But don’t expect anyone from Microsoft to be sentenced to serve years in prison (alas, it’s noteworthy)
Summary: The epidemic which is Microsoft corruption is highlighted in a court of law, but since Microsoft is a very politically-connected monster we expect no punishment for such criminal behaviour
LAST year Microsoft got caught blackmailing British politicians [1, 2] and days ago we wrote about extortion and blackmail (with patents) against Android OEMs.
Over the weekend a reader made us aware of an older article that we overlooked at the time. After reports about many cases of bribery by Microsoft (which came under a US probe for them) we heard very little, as if the investigation was no longer pursued. Remember that President Obama was already paid (some might say bribed) by Microsoft, which quickly one of his top funders before the elections, as well as by Bill Gates, his wife, Steve Ballmer, and his wife. Making one’s influence in the US government stick (see our Wiki page titled “Microsoft influence in the United States government“) surely pays off.
Here is the news report which is titled “Former Romanian minister admits taking €4mn bribe in Microsoft case” (reminding us that Microsoft is still a criminal company). It says:
Romania’s former communications minister Gabriel Sandu admitted at a court hearing on October 12 that he received a €4mn bribe in the so-called Microsoft case. Eight other former ministers are under investigation in the case, but Sandu is the only one to be indicted so far.
The implications of the case remain unpredictable, as it involves ministers from three governments of various political orientations. It was instigated by Prime Minister Victor Ponta of the centre-left Party of Social Democrats (PSD) who wanted an investigation into contracts signed under his predecessor and political rival Emil Boc in 2009-2012. But he opened the door into a much broader political scandal that has dragged in politicians of both parties.
The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) started investigations into the sales of educational software licences for Romanian schools in September 2014. The nine former ministers are suspected of receiving bribes in exchange for signing and later extending contracts to license Microsoft software at above market prices.
Sandu was the first former minister to give testimony in court. He claimed to have contributed the entire €4mn bribe he received to the centre-right Liberal Democrat Party (PNL) electoral campaign and to that of Traian Basescu, the party’s successful candidate in the 2009 presidential election.
“That’s Romania,” told us a reader, “what about Russia and the others? What’s the status?” Well, we previously wrote about Romania in:
We still wait for the outcome of the US probe against Microsoft (for corruption), but we remain sceptical it will ever see the light of day. Microsoft has many lobbyists and even politicians in its pocket, as covered here extensively over the years.
Romania is just one of several countries where Microsoft should come under a very extensive probe, including into Microsoft tax evasion which the IRS finally takes more seriously. In some of the above articles we already discussed the accounting tricks of Microsoft in Romania.
When reading some of the above it becomes more evident that Microsoft is basically above the law, surrounded by corrupt politicians who are too afraid (or greased up) to actually do something about it, not to mention partners that do a lot of the dirty work (as was the case in the OOXML days with rigged elections). What’s this buzz about ‘new’ Microsoft anyway? Nothing but a tired old PR/marketing campaign, along the lines of “Microsoft loves Linux.”
People do not dislike Microsoft because it’s hip. People typically dislike Microsoft because they understand history and know that Microsoft is… well, special. █
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Summary: The criminal enterprise known as Microsoft finds itself embarrassingly exposed in the courtroom, for the IRS belatedly (decades too late) targets the company in an effort to tackle massive tax evasions
AT the end of last year we wrote about the IRS setting its sight on Microsoft, in spite of Microsoft’s influence in the United States government. Microsoft then attacked the IRS using its lawyers, for merely investigating Microsoft (i.e. doing its job), thus wasting taxpayers money in the courts. Can anyone not see the sheer arrogance of Microsoft? Having already been caught engaging in serious financial fraud (reported to the authorities by an insider) and despite being notorious for taxation/tax violations, Microsoft thinks it has moral ground and believes it can sue the IRS for merely investigating a criminal. Criminal companies with the “God complex” apparently believe that they don’t need to pay tax (because they are very politically-connected) and if you say that they do, they threaten you and bully you. It’s a form of SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation). Microsoft already loses billions of dollars and it sued the IRS for alleging that Microsoft owes billions of dollars to US citizens (easily provable).
This new article from The Register, based on legal documents, reveals the latest in this saga:
The ongoing squabble between Microsoft and the US Internal Revenue Service is heading to court, beginning with a hearing to take place in a Seattle federal court on Tuesday.
The case is gearing up to become one of the largest-ever legal battles between tax authorities and a US corporation over the practice of shifting assets to overseas subsidiaries as a way of avoiding US tax.
The IRS has alleged that deals Microsoft struck with subsidiaries in Bermuda and Puerto Rico between the years of 2004 and 2009 have potentially cost the US Treasury billions in tax revenue. But Redmond thinks the top tax agency’s snooping has gone on long enough and it should either produce a hard figure or drop the whole matter.
Microsoft also claims the IRS acted improperly when it hired two outside law firms to help it in its investigation, which the software giant describes as improperly delegating a government function to a private firm.
Microsoft has filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to see documents exchanged between the IRS and the law firms it contracted, including Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Boies Schiller & Flexner. The IRS has provided some such documents but Microsoft thinks it should be compelled to produce more.
Even if Microsoft goes bankrupt (it suffers losses already), people like Bill Gates, who became rich owing to the company’s criminal activities, should be able to (if not forced to) pay what was looted from the public. More of the corporate media should have the courage to cover the above news, but seeing how Microsoft uses SLAPP against the messengers, maybe the media chooses to stay silence and let only official documents (buried behind paywalls) speak. █
“We’ve got to put a lot of money into changing behavior.”
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Military- and mercenaries-connected company contracted by Battistelli to attack perceived ‘risk’
Summary: As German authorities express eagerness to crack down on corruption calls emerge for action against the Munich-based EPO, where Battistelli acts like an out-of-control autocrat who tries to silence the media and conceal information about Topić’s and his own abuses
The EPO tried to reassure staff that it was obeying the law whilst attacking the media after it had hired a military-connected company to spy on critics (we are still under heavy DDOS attacks at this very moment and many of the offending addresses have historically come from within Lockheed Martin). It’s not going to help the EPO because they are merely sinking deeper in a scandal which they themselves started. The EPO is now cracking down on sources of information (about abuse) rather than crack down on sources of abuse at the EPO. It’s symptomatic of the last, miserable effort by an abusive autocracy to defend itself from the public. The days of the EPO (in its current shape and roster) ought to be numbered, but only if governments actually do their job and intervene. The EPO is structured like a lawless state within a state, but surely it is not entirely immune to outside scrutiny. An thorough (and independent) investigation is long overdue. The German authorities are best equipped to do so.
Read this new comparison from football and software lobbyist Florian Müller. He compares the abuses at FIFA to the abuses at the EPO, naming for example the corruption. To quote one portion: “FIFA officials have been linked to bribery for many years. If you’re interested in the longstanding history of corruption in soccer, I recommend this book: “FOUL! The secret world of FIFA: Bribes, vote rigging and ticket scandals” by Andrew Jennings. One of the officials arrested last month, Jack Warner, also features prominently in that masterpiece of investigative journalism. However, as far as criminal charges (whether they will ultimately be proven is another question in all those cases) are concerned, the EPO also has its Jack Warner and his name is Željko Topić. You can read about the related allegations and accusations on Wikipedia, TechRights, IP-Watch and other sites.
“So, Battistelli is visiting the place where alleged corruption from his right-hand man (many criminal charges with a court’s ruling serving to reinforce this) has truly become a headache. How telling…”“If the Administrative Council of the EPOrg was as concerned about the reputation of the EPO as the supervisory bodies of honorable organizations are, they would have ousted a vice president at the latest after he lost a Croatian court case trying to prevent a journalist from making certain claims. But with little attention in mass media (at least outside of Croatia), he can stay in office, which says a lot about the mentality of the decision-makers there. Do you believe the European Central Bank would let a vice president stay in office after being accused of counterfeiting? What this EPO vice president is accused of is the IP equivalent of what counterfeiting would mean for a banker.”
Here is the EPO calendar. The next meeting of the Administrative Council (the President’s guardian rather than independent overseer) is on the 24th and 25th of June — a meeting to take place in Munich, Germany. We have incidentally heard from our sources in Zagreb that Battistelli is planning a visit to the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office (together with Željko Topić) in July.
