12.19.21

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The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXIX: On the Slippery Slope to Capture

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Series parts:

  1. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part I: Let the Sunshine In!
  2. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part II: A “Unanimous” Endorsement?
  3. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part III: Three Missing Votes
  4. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part IV: The Founding States
  5. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part V: Germany Says “Ja”
  6. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part VI: A Distinct Lack of Dutch Courage
  7. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part VII: Luxembourgish Laxity
  8. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part VIII: Perfidious Albion and Pusillanimous Hibernia
  9. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part IX: More Holes Than Swiss Cheese
  10. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part X: Introducing the Controversial Christian Bock
  11. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XI: “General Bock” – Battistelli’s Swiss Apprentice?
  12. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XII: The French Connection
  13. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XIII: Battistelli’s Iberian Facilitators – Spain
  14. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XIV: Battistelli’s Iberian Facilitators – Portugal
  15. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XV: Et Tu Felix Austria…
  16. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XVI: The Demise of the Austrian Double-Dipper
  17. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XVII: The Non-Monolithic Nordic Bloc
  18. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XVIII: Helsinki’s Accord
  19. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part IXX: The Baltic States
  20. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XX: The Visegrád Group
  21. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXI: The Balkan League – The Doyen and His “Protégée”
  22. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXII: The Balkan League – North Macedonia and Albania
  23. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXIII: The Balkan League – Bulgaria
  24. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXIV: The Balkan League – Romania
  25. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXV: The Balkan League – Fresh Blood or Same Old, Same Old?
  26. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXVI: A Trojan Horse on the Budget and Finance Committee
  27. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXVII: Cypriot Complicity
  28. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXVIII: Benoît and António’s Loyal “Habibi”
  29. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part IXXX: The EPOnian Micro-States – Monaco and Malta
  30. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXX: San Marino and the Perfidious Betrayal of Liberty
  31. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXI: The Abstentionists
  32. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXII: “Plucky Little Belgium”?
  33. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXIII: Swedish Scepticism
  34. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXIV: An “Extremely Dubious” Proposal
  35. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXV: Slovakian Scruples
  36. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXVI: Serbian Sour Grapes
  37. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXVII: Stubbornly Independent Slovenia
  38. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXVIII: Ensnared in the Tentacles of the SAZAS Octopus
  39. YOU ARE HERE ☞ On the Slippery Slope to Capture

Slovenian delegation captured by Team Battistelli
Stubbornly independent back in 2013, but by 2018 the Slovenian delegation had been well and truly “captured” by Team Battistelli.

Summary: The story of how EPO dictator Benoît Battistelli captured the nation of Slovenia (which has not regained its independence under the reign of António Campinos)

As mentioned in the last part, Vojko Toman was appointed as Director of the URSIL on an ad interim basis in September 2015. His appointment for a five year tenure was subsequently confirmed in September of the following year.

Toman is something of a “dark horse”. It is difficult to find much information about what he did before he was appointed as Director of the URSIL.

“Toman is something of a “dark horse”. It is difficult to find much information about what he did before he was appointed as Director of the URSIL.”All that is known for certain is that Toman obtained a doctorate from the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana in 2013. The title of his dissertation was “Creating a vision and its impact on the success of Slovenian companies”.

As Toman was settling down to his new job at the head of the URSIL, the controversy surrounding SAZAS continued to attract significant public attention in Slovenia.

In December 2015, it was reported by the state broadcaster RTV Slovenija, that SAZAS management was under investigation on suspicion of money laundering and abuse of office. According to the report, criminal investigators carried out house searches and seizures of evidence at six locations.

In the course of the following year, the SAZAS affair received regular coverage in the Slovenian media, in particular thanks to the efforts of journalist Anja Hreščak who published a series of critical articles in Dnevnik throughout 2016.

“In the course of the following year, the SAZAS affair received regular coverage in the Slovenian media, in particular thanks to the efforts of journalist Anja Hreščak who published a series of critical articles in Dnevnik throughout 2016.”In an article published in November 2016, Hreščak explained how SAZAS had – by its own admission – collected over €30 million in retransmission fees from cable TV operators. Instead of being distributed to the Slovenian directors and producers who were entitled to receive them, the bulk of these fees were transferred – apparently without any legal authority – to AGICOA in Switzerland. SAZAS itself pocketed around 10% of the amount involved in the form of €3 million attributed to “operating costs”.

The article recalled how Jurij Žurej’s earlier attempts to investigate these matters after he became head of the URSIL in 2010 had led to the premature termination of his appointment in April 2012.

When the new Director, Vojko Toman, was approached for comment, his response was the usual “three wise monkeys” guff:

“According to my information, there were no suspicions of irregularities,” said Vojko Toman , director of the Intellectual Property Office (URSIL), which has supervisory authority – in this case over SAZAS.

This important media coverage prompted the centre-right opposition party SLS to question the incomprehensible lack of action on the part of the URSIL and its supervising minister Zdravko Počivalšek. The SLS vice-chairman Primož Jelševar issued a communiqué asking: “Is the state afraid of SAZAS?”

English here. [PDF]

SAZAS responded by attempting to SLAPP down Anja Hreščak and other journalists who dared to ask awkward questions. However, in February 2020 the collecting society’s claims of defamation were dismissed by the High Court of Ljubljana. The High Court upheld an earlier district court ruling that Hreščak had reported objectively and without the intention of slandering and discrediting. The judgment made it clear that Dnevnik’s reporting was in the public interest and although it was critical in tone, it could not be considered defamatory.

English translations of the article about corruption [PDF] and the lawsuit [PDF] are available.

