08.17.21

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An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part XIII: In Good Company…

Posted in Europe, Fraud, Patents at 10:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Series index:

  1. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part I: A New EPO Balkan Affair?
  2. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part II: A Mysterious Fist-Bumping Masquerade in Skopje
  3. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part III: A Longtime Associate of the Doyen
  4. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part IV: A Party Political Animal
  5. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part V: Sharing Out the Spoils of Public Office
  6. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part VI: A Learned Legal Luminary
  7. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part VII: An Academic Institution With a Political Mission
  8. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part VIII: An Inspector Calls
  9. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part IX: “There Are Indications of a Violation of the Law…”
  10. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part X: A “Fall Guy” For the Deputy Minister?
  11. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part XI: Captured States in the EU’s Waiting Room
  12. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part XII: Captured Delegates on the Administrative Council?
  13. You are here ☞ In Good Company…

Corrupt officials
Clockwise from top left: Friedrich Rödler (AT), Gabor Varga (RO), Zigrīds Aumeisters (LV), Jesper Kongstad (DK), Željko Topić (HR), Kamen Veselinov (BG) and Martti Enäjärvi (FI).

Summary: Safet Emruli is “not the only member of the EPO’s Administrative Council who has ended up in trouble over the last decade or so.”

As we have seen in the present series, Safet Emruli had to face the consequences for his irregular and unlawful academic career progression at the Faculty of Law of the State University of Tetovo.

In October 2020, he ended up falling on his sword while his senior party comrade Agim Nuhiu appears to have escaped unscathed – for the moment at least.

“In October 2020, he ended up falling on his sword while his senior party comrade Agim Nuhiu appears to have escaped unscathed – for the moment at least.”But there’s no need for Emruli to feel like some kind of pariah or outcast.

He is not the only member of the EPO‘s Administrative Council who has ended up in trouble over the last decade or so.

As a matter of fact he seems to be in very good company.

A few notable cases which spring to mind are as follows:

• In July 2013, the media in Romania reported that Gabor Varga, the head of the State for Inventions and Trademarks OSIM), had been convicted for “causing a EUR 300,000 damage to the state agency via an acquisition contract for IT services”.

“At the same time, it was reported that Varga was facing another prosecution after one of OSIM’s employees forged his study papers to get a better job, including a secondment to the EU Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante.”Varga was sentenced to one and a half years in jail (although the sentence was suspended) and he was dismissed from his position at the helm of OSIM following the conviction.

At the same time, it was reported that Varga was facing another prosecution after one of OSIM’s employees forged his study papers to get a better job, including a secondment to the EU Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante. The outcome of that investigation is not known.

Emruli and Campinos, EUIPO
Emruli and António Campinos have known each other for about a decade; A tweet by what’s now known as EUIPO rather than OHIM

• Meanwhile in Bulgaria, it was reported in March 2014, that Kamen Veselinov had been relieved of his position as director of the Bulgarian Patent Office (BPO). According to a bulletin [PDF] published by ipbulgaria.bg, Veselinov held the position without the required professional experience and under his leadership “the office was brought to a severe crisis, there were no legislative changes and as a result of his mismanagement, Bulgaria is on the US Special 301 blacklist”.

In March 2014, Veselinov was replaced by Tanya Naydenova but he was reinstated towards the end of the year when Boyko Borisov took over as Prime Minister in November 2014. Veselinov then continued to serve as director of the BPO until the middle of 2016 when he retired at the ripe old age of 70.

• Some years earlier in December 2011, on the northern periphery of Europe, the Finnish media reported that the head of the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH), Martti Enäjärvi, had been convicted on charges of repeated misuse of his official credit card over a period of five years between 2005 and 2010. The total amount involved was reported to be of the order of € 50,000.

Enäjärvi’s misdeeds came to light as a result of an official audit carried out at the PRH in 2010 [PDF] in which certain irregularities in the use of an official credit card were noted and the PRH was instructed to take corrective action.

In December 2011, Enäjärvi was convicted [PDF] by the Helsinki District Court. He seems to have got off lightly because he was only given a fine of € 8,000 (described in the local newspaper reports as a “heavy fine”). The sentence was upheld by the appeal court a year later in December 2012. [PDF]

• Meanwhile, also in the Baltic region, just to the south of Finland, there was the bizarre case of Zigrīds Aumeisters, the Director of the Latvian Patent Office who operated two secret bank accounts, one in Switzerland and one in Germany.