So, Battistelli is visiting the place where alleged corruption from his right-hand man (many criminal charges with a court's ruling serving to reinforce this) has truly become a headache? How telling…
Going back to Müller’s comparison, there is a part in it which alludes to paid (planted) articles and extravagant awards which we last covered a few days ago. He writes: “When “non-profits” like FIFA and the EPO control billions of dollars/euros, they inevitably look for ways to spend them in ways that could be characterized as self-aggrandizement. They hire famous architects to design new buildings for them, and they throw expensive parties. Here, again, FIFA’s Ballon d’Or award ceremony at least serves an obvious and legitimate commercial purpose, while the EPO’s European Inventor Award is a major disgrace in ethical terms. I agree with the criticism voiced in this IPKat post. This is indeed a “dangerous compromise of principle.” The EPO must be neutral, but it is not. Instead of taking measures that would really contribute to patent quality, it compromises the process as a whole. It crosses the line all the time between what is appropriate for a governmental organization and behavior that would only be acceptable for a private enterprise.”
In Germany, tells us a reader, action is now needed. “The Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas calls for more resources for the parliamentary oversight of intelligence services,” to quote directly. “Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas (SPD) has called for a more comprehensive monitoring of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND). ’We need the whole activity of the BND subject to democratic control’, Maas said the ’Welt am Sonntag’.’ There must be no lawless areas for secret services.’”
What about the EPO and the bullies it hired to assault the rights of staff? Not to mention an attack on journalists and news sites…
Christoph Ernst is brought up as well. A reader told us that this “German Ministry of Justice is also responsible for oversight of the EPO through its national delegate on the EPO’s Administrative Council, Dr. Christoph Ernst.”
There is a lot of interest in cracking down on FIFA corruption (timing chosen for arguably political and partisan reasons), but what about the EPO?
“What a pity Heiko Maas doesn’t seems to show the same level of interest in the oversight of the EPO,” tells us a reader. “At least he has “tweeted” his intention to combat corruption in the world of football” (“Korruption darf im Fußball keinen Platz haben. Vorwürfe gg #FIFA müssen endlich umfassend aufgeklärt werden. Fußball kein rechtsfreier Raum.”), leading to press coverage such as “German justice minister urges new start at FIFA without Blatter”.
FIFA has had a reputation for corruption for quite some time (probably decades if not just years), but the EPO is going down the same route and a crackdown on it shouldn’t take as long as it took to tackle FIFA. █
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Summary: Battistelli faces yet another embarrassment as the man who defended his assaults on EPO staff, Ivo Opstelten, turns out to be little more than a thug in a suit
WHY does Battistelli tend to find himself surrounded by thugs and corrupt officials? Željko Topić, EPO Vice-President and Battistelli's right-hand man, faces many criminal charges. And that’s just one of several men. Perhaps it takes thugs to defend a thug, but the reasons could go deeper than this when exploring the networks and power of influence, especially in Europe. Battistelli is strongly connected to ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration) and there seems to be a link between Topić and Ivan Šimonović, both of whom are strongly linked to Ivo Sanader, who is in prison.
The Dutch Justice Minister, Ivo Opstelten (not to be mixed with Ivo Sanader), who intervened to prevent execution of the judgment in favour of EPO staff, fits a pattern.
“Newsflash from the Netherlands,” told us a reader nearly a month ago, “Dutch ministers Opstelten and Teeven quit over payment to drug-trafficker” (quitting under such circumstances can help evade legal action).
Links to some news reports (British and Dutch media):
To quote the BBC, “Dutch Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and his state secretary, Fred Teeven, have resigned after misleading parliament over a 2001 compensation payment to a convicted drug trafficker.”
So here, once again, Battistelli is basically defended by a bunch of opportunistic corrupt/crooked people in positions of power. █
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Summary: The now disgraced (having just resigned) Ivo Opstelten played a role in helping Benoît Battistelli crush his staff
The European Patent Office (EPO) — especially its management as opposed to patent examiners– has indulged in relative calm this past week. What it does not know is that there is still have plenty of exclusive coverage coming and it’s not going to like it. These problems cannot be resolved with words but only with actions.
The EPO‘s management, namely Battistelli and his cronies, are on the retreat from EPO staff. The staff arguably has the upper hand now, so it will be getting its demands met one way or another.
Merpel from IP Kat delivered a sort of interlude at the end of last week, saying: “By recognising both the “social unease” that exists in the EPO and by timetabling the need to address it, this month’s Administrative Council Meeting appears to have provided at least a basis for the various interested parties — the President, Boards of Appeal, management, staff and unions, and also the members of the Administrative Council themselves if truth be told — to start afresh by building relationships that are founded on respect, on tolerance and understanding, on listening to one another, plus a leavening dose of humility.
“The outcome of the Administrative Council Meeting will certainly not be to everyone’s liking. For one thing, it approved the controversial healthcare reforms which, viewed from the standpoint of an objective bystander, appear to be one of the most significant causes of the “social unrest” and which will remain a permanent obstacle to its being remedied. Nor will its acceptance of the proposal for a Board of Appeal Committee, in the face of some sensible and constructive criticisms from the Praesidium and Board members, have done much to enhance respect or confidence for the Council itself. However, a door has been opened and a small step has been taken in the right direction. The question to ask now is whether, now that this opportunity has been created, it will be taken and built upon — or mocked and spurned.
“It is easy to be sceptical and to say that something won’t work, particularly if you can do it anonymously by penning comments on a blogpost. It’s also rather fun to be able to say to anyone who can be bothered to listen “See, it didn’t work. I told you so!” It’s far harder to swallow one’s pride, sit down with people you have not hitherto liked, trusted or respected, and talk through the problems that the EPO has to address, both those which it always has to face and those which it has recently created for itself. But that is what this Kat is calling for.”
EPO scandals should not be left in the past and treated as ‘old news’ because the core issues, including corruption, have not been addressed yet. Some recent articles from the Süddeutsche Zeitung serve to remind us of the profound issues at the EPO.
“We hope that you are enjoying your time in Singapore,” wrote to us a source some weeks ago when sending us translations of Süddeutsche Zeitung articles. “For your information just to keep you up to date with recent developments,” wrote this source, two recent articles from the Süddeutsche Zeitung (with English translations) were sent, accompanying the originals in Dutch.
The first one
[PDF] (25th of February) is about the planned demonstration at the British Consulate in Munich (a demonstration which was called off following threats from Battistelli). Here is the English translation:
Süddeutsche Zeitung – Wednesday, 25 February 2015
An Inexorable Conflict
EPO staff call off an officially approved demonstration – because the President bans it
On one occasion, such a large number of staff – reportedly 2000 – arrived with their banners and placards that the police had to cordon off the street in front of the building with the
dark glass façade beside the Isar. They had taken to the streets to protest against the management style of the man who sits – some would say “resides” – on the top floor: Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office (EPO), an international organisation with its very own rules – “a state within a state”. A state which for quite some time now has been
in a virtual state of war.
All those who object to Battistelli’s new rules had planned to march again today. The route along the Isar would have brought them to the British Consulate General, just like previous actions which had taken place at the French and Danish Consulates. The EPO’s Staff Union SUEPO unexpectedly called off the officially approved demonstration: not of its own volition, however, but because the President had threatened the demonstrators with massive disciplinary consequences. This is confirmed by a document which the Süddeutsche Zeitung has seen. The Office management claimed that the demonstration was “contrary to the interests of the Office” and was likely to damage the EPO’s reputation. Staff members participating in the organisation of the demonstration were warned that they were in breach of the legal framework applicable to their contracts. In a letter to SUEPO, the President stated that the organisers would be held liable for their actions.
This de facto demonstration ban represents a new peak in a conflict whose intensity has been escalating during recent months. It is a conflict which has by now reached a point
where not even senior EPO representatives see any hope of a resolution. For quite some time now staff representatives have been fighting against the President and his plans for reform. The aim of these reforms is to provide a more efficient and cost-effective management of the Office – and one aspect of this involves tackling certain long-established “perks” which date from the early days of the EPO and which until now have contributed to attractive remuneration and working conditions. Time and time again, EPO staff have protested against what they consider to be the excessively brusque manner in which these reforms have been forced through. They have taken to the streets and in the weeks before Christmas they engaged in a strike action, albeit with diminishing participation towards the end. According to staff representatives this was due to increased internal surveillance and repression by management.