“This important media coverage prompted the centre-right opposition party SLS to question the incomprehensible lack of action on the part of the URSIL and its supervising minister Zdravko Počivalšek.”More recently in April 2021, it was reported that SAZAS has been trying to cash in on the Covid pandemic by extorting fees for online concerts, thereby attempting to profiteer on the backs of already impoverished performers and organisers.

Meanwhile, over at the URSIL, the installation of Vojko Toman as Director seems to have ushered in a new era of “stability” at the national “IP” office but it hasn’t necessarily been for the better.

One indication of the decline in standards during Toman’s tenure is provided by the state of URSIL’s official website. That website, which used to be well-maintained, seems to have become a bit run-down on his watch.

For example, the “History” page contains detailed information about events prior to 2015, including the appointments of previous Directors. However, there doesn’t appear to have been any update since Toman’s appointment as ad interim Director in September 2015. As a matter of fact, the subsequent confirmation of his appointment for a five-year tenure in 2016 doesn’t even get a mention. Archive here. [PDF]

“One indication of the decline in standards during Toman’s tenure is provided by the state of URSIL’s official website. That website, which used to be well-maintained, seems to have become a bit run-down on his watch.”In addition to this, the English language section of the website doesn’t appear to have been updated during Toman’s tenure. The last annual report posted there is the one for 2011 which was signed off by Luka Novak. It’s necessary to go to the Slovenian section of the website to find a full listing of the annual reports.

Meanwhile, on the Administrative Council of the EPO, the Slovenian delegation under Toman appears to have been well and truly “captured” by Battistelli from 2015 onwards.

Any doubts that may have existed on that front were dispelled in May 2018 when Slovenia was chosen to host the EPO’s 2018 PATLIB conference. (warning: epo.org link) Archive here. [PDF]

Toman was on the ground in Ljubljana to greet Battistelli and to “thank the EPO for organising the event in Slovenia”.

Benoit Battistelli with Vojko Toman
Captured at last… Battistelli with Vojko Toman in Ljubljana in May 2018.

Battistelli used the occasion to pose for photo-ops with Toman and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, Eva Štravs Podlogar.

Amongst other things, they discussed “bilateral cooperation between the EPO and URSIL and recent developments regarding the planned unitary patent system, which is expected to reduce costs and formalities while providing greater legal certainty for European companies and inventors”.

Vojko Toman and Eva Stravs Podlogar
Battistelli posing for a photo-op with Vojko Toman and State Secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar in Ljubljana in May 2018

The official EPO puff-piece published to mark the occasion went on to inform readers that:

“The EPO President also stressed the importance of a full completion of ratification of the UPC Agreement by Slovenia, not least because Ljubljana will host one of the seats of the new court’s Mediation and Arbitration Centre.”

Even if the UPC hasn’t quite managed to open for business yet, it’s nice to know what exactly Toman and his political masters in Ljubljana were promised by Battistelli in return for their support of his shenanigans at the EPO.

Toman’s term of office expired in September of this year and Karin Žvokelj Jazbinšek was appointed as acting director pending the completion of a “special public competition procedure” to select a new “permanent director”.

“Battistelli used the occasion to pose for photo-ops with Toman and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, Eva Štravs Podlogar.”Žvokelj Jazbinšek was formerly a senior official of the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. She doesn’t appear to have much background in “IP” but she did hit the headlines in Slovenia back in 2017 when she became embroiled in a “conflict of interest” controversy. Archived translation here. [PDF]

At the time in question Žvokelj Jazbinšek headed the “Development Funds Service” at the Ministry of Economic Development. This was the government department responsible for the disbursement of EU development funds. At the same time, together with her husband Miha Jazbinšek, she was co-owner of a private company MK Projekt Ltd., which advised other companies on how to obtain these EU funds.

By a curious coincidence, MK Projekt Ltd. was awarded a lucrative contract by the Ministry of Economic Development for a project to carry out an evaluation on the use of EU funds in Slovenia.

Karin Zvokelj Jazbinsek and Miha Jazbinsek
Karin Žvokelj Jazbinšek and her husband Miha Jazbinšek became embroiled in a “conflict of interest” controversy over their jointly- owned consultancy company MK Projekt.

On that occasion, Žvokelj Jazbinšek was vigorously defended by her supervising Minister Zdravko Počivalšek who proclaimed that as far as he was concerned “the results of her work are excellent”.

“Even if the UPC hasn’t quite managed to open for business yet, it’s nice to know what exactly Toman and his political masters in Ljubljana were promised by Battistelli in return for their support of his shenanigans at the EPO.”Some time later in October 2019, Žvokelj Jazbinšek was appointed as deputy director of SPIRIT Slovenia, a government “business development agency” whose remit includes “Entrepreneurship, Internationalization, Foreign Investments and Technology”.

This was the position that she held immediately prior to her current appointment as “acting director” of the URSIL.

Karin Zvokelj Jazbinsek
The new head of the Slovenian delegation on the EPO’s Administrative Council: Karin Žvokelj Jazbinšek.
Will she be an independent voice or turn out to be just another “captured delegate”?

In the international arena, it remains to be seen what contribution – if any – the new head of the Slovenian delegation will be capable of making to the affairs of the EPO’s Administrative Council.

“In the international arena, it remains to be seen what contribution – if any – the new head of the Slovenian delegation will be capable of making to the affairs of the EPO’s Administrative Council.”In particular, it will be interesting to see whether she will follow in the footsteps of her immediate predecessor Vojko Toman as a “captured” delegate or whether she will attempt to pursue a more independent line like Toman’s predecessor Vesna Stanković Juričić.

That concludes our examination of the Slovenian delegation and how it ended up on the slippery slope to “capture” by Team Battistelli.

In the next part, we will look at the remaining “abstentionist” delegation from Italy.

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