02.05.22

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The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXXII: A Parcel of Rogues?

Posted in Europe, Fraud, Law, Patents at 6:58 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. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXIX: On the Slippery Slope to Capture
  40. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXX: The Idiosyncratic Italians
  41. The EPO’s Overseer/Overseen Collusion — Part XXXXI: Public Service or Self-Service?
  42. YOU ARE HERE ☞ A Parcel of Rogues?

Annual meeting of Visegrád IPOs
Group photo of the annual meeting of Visegrád IPOs and “friends” including Friedrich Rödler from Austria (front row, left) and Željko Topić from Croatia (front row, second from left). Location: Bled, Slovenia, October 2011.

Summary: Some convicted criminals serving on the EPO‘s Administrative Council have enabled Benoît Battistelli‘s abuses and not much has changed under António Campinos; they moreover misuse the EPO’s immunity

The overall impression of the Administrative Council during the Battistelli era is that of a body dominated by an ad hoc "crony network" of self-serving officials who managed to steer the organisation and its executive branch, the European Patent Office, into very perilous waters.

Rather than serving the common good, their main concern appears to have been to line their own pockets at public expense and in collusion with the other “compliant” members of their peer group.

Finland, the home of the “good brother” crony network, provides one of the most striking examples of such behaviour in the person of Martti Enäjärvi.

“Another example of an Administrative Council delegate with an inflated sense of self-entitlement was Friedrich Rödler, who served as Director-General of the Austrian Patent Office between 2005 and 2015.”Enäjärvi was the former head of the Finnish Patent and Registration Office who was forced to retire in June 2010 and was subsequently convicted on charges related to the misuse of his official credit card in December 2011.

Another example of an Administrative Council delegate with an inflated sense of self-entitlement was Friedrich Rödler, who served as Director-General of the Austrian Patent Office between 2005 and 2015.

In addition to his generous remuneration as Director-General, Rödler received an additional salary for a period of eight years between 2005 and 2013. He received this second salary in his capacity as the managing director of serv.ip, a partially autonomous unit of the Austrian Patent Office, under an arrangement whose illegality was confirmed by the Austrian Supreme Court in 2016. To this day it remains unclear whether or not the Austrian state managed to reclaim the public funds which Rödler misappropriated in this manner.

Rödler was more fortunate than his Finnish counterpart Enäjärvi because he managed to avoid the ignominy of a criminal sanction for his "double-dipping" behaviour.

Also worthy of mention here is the former head of the Danish delegation, Jesper Kongstad.

During his seven-year stint as Chairman of the EPO Administrative Council – between July 2010 and September 2017 – Kongstad was rumoured to have been in receipt of a tax-free “top-up” salary. According to reliable inside sources, Kongstad’s “second salary” was paid to him by the Human Resources Department of the EPO as part of a secret pact concluded with Battistelli in 2010.

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

Like Rödler, Kongstad was fortunate enough to avoid judicial sanction for the misconduct of which he was suspected. He was simply put out to grass as discreetly as possible by the Danish government in 2017.

EPO's most prominent double-dippers
Public service or self-service ? Some of the Administrative Council’s most prominent “double-dippers”.
From l. to r.: Martti Enäjärvi (FI), Friederich Rödler (AT) and Jesper Kongstad (DK).

In their home countries, the excesses of such individuals are usually curtailed by regulatory and corrective mechanisms – in other words the typical systems of checks and balances that exist in states where the rule of law is respected and enforced.

These mechanisms include independent statutory supervisory and audit procedures, along with parliamentary oversight and public scrutiny via the media.

“In their home countries, the excesses of such individuals are usually curtailed by regulatory and corrective mechanisms – in other words the typical systems of checks and balances that exist in states where the rule of law is respected and enforced.”As an ultima ratio, there are criminal law enforcement agencies and courts of law which can impose judicial sanctions in cases of proven misconduct.

Of course the corrective mechanisms that exist at a national level do not always work as intended. Indeed, they are often less rigorous and effective than one might hope at detecting and deterring such misconduct. This is particularly so in the case of states which lack mature rule-of-law traditions, such as those which emerged in Eastern European following the fall of the Soviet Union.

A good example of such regulatory failure is provided by the case of Željko Topić which will be familiar to readers of Techrights.

Topić originally hails from Banja Luka in the Bosnian Republika Srpska zone of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the early 1990s he moved to Zagreb in Croatia where he managed to carve out a career for himself as a purported "IP doyen" in the Balkan region.

Despite its “captured state” reputation, Croatia was permitted to join the EPO in 2008. It also managed to qualify for EU membership in July 2013 but since then it has been reported as “backsliding” on corruption.

During his tenure as director of the Croatian State Institute for Intellectual Property, Topić was accused of numerous abuses. However, due to the dysfunctional justice system in his home country, together with the political protection which he received from the Croatian President Ivo Josipović, Topić was never properly held to account for his alleged misdeeds.

Željko Topić and Friedrich Rödler
Željko Topić in Tallinn (March 2012) flanked by his “good brothers”, Miklos Bendzsel (l.) from Hungary and Friedrich Rödler (r.) from Austria.

As things were getting hot for Topić in Zagreb in 2012, he was rescued by Battistelli who personally sponsored his appointment as an EPO Vice-President. (warning: epo.org link)

According to EPO insiders, when some Council delegates had the temerity to question Topić’s suitability for the post during the selection procedure in March 2012, Battistelli threw a hissy-fit and threatened to resign if “his” candidate was not appointed.

“According to EPO insiders, when some Council delegates had the temerity to question Topić’s suitability for the post during the selection procedure in March 2012, Battistelli threw a hissy-fit and threatened to resign if “his” candidate was not appointed.”The majority of the Council delegates capitulated to Battistelli’s demands and the rest, as they say, is history.

Topić departed from the EPO in December 2018 and returned to Zagreb where he now masquerades as a “European Patent Attorney” despite never having acquired the necessary professional qualification.

Topić’s case is rather exceptional and it seems to be a result of the particular political circumstances that prevail in Croatia and other "captured states".

In more mature democratic polities where the rule of law is respected, the existing checks and balances normally function in a sufficiently effective manner to rein in the excesses of such “rogue” officials and prevent them from spiralling too far out of control.

As we shall see in the next part, things are significantly different in the legal no-man’s land where international organisations like the EPO operate.

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