The Frenchman Benoit Battistelli will remain at the head of the European Patent Office until 2018. However, his management style has been the subject of harsh criticism.
The demonstrators have consistently emphasised that as far as they are concerned, this is not about money but rather about their fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression. They consider that these rights have been increasingly curtailed by the President. Meanwhile, in attempting to justify the demonstration ban, Battistelli did not cite the attacks on his person and management style but referred instead to those directed against the two British delegates on the Administrative Council, the only supervisory body to which the President is subordinate. This body which is composed of delegates from the EPO member states is considered by its critics to be too much under the sway of the President. On a number of recent occasions, it has bolstered Battistelli, in particular by prematurely extending his term of office until 2018.
For this reason, the Staff Union wrote to the British Consulate General at the beginning of February and requested a discussion: not just about the President but also about what they considered to be the overly uncritical stance of the British delegation. Battistelli interpreted this as a personal attack on the two representatives of a member state. Moreover, discussions with member states are exclusively a matter for the Office – and by “Office” Battistelli means those at the top, i.e. himself. The EPO was unable to provide an answer to our question as to why Battistelli only decided to intervene now and why he did not raise any objection to previous demonstrations and letters to diplomatic representatives.
The second one
[PDF] (27th of February) is about the Dutch court judgment and the intervention by the Dutch Justice Minister to prevent execution of the Judgment. There are more documents and comments about this on the public website of SUEPO. Here is the English translation:
Süddeutsche Zeitung – Friday, 27 February 2015
Being in the right is no guarantee of obtaining satisfaction
Following a reprimand by a Dutch court, the European Patent Office strikes back
Berlin – A Court of Appeal in the Netherlands has ordered the European Patent Office (EPO) to engage in collective bargaining with the Staff Union. In addition to this, the EPO is required to cease blocking emails from staff representatives and to desist from threatening Staff Union activists with disciplinary measures. With this development, the conflict between EPO staff and the President Battistelli has reached a new level of intensity. The Appeal Court (“Gerechtshof”) in the Hague has officially declared that the EPO violated the fundamental rights of its staff. The Staff Union known as “SUEPO” had no means of legal redress available to it.
The judgment opens up a new chapter of legal history because until now it was generally accepted that the EPO, as an international organisation, enjoyed immunity from the jurisdiction of national courts. Battistelli consistently emphasised this, in particular in connection with the reforms which he has been implementing in the Office during the last few years. He claimed
that he wanted to do away with long-standing privileges enjoyed by staff and that he had the support of the representatives of the 38 member states of the Organisation. Staff representatives and Union activists, however, complained that the changes led to restrictions of their fundamental rights, for example with respect to Union activities and industrial action. The headquarters of the EPO are in Munich and it also has large sub-offices in Berlin, Vienna and the Hague.
“It was quite an unusual decision”, the attorney representing the Staff Union, Prof. Liesbeth Zegveld, says about the judgment. “The EPO had, however, behaved badly because it did not recognise SUEPO as a social partner”. The EPO management on the other hand rejects the judgment of the Appeal Court as an encroachment. The judges had “decided not to respect the
fundamental principle of immunity” wrote the EPO President in a Communiqué to his staff. “This judgement is neither legally admissible nor practically enforceable”.
In order to ensure that its point of view prevailed, it would appear that the EPO Administration brought pressure to bear on the Dutch authorities. A spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of
External Affairs confirmed this version of events in response to a query from the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Dutch Government now takes the position that although the EPO is not immune from the jurisdiction of the courts in its conflict with the Staff Union, it nevertheless enjoys immunity from execution of the judgment. The Ministry of Justice ordered the Court Bailiff not to proceed with the execution. “The Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed to us that the judgment failed to take account of the international legal obligations of the [Dutch] State”, said the EPO press officer, Rainer Osterwalder.
What will happen next is unclear. On one hand, the EPO may refer the matter to the next instance, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. On the other hand, SUEPO attorney Liesbeth Zegveld is currently considering taking legal action against the [Dutch] State which, in her opinion, is obstructing its own justice system. It is possible that a similar lawsuit could succeed before the German courts.
“The European states, including Germany, should never have ratified the Convention relating to the European Patent Office,” says Siegfried Broß, a former judge of the German Constitutional Court, “because it places the fundamental and human rights of EPO employees at the disposition of the Office Administration.”
The Dutch Socialist Party has also issued a statement calling on the Dutch government not to tolerate human rights abuses at the EPO. To quote the summary alone: “The Court of Justice in The Hague last week ruled that the European Patents Organisation (EPO) is in conflict with important European fundamental rights, such as the right to strike. Security and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten is, however, refusing to give effect to the judgment, on the grounds that the EPO – not an EU institution, but one with thirty-eight member states, including all EU countries – is an independent organisation and therefore enjoys immunity. SP Member of Parliament Michiel van Nispen finds this reasoning absurd, he says. ‘The minister is thus approving the silencing of trade unions and the fact that workers can’t in the end enforce their rights,’ he points out. ‘Independent organisations should not be hampered in their functioning, but that doesn’t mean that they have carte blanche to transgress human rights and ignore judicial rulings.’”
In imminent articles we are going to show that even Battistelli’s defence, namely Opstelten, is itself corrupt. There is much that can be deduced from it. █
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Summary: Rikard Frgačić submits his comments regarding the misdeeds of SIPO, the Croatian intellectual monopolies offices which was headed by Željko Topić
We very recently published a video segment (extracted from a programme of one Croatian TV network) about a man called Rikard Frgačić, whose case against EPO Vice-President Željko Topić we had previously covered in the following three posts:
- The Case of Rikard Frgacic Versus the Croatian SIPO: Allegation of Corruption in Relation to Trademark Reassignment Under Željko Topić’s Watch: Part XVI
- Just in: Fresh Call From Croatia to Arrest EPO Vice-President Željko Topić
- Željko Topić’s History in SIPO Leaves a Legacy of Alleged DZIV Vehicles (Bribes), Authorship Abuses, and Intimidation Against Reporters
Today we wish to expand and to explain what the case is about. We have been in contact with the plaintiff and interviewed him over the telephone. We also received additional documents that help explain his case. The following additional programme segment helps explain it primarily from the Lufthansa angle.
Mr. Frgačić kindly provided us with detailed information about his case and in particular, especially towards the end, the special role of Željko Topić. Below is his explanation, unaltered so as to preserve his narrative.
In accordance with the article entitled “The Case of Rikard Frgacic Versus the Croatian SIPO: Allegation of Corruption in Relation to Trademark Reassignment Under Željko Topić’s Watch”, posted on the Internet portal http://techrights.org on 15th February 2015, under the programme section “Europe/Patents”, and with an aim of providing objective and thorough information to the international public, I kindly ask you to publish my comment on the article as follows:
My legal dispute with the subsidiary of the big German corporation Lufthansa AG – Lufthansa Airplus Servicekarten G.m.b.H. is not benign at all. All the more so when one lives in a banana republic called Croatia, very similar by its judicial system and public administration system to some underdeveloped African countries in terms of the level of corruption.
One of the reasons why I mention this hides in the fact of the name of a person holding a master’s degree title – Mister Željko Topić involved with the former State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of the Republic of Croatia. As a citizen, I could accept the fact of being conned by an individual, but unfortunately, I cannot accept it being done by the state system. Nevertheless, given the involvement in corruption of the above-mentioned airline company registered in an EU Member State, since recently this case has also been tackled by the EU institutions based in Brussels, entrusted with its in-depth monitoring.
But, let us start from the very beginning. With reference to the facts written in your article, which are accurate: Lufthansa did offer me a value of the second-hand mountain bike to buy ownership over my internationally protected brand Air Plus. What is extremely important to highlight here is the fact that Lufthansa’s offer would not have been given had there not been any abuse of my trademark/brand. A proof of my international ownership over the Air Plus brand was issued by the OMPI/WIPO in Geneva.