The Swiss bank account was used for receiving PCT payments from the WIPO in Geneva and the German bank account was used for receiving payments from the EPO in Munich.

The bank accounts in question were private accounts under the personal control of Aumeisters and their existence was only discovered about a year after he had retired in June 2010. The Latvian press reported that the accounts contained around € 1.4 million and it took some time before the Latvian Patent Office could regain control of them.

Criminal proceedings were initiated against Aumeisters but the outcome is not known. Most probably he got off with a slap on the wrist as a reward for cooperating with the authorities and assisting them in their efforts to reclaim the funds.

• And in Austria, which hosts a small branch office of the EPO in Vienna, there was the spectacular case of the brass-necked “double-dipper”, Friedrich Rödler. [PDF]

In addition to his already generous remuneration as head of the Austrian Patent Office – reported to be around € 110,000 per annum (pre-tax) – Rödler awarded himself a second salary during a period of eight years between 2005 and 2013.

This second salary came from his position as managing director of serv.ip, a partially autonomous company under the control of the Patent Office and it is reported to have been worth around € 75,000 per annum (pre-tax) – that’s in addition to his “basic salary” as head of the Patent Office.

Due to the massive public controversy surrounding his “double-dipping”, Rödler’s appointment as director of the Austrian Patent Office was not renewed in 2015.

His disputed contractual arrangements with serv.ip were confirmed as illegal by the Austrian Supreme Court in 2016. [PDF]

To this day it remains unclear whether or not Rödler was ever obliged to reimburse the Austrian state for the second salary that he pocketed between 2005 and 2013.

More recently, there were the cases of Željko Topić, the controversial head of the Croatian delegation, and Jesper Kongstad, head of the Danish delegation and Council Chairman for most of Benoît Battistelli‘s presidency.

• Topić was accused of numerous abuses during his tenure as director of the Croatian State Institute for Intellectual Property. However, due to the dysfunctional justice system in his home country he was never properly held to account for his alleged misdeeds.

It’s worth recalling in passing that Croatia is another “captured state” which mysteriously managed to qualify for EU membership in July 2013 after joining the EPO in 2008 and has since been reported as “backsliding” on corruption.

As things were getting hot for Topić in Zagreb in 2012, he was rescued by Battistelli who sponsored his appointment as an EPO Vice-President. Topić departed from the EPO in December 2018 and returned to Zagreb where he now purports to operate as a “European Patent Attorney” despite never having acquired the necessary professional qualification.

• Kongstad is rumoured by EPO insiders to have been in receipt of an illegal tax-free “second salary” from EPO funds, allegedly as part of a secret deal with Battistelli.

In October 2016, it was reported that Kongstad had been denounced to the national tax authorities in Denmark in connection with the “hush money” he was rumoured to receive from Team Battistelli.

“In October 2016, it was reported that Kongstad had been denounced to the national tax authorities in Denmark in connection with the “hush money” he was rumoured to receive from Team Battistelli.”As in the case of Topić, there is no record that Kongstad was ever brought to account for his alleged transgressions. However, at the end of September 2017, he was obliged by the Danish government to go into retirement somewhat earlier than he had planned.

As can be seen from this more or less random selection of cases, it is not unknown for EPO Administrative Council delegates to become implicated in serious “irregularities” on their home pitch – that is to say, in relation to matters for which they are subject to the jurisdiction of national administrative authorities and courts and in a situation where they do not enjoy immunity.

“This is a kind of damage limitation exercise which is designed to protect the “European IP system” from unwelcome public scrutiny.”Whenever this happens, they are normally sidelined or, where possible, “retired” as quickly and as quietly as possible. This is a kind of damage limitation exercise which is designed to protect the “European IP system” from unwelcome public scrutiny.

Typically, all that the public will see on such occasions is the announcement of a change in the composition of the EPO’s Administrative Council and a ceremonial “passing on of the baton”.

Gerasimovski and Emruli
A fist-bumping masquerade to distract the public who are not encouraged to look behind the scenes.

Nowadays, as in the case of Safet Emruli, this is more likely than not to take the form of some kind of fist-bumping masquerade.

In the final part of the series we shall explain why EPO staff are unlikely to shed any tears over Emruli’s departure from the Administrative Council.

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