by the former Assistant Director of the DZIV responsible for copyright and related rights in a previously filed procedure under no. K‑163/09. An attempt to merge the lawsuit against Topić with the later-filed counter-suit in which Topić unsuccessfully attempted to prosecute the former Assistant Director (K-26/11) was rejected because the procedures were at different stages due the gap in the filing dates. If the article created an impression that the plaintiff was subject to a criminal proceedings then the respondent considered this to correspond to the truth.

With respect to the allegations about the bribery of the former Minister (Dragan Primorac), the respondent referred to the Judgment of 26.01.2015 of the Municipal Criminal Court of Zagreb (no. 7 K-26/11) from which it is evident that there was a discussion of the alleged bribery during the court proceedings. Nothing in the published articles went beyond what had been discussed in the context of the court proceedings. Further evidence was submitted to support the claim of unlawful conduct on the part of the plaintiff (Topić), including two responses from the Croatian Government to the former Assistant Director of the DZIV in which the Croatian Government took the position that the plaintiff did not have authorisation for his actions (i.e. the procurement of an official vehicle for the use of the Minister).

Concerning Topić’s claim that he had privately acquired an official Mercedes in a lawful manner, the respondent referred to correspondence between the former Assistant Director of the DZIV and the Head of the Croatian Government and the Office of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, from which it is apparent that the allegation of misconduct on the part of Topić was a matter of interest for the Public Prosecutor.

Referring to Topić’s claim that a statement in the disputed article of 18 October 2014 relating to criminal charges for “unlawful changes in the structure of the state administration” was unfounded and solely intended to harm him, the respondent noted that the phrase in question had been used in correspondence with the County Public Prosecutor’s Office in which criticism had been expressed of the protracted and ineffective manner in which criminal investigations against the plaintiff were being conducted. It was pointed out that Topić himself had stated that the authority to decide on the structure of the state administration bodies lies with the Croatian Government and the respondent submitted a letter of the Croatian Government to the state administration bodies along with other evidence related to the initiation of official investigations relating to Topić and his conduct during his time as Director of the DZIV.

Concerning the allegations about Topić’s masters degree certificate, the respondent noted that the matter had been the subject of discussion after the supervisory Ministry of Science, Education and Sports received an anonymous letter claiming to be from former student colleagues at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Banja Luka, Republic of Srpska. The matter was subsequently investigated in more detail by a research journalist, who carried out a detailed analysis of the disputed master’s degree certificate. The journalist observed an unusual disproportion in the 12-year gap between the defence of the master thesis titled “Place and role of marketing research in the process of making investment decisions” and the award of the diploma itself. It was also noted that the plaintiff’s Curriculum Vitae described the degree as “Master of Business Administration” and it was claimed to have been awarded as a result of “Inter-University Postgraduate Study, Banjaluka-Zagreb-Belgrade-Sarajevo-Maribor 1989″.

http://www.mie.org.hu/aippi/topiccv.htm (we have made a local copy [PDF])

Despite its efforts the respondent could not find any record of such an inter-university postgraduate study program.

The respondent emphatically rejected the plaintiff’s allegation that it had systematically conducted a campaign against him. It was submitted that it had to be presumed that persons in certain positions such as the plaintiff, whether as Director of the DZIV or as Vice-President of the EPO, are under public scrutiny. Judicial proceedings, whether civil or criminal, conducted against the plaintiff by a number of people inside and outside the DZIV give rise to legitimate public interest.

Not only the respondent but also a number of other media both domestic and foreign had reported on the “Topić Affair”. The respondent is not the only journalist against which Željko Topič has tried to bring private prosecution charges for defamation.

The respondent rejected the claims that the disputed article of 18 October 2014 was conceived as sensationalist and contained untrue, defamatory and offensive allegations. The information in the article was obtained from official documents of state administration bodies, international institutions and other sources close to the DZIV and the EPO. The respondent noted that despite his allegations of defamation over a lengthy period, the plaintiff had not previously challenged other articles listed in the complaint.

The respondent disclaimed all responsibility for the translation and publication of its articles on other portals and stated that it had never sent or targeted distribution of its material to other portals. According to the terms of the Media Act anybody is free to refer to an article published online by citing the source and providing a link to the original article.

Referring to Topić’s claim that his appointment as Vice-President of EPO by the EPO Administrative Council was an international recognition for his work, the respondent pointed out that during the procedure leading to his appointment the plaintiff had apparently withheld information about criminal proceedings against him from the EPO Administrative Council as well as from the President of the EPO who proposed his appointment.

It was also noted that in a secret ballot held in March 2014 at the Hague branch of the EPO there had been thousands of “no” votes expressing a lack of confidence in the plaintiff (Topić), as well as the President of the EPO Benoît Battistelli and the Principal Director of Human Resources, Elodie Bergot, who has been proposed by the plaintiff as a witness. EPO employees had been striking for months to show dissatisfaction with the EPO management including the plaintiff.

The respondent disclaimed any responsibility for alleged problems relating to the private and family life of the plaintiff.

The respondent concluded its written submission by repeating that it contested the plaintiff’s claims in their entirety and it requested the court to dismiss the case with an award of costs against the plaintiff.

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