Why do I mention this? On my return flight with a four-member family from a business and tourist trip in the USA, that is, from New York to Zagreb in 2007, at the JFK Airport Lufthansa gave us a flyer with an interesting offer to postpone our flight for a couple of hours and receive EUR 700.00 compensation per person. In other words, EUR 2,800.00 for the four of us to delay our flight to Europe for a couple of hours. Lufthansa’s offer was rejected, and the return flight from New York to Zagreb was partially made by another airline company. My guess is that due to malfunctioning IT booking system and ongoing overbooking, as well as due to a fear of potential claims, Lufthansa provides interesting compensation to the passengers stalking them at airport counters prior to their flights and offering them cash vouchers. In the attachment, you can find the proof of such farce taking place at the JFK Airport in New York, the original Lufthansa flyer.
[Click to enlarge]
Based on the above-mentioned, I think any further comment is superfluous.
Under such circumstances and failed negotiations between me and Lufthansa, which have been carried out by my attorney in Munich (the letter is a PDF) to date, in 2010 the court proceedings were initiated for indemnification at the Commercial Court in Zagreb under number P-710/2010.
Simultaneously, the German Stock Exchange, German Patent Office in Munich, the President of the Lufthansa Supervisory Board and Assembly were notified accordingly. The document enclosed (2 pages below), and which document was submitted to the German Patent Office in Munich, indicates a very high value of the dispute amounting to EUR 30 million.
Unfortunately, the Attorneys-at-Law who represented me initially in Zagreb represent me no longer as it turned out that at the same time they also represented Mister Željko Topić, former SIPO Director General, current EPO Vice-President in Munich. The proof (power of attorney of Željko Topić) of the above-mentioned allegations is also enclosed in the attachment. For the time being I have not brought any action for indemnification and criminal action against the Attorneys-at-Law who knowingly found themselves in the conflict of interest.
In the forthcoming period the instigation of court proceedings against Lufthansa in Germany is expected (due to the statute of limitation the deadline for the claim in Germany is May 2016), after completion of the case with the SIPO in Zagreb initiated based on fictitious charges of Lufthansa claiming that my Air Plus brand had not been in use, which, naturally, was not true. The charade at the SIPO of the Republic of Croatia was organised by Lufthansa Attorney in the Republic of Croatia and above-mentioned corrupt Željko Topić, former SIPO Director General who used a well-established scheme to settle the Lufthansa’s charges within a record time of a single day. Of course, in favour of Lufthansa. The criminal charges were pressed against both actors with the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia (DORH in Croatian), which were subsequently taken over by the Croatian Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK in Croatian) on account of severe qualifications of a criminal offence. On its own initiative, the SIPO, then headed by Željko Topić, without any legal grounds made a reassignment of my protected brand in the official registry and posted such reassignment on its official website, which is one of the reasons for criminal charges as it has nothing to do with violation of my personal rights, but violation of Croatian law and international law and violation of the principle of trust in credible records in a public registry. After my appeal and media coverage of the entire case, the SIPO quashed its first instance decision and pronounced Lufthansa’s charges as unfounded. However, six years after such event, which was settled for Lufthansa within a remarkable single day, I still have not received the final decision of Topić’s ex-SIPO with the accompanying documentation. My total legal costs of the dispute with Lufthansa exceed EUR 50.000.-. At the moment there are five attorneys representing me in the proceedings against Lufthansa. One in each of the respective cities: Munich, Ljubljana and Paris and two attorneys in Zagreb specialised in commercial law and intellectual property law. It should be highlighted here that the letter of Lufthansa’s representatives of 24th July 2009 addressed at my attorney in Munich evidently shows the outcome of the proceedings with the SIPO in Zagreb a couple of months in advance. This letter is crucial evidence which takes Mister Željko Topić, and Lufthansa’s representative in Croatia and all others involved in this case directly to prison with a request for precise answers regarding operation of the “high-level corrupt octopus” in practice.
The project under the Air Plus trademark was a big tourist vision as shown in the letter for the Airbus consortium in France way back in 1998 with the graphical design of the Air Plus brand on the Airbus plane model A-319, also below.
Throughout the last couple of years I gave a number of interviews laying stress on the issue of intellectual property in the case with Lufthansa, but also more broadly speaking. In particular, I would like to single out two TV shows for the Croatian public broadcasting company (HRT), also shown above as video-clips with English subtitles.
According to some unofficial information there is a closed circle of indications that Lufthansa is a secret owner of the Croatian airline company Croatia Airlines, and thus my case crosses the borders of judiciary and becomes a political “burning issue” in the currently unresolved relations between Germany and Croatia. That was the basic reason why I addressed Chancellor of the Republic of Germany, Madam Angela Merkel (the letter is below).
By leaving the Croatian SIPO and coming to the EPO, whether by accident or not, Master of Science Željko Topić appointed Ms. Ljiljana Kuterovac, allegedly his longtime mistress, as the SIPO Director General in Zagreb. But he did not stop there as can be seen from a bizarre detail that very soon he also brought the foregoing lady that is his mistress to the EPO in Munich (information here) and turned this reputable international institution into a Balkan tavern equal to the one he had in a coffee bar “Valeatis” in Zagreb, close to his official office in the SIPO, and which is very precisely described and documented in a website article “A wrong man sitting at the EPO?”. To use the police investigation lingo, a very simple and logical question is raised here – Who made it all possible to him?
I would also like to emphasise that the corrupt network in this case surpasses Željko Topić and his current EPO position and assumes bigger proportions, including the WIPO in Geneva and leaning onto segments of the Croatian diplomacy. More specifically, after publication of the newspaper article “Vesna Vuković welcomes Topić in Geneva whom she ardently reported to DORH and USKOK” (see this) the foregoing lady fearing political retaliation apologised to “Master of Science” Željko Topić by phone from the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Geneva. This interesting telephone conversation on the Geneva – Munich line was intercepted by the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA in Croatian) of the Republic of Croatia. Specifically, Ambassador Vuković (diplomatic passport is above) was not appointed to go to Geneva on behalf of the Republic of Croatia for diplomacy but as an extended hand of the former President of the Republic of Croatia – Ivo Josipović with the WIPO, since Geneva is an international bureau for the protection of author’s rights but also any other intellectual property rights (information here). It is no secret that the former President of the Republic of Croatia – Josipović is a covert owner that is the most influential person of the Croatian Composers’ Society (HDS/ZAMP in Croatian) with non-transparent parafiscal levies on account of which he probably lost the last presidential elections in the Republic of Croatia less than a month ago. Miss Vesna Vuković, together with corrupt Željko Topić, is a part of the systematically built “network” of former President of the Republic of Croatia, Ivo Josipović. Finally, former Minister of Science of the Republic of Croatia, Željko Jovanović, himself publicly admitted to a DW journalist the pressure of President of the Republic of Croatia Ivo Josipović in case of protection of Željko Topić against criminal prosecution, which was published in her article entitled “Croatian Patent for Author’s Rights” (see this).
According to the latest news from the Croatian independent media, the DORH system also constitutes a part of this sophisticated corrupt network, the head of which, the first man of that institution, Mladen Bajić, was recently removed from office. After Bajić’s deposition, the first attorney – Željka Pokupec of the County State Attorney’s Office (ŽDO in Croatian) based in the capital of the Republic of Croatia was removed from office and sacked. The Croatian public is anxious to see further clarification of matters in this state institution in the upcoming days. The role of the DORH in this fascinatingly built corrupt network at the high political level was regular collection of fees for Josipović’s HDS/ZAMP. In other words, the use of public resources of the Republic of Croatia for private purposes, as well as a potential cover-up of criminal offences of Željko Topić and obstruction of investigations by the very same persons at the top of the pyramid of the Republic of Croatia over former Chief State Attorney Mladen Bajić and his right hand Željka Pokupec, and over former President of the Republic of Croatia – Ivo Josipović. However, the way things are at the moment it seems that the former Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia – Ivo Sanader convicted on account of crimes of corruption as a high ranking politician will soon get some company in the most famous prison in Croatia. Publicly pronounced word is said to be stronger than a baton, but this history folk saying is yet to be verified in this specific case.
In Zagreb, 20th February 2015
Written by: Rikard Frgacic, M.Sc. Geo.
It should be in the interest of EPO staff to know this, irrespective of the relevance of this trademark case to the patent system. █
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Summary: Another deep look at Željko Topić’s background in Croatia, preceding his very notorious appointment to the EPO where he now serves as Benoît Battistelli’s most controversial attack dog
OUR SECOND ARTICLE in this series (part of a much broader series) looks at the case of Rikard Frgacic and another of Ivan Kabalin. These cases help highlight the malicious conduct of the Croatian SIPO, which the current Vice-President of the EPO came from and also managed. Željko Topić does not want the European public to know about all this. He relies on much of this being accessible only to people who are fluent in Croatian. We strive to change this by providing translations, documents, and detailed explanations, having studied these cases for months.
“It is not possible for the EPO to just carry on when a thug and a cheater serves as Vice-President.”EPO matters will surely be impacted by this. It is not possible for the EPO to just carry on when a thug and a cheater serves as Vice-President. Today we present some background information about other Croatian cases that would be of interest to the European public.
“For your information,” told us a reliable source (we shall refer to our sources collectively for their protection), “[w]e have heard from our sources in Zagreb that some people in Croatia may try to contact you to provide information about other allegations of corruption against the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office during Topić’s tenure as Director-General (from 2004 to 2012).
“To try and help you to make some sense of all this let’s recap that so far the information which has been provided from our side has mostly related to the Vesna Stilin story and her conflict with Topić as an Assistant Director of the SIPO.
“It seems that a number of “external users” of the SIPO’s services also had problems. Two cases in particular have received journalistic coverage in Croatia. As far as we can work out, the people who might try to contact you to provide additional material are connected with those cases [and] the cases in question are as follows.”
This is a good point in time to clarify and strongly stress that in Techrights we have never let our sources down (and we have had many sources over the years). Those who have material to show to us can rest assured that they will be treated with utmost confidentially and material will be examined based on merit before publication (we ensure there is no identifying details in published documents, just in case). Today’s new documents are as follows:
- PRESS RELEASE 30-04-2012-EN
[PDF] – Translation of a “Press Release” dated 30th of April 2012, which was published on the Web site of the Croatian SIPO (in Croatian only). The original version (i.e. in Croatian) can be found here
[PDF] – Translation of an article from dnevno.hr which includes a claim that Željko Topić was the author of the SIPO “Press Release” dated 30 April 2012; refer to the section entitled “Official or private website?”
Our first case deals with Mr. Rikard Frgacic.
“Mr. Frgacic is involved in a dispute with a subsidiary of Lufthansa in connection with a trademark “AirPlus”,” said a source to us. “Frgacic claims that the trademark registration in his name was mysteriously and improperly cancelled by the Croatian SIPO and re-assigned to Lufthansa (or, perhaps more precisely, a subsidiary of Lufthansa). He has been involved in litigation against the Croatian SIPO (in Croatia) and against Lufthansa and/or its subsidiary in Germany. As far as we can work out, he has also filed criminal charges against Topic in Croatia. At the beginning, Lufthansa offered him 1000 Euro to settle the trademark dispute but he refused the offer (as he considered that there was considerably more at stake).”
This is probably just one of many criminal charges against Željko Topić in his home country.
“According to what we have heard,” said our source, “he has had a partial victory in Croatia where a court issued an order for the SIPO to re-open the case of the trademark reassignment. However, the SIPO seems to be dragging its feet in the matter. It also looks like the litigation in Germany against Lufthansa and/or its subsidiary is stayed pending the outcome of the re-examination of the trademark re-assignment by the Croatian SIPO. From what we have understood, there seems to be a risk that if the SIPO blocks the re-examination of the case for long enough in Croatia, he may run into some kind of statute of limitations problem in Germany. But we only have this information via second-hand sources so we can’t say for sure what the exact state of play is.”
So, in summary, this case is not finished. Moreover, as we have explained before, there is a pattern of coverup for misconduct in SIPO. We wrote about that last week.
The second case involved Mr. Ivan Kabalin, whose letter we published some days ago (he too alleges coverup).
“Mr. Kabalin is a Croatian engineer who invented an improved type of safety razor and submitted a patent application for his invention to the Croatian SIPO,” our source explained. “Kabalin claims that his idea was subsequently pirated by Gillette and marketed as its “Gillette Sensor Excel” product. It seems that when he tried to pursue legal action against Gillette he found out that his patent application had not been properly processed by the SIPO. We are not sure of the exact details about this, i.e. whether they rejected the application or just left it hanging as a “pending application”. Whatever the exact story there, it turned out that he couldn’t obtain any effective legal enforcement against Gillette.”
Kabalin’s story has been covered in the Croatian press for many years now. NISTA_EN (published earlier this month) is a translation we have received of an article from 2013. Here is it as HTML. It’s a translation of an article from tjedno.hr which starts off with the Kabalin case before moving on to report about other matters relating to Željko Topić’s record.
“More recently it has received renewed coverage,” said our source, citing this page (publication date is 7th of November 2014, but no translation is available). The headline on that article, as we have been told, reads: “THE GILLETTE AFFAIR: One of the biggest heists in Croatian history is still continuing!”
Some older articles can be found here and here (no translations available) and in this interview with Kabalin from 2012 (again no translation available) the headline quotes him as saying that the whole of the SIPO “should be sent to Remetinec” (i.e. the main jailhouse in Zagreb).
We have heard something similar from Frgacic, who said in a recent interview that German authorities ought to arrest Željko Topić.
Our source added the following important disclaimer about the aforementioned cases: “We want to emphasise that we only know about the Frgacic and Kabalin cases from second-hand sources. These guys obviously have axes to grind with the SIPO but we are too remote from their cases to make any comments on the merits of their claims.
“However, the “David versus Goliath” aspect of these stories seems to have struck a chord with the popular imagination in Croatia and both cases have got a significant amount of media attention there. We also note that the ongoing controversy about Topić’s appointment at the EPO also seems to have regenerated interest in these “cold cases” in Croatia. Understandably, the people involved in these cases are interested in obtaining some exposure on an international level.
“As you might expect, the official “party line” of the SIPO (i.e. Topić) is to dismiss these people as disgruntled “cranks”. For example, the Frgacic case is mentioned in a press release from the Croatian SIPO dated 30 April 2012.” (see PRESS RELEASE 30-04-2012-EN and refer to the first paragraph on the last page).
Here is the full text of the press release, which is alleged to have been written by Topić:
REPUBLIC OF CROATIA
STATE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE
Zagreb, 30 April 2012
Following a series of articles in the media, among which “Jutarnji list” and the Internet portal Index.hr have been particularly prominent, and in which arbitrary allegations have been levelled in an outrageous manner against the former Director General of the State Intellectual Property Office, Mr Topić, and against the activities of the Office as an institution, the State Intellectual Property Office is publishing the following press release with the aim of objectively and truthfully informing the public and preventing further misrepresentation by the media.
The so-called “affair” relating to Director General Topić is nothing more than the product of unprofessional journalism which, in its search for a sensational story, publishes incomplete information, unverified information and even complete disinformation, to which a completely arbitrary and tendentious interpretation is applied.
The main source of accusations against the Office and against Mr Topić personally is the unprecedented campaign conducted by Ms Vesna Stilin, who was dismissed from service in the Office at the beginning of 1999 by the then Director due to unauthorised absence from duty for a duration of 34 consecutive days. For over 12 years she has been exerting unrelenting pressure on the competent government and judicial authorities in an attempt to realise her own unfounded ambitions and interests while trying to depict the matter as a struggle against illegal activities of the Office. We emphasise that from 1999 until the present day Ms Stilin has instituted dozens of court proceedings against several directors of the Office, the Office as an institution and the Croatian state in which inter alia she has claimed huge sums of money which are purportedly owed to her by the Office and the Croatian state. Ms Stilin’s arbitrary and malicious allegations concerning irregularities in the Office’s operations have, unfortunately, fallen on fruitful soil created by the current atmosphere of public distrust towards state institutions due to the intensified fight against corruption in recent years. In addition to this, arbitrary allegations by malicious individuals driven by questionable motives are published uncritically as facts by an unprofessional media and without any prior verification or objective analysis.
In the context of the aforementioned unprecedented campaign by Ms Stilin who, on an almost daily basis for the past 4 years, has been filing various absurd submissions, including criminal
charges, against Mr Topić and the Office with government and judicial authorities, a report relating to a budgetary inspection of the Office’s operations conducted in 2008 has been published. The contents of this report have provided the basis for media misrepresentation concerning alleged financial malpractices at the Office.
The aforementioned report has been interpreted in an arbitrary manner, without any appreciation of its contents and context, which we now elaborate upon with the aim of clarifying this matter.
Due to the monopolistic nature of intellectual property rights and the complex procedures for their protection, and in accordance with generally accepted global standards, it has been prescribed that not only the usual state duties are to be paid in connection with these procedures, but, additionally, fees for granting and maintaining the validity of these rights. In many countries, pursuant to the terms of international intellectual property agreements which in principle stipulate that the income from procedural fees for the granting and maintenance of such rights be used for the further development of the intellectual property protection system, this income is classified as the “proprietary revenue” of the competent intellectual property office. Such a practice also existed in Croatia from 1991, when the Office was established, until 2007, when the process of establishing the state treasury and the associated systematic regulation of revenue and expenditure in the central government budget led to a re-interpretation of the concept of “proprietary revenue” of government bodies. In other words, prior to 2007 the revenue from fees for intellectual property rights granting and maintenance procedures falling under the Office’s responsibility was remitted to a special sub-account of the government budget, from which the Office settled a part of its operating costs directly while unspent funds accumulated in the same sub-account and were visible in the prescribed financial reports of the Office.
That such operations were in conformity with the law is confirmed by an audit report from 2004 in which they were not called into question in any way whatsoever. However, according to the interpretation of the aforementioned budgetary inspection from 2008, the changes that had taken place in the meantime in relation to the definition of “proprietary revenue” of government bodies and in the context of the overall process of introducing a regulated government accounting system, resulted in a situation in which the Office’s revenue from fees for procedures for granting and maintaining the validity of intellectual property rights was henceforth to be considered as part of the general revenue of the central government budget. At this point it was requested that the funds which had hitherto been accumulated in the so-called “proprietary revenue” sub-account of the Office should be transferred into the central government budget account and that the planned expenditure from the central government budget for the operating costs of the Office be increased by a corresponding amount. The Office subsequently complied with this request. However, despite the detection of certain accounting irregularities in relation to the consistent management of expenditure between the so-called “proprietary revenue” sub-account and the central government budget account, the disputed budgetary inspection did not reveal any actual misuse of the financial resources.
The Office wishes to point out that the media reports concerning this matter and the allegations made by Ms Stilin systematically omit to mention that all detected irregularities were subsequently resolved and clarified, and that the competent authorities which had the disputed budgetary inspection report at their disposal evidently did not consider the established irregularities to merit further investigation. In every detailed audit of the operations of any legal entity a certain number of irregularities are almost always detected and the competent authorities subsequently undertake corrective measures depending on the objective gravity of the detected irregularities. It is emphasised that 8 identical copies of the disputed budgetary inspection report were compiled and submitted to the competent authorities in accordance with the applicable regulations on budgetary inspection.
The Office also wishes to draw attention to the misrepresentation concerning a “multi-million amount of fees” which the Director General allegedly paid out to himself and his “cronies”. The sum referred to corresponds to approximately 10% of the total amount that was paid out for the regular services of the Office employees over the same period, and it relates to payments made on various grounds to 42 of a total of 104 employees of the Office, including several months of full-time contract employment for a few individuals. It has also been omitted to explain that the only fee which was paid out to Mr Topić was for professional services on the examination committee for certified representatives in proceedings conducted by the Office and which was transparently and legally regulated and paid out in the same manner to all members of the examination committee. With regard to allegations about the fees for the committee members not being fully covered by the examination fees paid by applicants, we would like to point out that prior to the Decision of the Government of the Republic of Croatia in 2011 abolishing compensation due to civil servants for membership of expert committees, such fees paid to civil servants for services provided to expert committees in numerous state administration bodies were paid in full from the central government budget account, and that subsequent to the disputed budgetary inspection the Office aligned the examination fees with the level of compensation due to the examination board. The Office would also like to emphasise that in accordance with the results of the Feasibility Study on the Restructuring of the Office into a Self-Financing Organisation, which was carried out by independent experts, it was determined that the central government budget revenues arising from fees for the granting and maintenance procedures for intellectual property rights which were a direct result of the operations of the Office in 2007 and 2008 exceeded the total operating expenditure of the Office by approximately 800,000 HRK.
Concerning the fabricated “affair” about the allegedly illegal procurement of an official Mercedes vehicle and its “concealment” in the Office archives, all unfounded allegations based on malicious anonymous submissions by staff members were publicly refuted by the Office with counter-arguments immediately after their initial publication in 2009, a detail which the media now writing about this matter systematically omits to mention. They also fail to refer to a clear and unambiguous statement in the report of an administrative inspection conducted by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports according to which it was established that there had been no irregularities in the procurement and usage of official vehicles at the Office.
With regard to the aforementioned criminal charges filed against the Director General of the Office, a key fact has been omitted: criminal charges can be filed by anyone, regardless of the merits of the case and the competent authorities are obliged to start investigative proceedings in relation to any criminal charges filed, no matter how unfounded they may prove to be after the investigation has been carried out. With regard to the specific criminal charges referred to here, the Office wishes to draw particular attention to the following facts.
The criminal charges brought by the employee Zdenko Haluza for the alleged forgery of an official document by Mr Topić are based on the date of entry into force of the Regulations on the Internal Organisation of the Office, which was incorrectly stated in the Decision concerning the transfer of Mr Haluza from an abolished position to a new position at the same level of competence and with identical associated rights. Mr Haluza has been trying to challenge the aforementioned transfer without success since 2008 and he refuses to carry out the duties associated with the new position to which he was transferred. After the legality of this transfer and the irrelevance in this regard of the incorrectly stated date were confirmed, Mr Haluza had exhausted the available means of redress in his proceedings against the Decision of the Office and he therefore resorted to the malicious filing of a criminal lawsuit for the forgery of an official document as the only remaining way of challenging the transfer. In the meantime, this lawsuit has been dismissed by the State Attorney’s Office. However, under the Croatian Criminal Code, a plaintiff can pursue the proceedings as a private plaintiff after the claim has been dismissed by the State Attorney’s Office, which is what Mr Haluza has done. In view of the evident absurdity of the criminal charges, it is more than certain that the outcome of the aforementioned proceedings will be in Mr Topić’s favour.
The second criminal charge against Mr Topić “by the employees of the Office” is the one filed by Ms Stilin as a private plaintiff which relates to the allegedly defamatory content of one of several proposals made by Mr Topić to relieve Ms Stilin of her duties as an Assistant Director. The alleged libel relates to a memorandum explaining the unsatisfactory performance of the duties of Assistant Director on the part of Ms Stilin due to which her dismissal from these duties was proposed. The media articles have systematically omitted mention of the fact, which Ms Stilin has confirmed in her public statements, that in the court proceedings in this criminal case Mr Topić has already been acquitted twice on the basis of two non-binding decisions, [i.e. first instance decisions that are not finally binding]. Based on previous experience it is certain that Ms Stilin will continue these proceedings until she has exhausted all available legal means, and thereafter by using other forms of pressure.
The third criminal charge is the one filed by Mr Frgačić in the so-called “Lufthansa-Affair”. The Office emphasises that it conducts more than 10,000 procedures a year in connection with requests to grant intellectual property rights, a significant part of which are terminated by a decision not to grant the requested right because the prescribed requirements have not been met. There thus exists the inherent possibility that an applicant will be dissatisfied with the decision of the Office no matter how well supported by arguments and based on law it was. The character of the dissatisfied party will determine which legal remedies they rely on to pursue their interests and this does not exclude filing arbitrary criminal charges and making accusations about the alleged corruption of officials.
It is also known to the Office that the obligatory investigative actions are being conducted as prescribed in relation to criminal charges the content of which makes it evident that they are based on malicious accusations originating from the habitual arsenal employed by Ms Stilin in the daily submissions with which she exerts pressure on the government and judicial authorities.
With regard to the so-called ZAMP-Affair (Protection of Music Copyright), the Office has already issued a press release and on this occasion emphasises once again that all allegations of irregularities concerning the collective management of these rights are completely unfounded and that this has been recognised in the meantime by a good part of the objectively-minded public.
From the fact that Mr Topić is portrayed by the media in turns either as a confidant of President Josipović or as “Sanader’s apparatchik”, the absurdity of all speculation about his appointment as Director General being due to some kind of political patronage becomes apparent.
Apart from a year-long break when he worked in the private sector, Mr Topic held various professional and managerial functions in the Office more or less from the time of its establishment until he left the position of Director General to take up his appointment as Vice-President of the European Patent Office. It is evident from this that he was appointed as Director General based solely on professional rather than political considerations. The only person who has invoked party membership in an attempt to secure her own interests has been Ms Stilin who in her numerous absurd accusations against Mr Topić stated inter alia that her dismissal was a consequence of his discrimination against her because of her membership of HDZ.
Mr Topić’s selection as a Vice-President of the European Patent Office has also been the subject of outrageous misrepresentation by the media. The aforementioned position is awarded solely on merit and it is not a political appointment. Moreover, Mr Topić obtained the position on the basis of a publicly advertised competition for which he applied along with three other candidates. Mr Topić was chosen following the presentation of his candidacy to the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation, of which the European Patent Office is the executive organ, and after he had received the votes of a majority of the representatives of the 38 member states during the first round of secret voting on the four candidates, and it was not due to any kind of political lobbying by Croatian diplomacy.
In conclusion, the Office wishes to express its grave concern about the fact that such extremely unprofessional media manipulation based on malicious accusations from a small number of people obviously driven by questionable motives can cause the reputation of a state institution and its Director to be called into question in such an outrageous manner, despite the notable results achieved by the Office and its professional reputation in the relevant national and international professional circles, which is incontrovertibly confirmed by the official reports of the European Commission, the international awards presented to Mr Topić and his appointment to a high executive function at the European Patent Office based inter alia upon the results achieved during his many years as the head of the Office. We particularly regret that the competent institutions have also succumbed to this unprecedented pressure and have subordinated their actions to individual interests rather than objective reasoning based on relevant facts.
This so-called ‘press release’ reads like an ad hominem blog post, throwing accusations mostly at Ms Stilin. Sadly enough for Topić, his lost as SLAPP case and Stilin not only won but Topić is liable to pay all her legal fees. The judge basically smashed Topić’s narrative to pieces. The EPO’s ringleader, Battistelli, probably hopes that his staff will never find out about that. Battistelli relied on this case when supposedly ‘dispelling’ ‘rumours’. But we have English and German translations of this recent ruling.
“Just for information,” added our source, “the Croatian media have claimed that Topić authored that press release himself (i.e. the original Croatian version) and ordered it to be published on the official website of the SIPO.”
That’s in itself a serious indication of Topić’s crooked mind.
Refer to the translation in PLR-EN — an article published by dnevno.hr in April of 2013. Here is the full translation of the text passed to us:
DISCLAIMER: The text which follows is a translation from the original Croatian. The accuracy of the translation is not guaranteed. The original article can be found at: http://www.dnevno.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/85582-bivsi-ravnatelj-dziv-a-zeljko-topic-zakinuo-jehrvatske-knjizevnike-za-milijune-kuna.html
Croatian writers claim that former DZIV Director Željko Topić cheated them out of millions of Kuna
Written by: Mladen Prenc
Sunday, 28 April 2013
“For the common good and in order to provide complete information to both the Croatian and international public, we have decided to speak out on the subject of the threatened existence of Croatian writers, and also journalists, publishers, illustrators and other related professions. Starting in 2007, writers were supposed to receive financial compensation from the state for the lending of their books in public libraries based on the so-called Public Lending Right, but to date they have not received a single cent”.
This appeal has been issued by anonymous sources from the Croatian Writers’ Association* [Društvo hrvatskih književnika / DHK] who have contacted the news portal Dnevno. After remaining silent for a number of years, the writers have finally decided to speak out about the alleged injustice done to them, and for which they blame the former long-time director of the State Intellectual Property Office (DZIV), Željko Topić, who now holds the position of Vice-President of the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich. The writers ask the following question: Why didn’t the Copyright Act in Croatia become operational for writers and other artists in the same way as it did for musicians (within the framework of the Protection of Music Copyrights – ZAMP)?
Instead of including writers, only members of ZAMP were protected
They claim that the DZIV was appointed to act on behalf of the State as the coordinating body for the implementation of the above-mentioned Public Lending Right (PLR) based on the National Strategy for the Development of the Intellectual Ownership System in the period from 2005 to 2010. This Strategy was developed by DZIV itself, and the year 2007 was established as the deadline for PLR implementation. At the 4th European Public Lending Right Conference held in Budapest in April 2007, a proposal was made to hold the next European Conference in Croatia in order to provide writers in our country with support in relation to the implementation of the new right, which had already been introduced into Croatian legislation in 2003 by means of the Copyright and Related Rights Act which was based on the EU Directive 92/100/EEC.
The writers explain how Željko Topić continued to ignore all of the initiatives associated with the organisation of the European Public Lending Right Conference in Croatia for over a year, before finally turning down the request of the Conference organisers on 2 April 2008. His argument was that the Croatian state agency responsible for the matter, i.e. the DZIV, lacked the financial means to bear its share of the Conference costs – a ridiculously small sum of 100,000 HRK, or approximately 15,000 EUR. The balance was to be provided by the Conference organisers. However, the story of the DZIV’s empty coffers, which Topić used as a convenient excuse, is contradicted by the official remuneration disbursement schedule for the year 2007, which clearly shows that the DZIV had ample funds at its disposal. As evidence of this claim, we publish the 2007 disbursement schedule as an annex.
According to the schedule, additional remuneration was paid out to certain permanent employees of DZIV on top of their regular salary. It is interesting to note that this additional “contract work” appears to have been carried out by those employees during their normal working hours using the resources of the DZIV thereby effectively amounting to a form of illegal income. In any case, the former Director of the DZIV rejected the request of the Conference organisers because of an alleged lack of funds, while at the same time paying out generous additional remuneration to selected staff inside the DZIV. At this point it is necessary to emphasise that the aforementioned schedule does not include payments to external collaborators, travel expenses or other financial gems of the notorious crew resident at Vukovarska 78 in Zagreb [i.e. the DZIV]. Moreover, our sources from the Croatian Writers’ Association claim that in
parallel to the DZIV’s obstruction in the case of the Public Lending Right for authors, the development and monitoring of rights protection for certain other forms of copyright, in particular those relating to ZAMP [i.e. musical royalties], were receiving a completely different and privileged level of support from this state agency.
The DZIV Vehicle Fleet
Apart from generous additional remuneration for himself and certain favoured employees of the DZIV, the information available to us indicates that Željko Topić was also capable of financing the cost of six official DZIV vehicles: three older ones – an Audi 6, an Audi 4 and a Skoda – as well as three completely new ones – a Mercedes, an Audi 6 and a Skoda. The new Audi 6 was for the then Minister of Science Dragan Primorac, who was responsible for the DZIV at the time; the new Mercedes, i.e. “Merc” and the older Audi 6 for Topić himself, the older Audi A4 for his deputy Romana Matanovac, and the new Skoda for the assistant Director Ljiljana Kuterovac. All of this was in addition to the documented amount of 1,033,182.28 HRK, clearly visible in the schedule annexed to this article, which was paid out as additional remuneration for the year 2007 (on top of the regular salary) to around half of the DZIV employees, with the “duo” consisting of Željko Topić and Romana Matanovac topping the list of beneficiaries. In a Budgetary Audit Report relating to the DZIV dated 15 January 2008 and carried out by the Ministry of Finance, this amount is listed as improper expenditure in contravention of the Labour Act, the Collective Agreement for Civil Servants and Employees and the Budget Act. The aforementioned Report notes that Topić’s actions in this respect constitute an offence subject to sanction by a fine in the amount up to 100,000 HRK pursuant to the Budget Act. Notwithstanding a legal obligation to do so, for reasons known only to themselves neither the inspectors from the Ministry of Finance nor the Minister with responsibility for the DZIV at that time, Dragan Primorac, saw fit to initiate civil or criminal proceedings against Topić.
Are Croatian writers finally about to take action against the former DZIV director Željko Topić by way of a collective lawsuit or by alternative legal means, in an effort to call him to account for causing them significant financial damage by abusing his position and authority and neglecting his official duty to facilitate the implementation of the new Public Lending Right? Thanks to him they have still not received a single cent of financial compensation which is of existential importance for writers and for other related professions as mentioned above. To what extent Mr Topić and the socalled “clique of intellectuals” at the DZIV have forearmed themselves against the eventuality of legal action on the part of Croatian writers has yet to be ascertained.
Official or private website?
We would also like to remind our readers that Željko Topić made use of the official DZIV website last year to settle accounts with persons who had pressed criminal charges against him as well as with the media outlets that had drawn the attention of the public to his violations of the law. Although he had moved to Munich in the meantime after voluntarily handing in his notice at the DZIV to take up the position of Vice-President of the EPO in the Bavarian capital, in April 2012 he suddenly returned to Zagreb on the last day of the month. As the working day was drawing to a close he ordered a surprised employee of the DZIV IT department to publish a controversial exculpatory “press release” on the official DZIV website*. In other words, having no possibility to obtain publication of such a self-serving statement in the press or on the Internet portals that had reported piquant details about him, he abused his position and influence inasmuch as he effectively requisitioned the website of a state agency for a private purpose, i.e. to publish a rejoinder in his own defence.
In addition to that, as part of his efforts to discredit the published articles disclosing the illegal actions carried out during his time at the DZIV, Topić filed a complaint with the Croatian Journalists’ Association, accusing the journalists who had written the articles of violating the journalistic code of honour by publishing unverified and defamatory information about him. The Press Council of the Croatian Journalists’ Association rejected Topić’s accusations and published its reasoned findings on its official website **.
Whether by coincidence or not, the Croatian law firms that represent Željko Topić in the criminal proceedings pending against him were at the same time also representing those who had indicted him – at least until such time as this was inadvertently revealed. In this way, they had access to privileged information concerning the other party. The lawyers who represent Mr Topić in criminal legal matters in Croatian courts are the law firm Silvije Hraste and the law firm Gajski-Prka-Saucha and Partners d.o.o. Affidavits bearing stamps of these law firms have been deposited in all criminal cases concerning Željko Topić. Our editors are in possession of copies of these documents.
Finally, it should be pointed out that the aforementioned law firms are at the same time officially registered as the legal representatives of the DZIV in Zagreb. In this way the circle is closed.
Contentious appointment and DZIV audit
In the course of conducting an audit of the DZIV and its then Director Željko Topić in 2012, the Ministry of Science under the control of Minister Željko Jovanović omitted to analyse a key document of the Croatian Government from which it plainly follows that Romana Matanovac, who was at the time employed by the state agency DZIV, was ineligible to be appointed as a member of the Board of Experts for Copyright and Related Rights [due to a conflict of interest].
Matanovac’s transgressions include approving the payment of some 300,000 HRK by the DZIV in 2008 for the ALAI Congress [held in Dubrovnik], under the stewardship of Professor Igor Gliha otherwise known as a close friend of Ivo Josipović, the Croatian President, instead of providing funds for the Public Lending Right Conference, despite the fact that the DZIV had a whole year to prepare for the latter event and was under an official obligation to organise it. Out of approximately 110 permanent employees of the DZIV, the only ones who appear to have benefitted from the exclusive privilege of receiving multiple additional perks were Romana Matanovac and Ljiljana Kuterovac both of whom evidently enjoyed the special confidence of the former Director Topić.
In conclusion we note that Croatian writers are still searching for answers to a number of unsolved riddles. For example, why did Ms. Romana Matanovac not adopt the same professional approach to the implementation of the Personal Lending Right as she did in the case of Josipović’s ZAMP [i.e. music royalties]? And what exactly is it that makes Croatian musicians worth more than writers?
* The press release referred to is available on the DZIV website (in Croatian only):
** The findings of the Croatian Press Council in the case of Željko Topić vs. Slavica Lukić may be accessed here (in Croatian only):
The writers explain how Topić continued to ignore all of the initiatives associated with the organisation of the European Public Lending Right Conference in Croatia for over a year, before finally turning down the request of the Conference organisers on 2 April 2008. His excuse was that the DZIV lacked the financial means to bear its share of the Conference costs. However, at the same time Topić was paying himself and certain favoured DZIV employees generous amounts of “additional remuneration” as evidenced by the official disbursement schedule.
Readers, including those outside of Croatia, are advised to read the above text, especially the parts about bribery using vehicles, intimidation by Topić using SLAPP litigation, and apparent misuse of his position in SIPO. It’s quite revealing and we are increasingly convinced that Topić knows damn well that he has done so much wrong, hence he is trying to silence those who speak out, even if this involves years in courts and much in lawyers’ fees (for both sides). Topić knows the abusive arts of litigation. It’s his field. It’s what he’s best at, based on his track record.
We asked a source if Topić is indeed likely to have turned SIPO into his blogging platform (sort of). “This sounds plausible to,” told us this source, “because, according to official government records, [it appeared] following his appointment to the EPO Topić’s term of office as Director-General of the SIPO expired on 30 April 2012 (i.e. the date of the “Press Release”). So according to official records, he was still the Director-General of the SIPO when the “Press Release” was published.”
In the coming days we are going to cover the sham ‘investigation’ from Benoît Battistelli and his cronies. They are not interested in finding out the truth about Topić, only in defending him (so as to cover their own behinds). █
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Judge Marijan Bertalanič, photo from vecernji.hr
Summary: The legal loss of Željko Topić laid bear for the public to see even outside Croatia
THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY we learned that Željko Topić had lost his case in his home country, Croatia (where he is facing many criminal charges). Surely he hopes that nobody outside Croatia will find out, let alone have access to the text in a language like French, German, or English. But thanks to our sources we now have precisely that. It’s a ruling from Judge Bertalanič (pictured above).
Here is the relevant (original) document
[PDF], which is a summary judgement (in Croatian). As promised a couple of days ago we now have this recent judgment of the Municipal Criminal Court of Zagreb relating to the defamation complaint which Mr. Topić filed against Ms. Vesna Stilin (classic gag attempt in our humble assessment because that would be a classic manoeuvre where one sues the messenger to intimidate and create an illusion of equality).
“The full judgement,” says our source, “including a detailed statement of the grounds is expected to become available in February.
“The summary judgment basically states that the accused (i.e. Ms. Stilin) has been “acquitted of the charges” ["OSLOBADJA SE OPTUZBE" in Croatian]. It then goes on to list the charges under items 1. and 2.
“The charges were based on the contents of two letters sent in 2010 by Ms. Stilin to the then Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor (with copies to various Ministries).
“The paragraphs in italics are passages from the letters which were alleged to be defamatory.
“Of particular interest is the accusation that Mr. Topić literally “purchased” his second term of office in 2008 by providing an Audi to the Minister at an estimated cost of 500.000 HRK (ca. EUR 66.000).”
Here is the relevant part:
“Topić Željko kupio je svoj drugi mandat ravnatelja DZIV-a, plativši cca 500.000,00 kuna MZOŠ u razdoblju od preko 2 godine (od svibnja 2007., kada je potpisan navedeni Ugovor, do srpnja 2009., kada je Primorac otišao iz Ministarstva), što spominjem, uz ostalo i u Ustavnoj tužbi br.: U-III 5023/08 koja je još u rješavanju, gdje osporavam Topićevo imenovanje za ravnatelja… …..Naime, podnijela sam kandidaturu za ravnateljicu Zavoda nakon što je isti krajem 2007. potajno… ukinuo moj sector …”
“The court found that the assertions which Ms. Stilin made about Mr. Topić were not defamatory,” said our source for this. “The summary judgment concludes by stating that the plaintiff (i.e. Mr. Topić) is to bear all costs.
“It would be interesting to know whether EPO funds are going to be used for this purpose.”
This last remark alludes to the fact that when Topić travels to Croatia to face justice he labels it business trips or something along those lines. The last thing he wants is informed colleagues who know where he is coming from. Sooner or later we might see this man in prison, not just outside the top floors of the EPO. Battistelli has got quite a liability in his hands. █
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