Bonum Certa Men Certa

The EPO's Vice-President Željko Topić and the Case of Ivan Kabalin: Part XIII

Berlin views



Summary: Another look back at what Željko Topić had been doing in Croatia before Benoît Battistelli made Topić his right-hand man in Germany

AMID swirling allegations that the EPO may have hired crackers or is actively attacking/vandalising sites that are critical of EPO management ("Coincidently," said one commenter in IPKat, "the SUEPO website has been hacked last wednesday") we deem it a good time to open another can of worms. It's impossible to know if SUEPO's site is another silenced victim because of EPO/Željko Topić criticism (like Stilin, whose case we highlighted in several older articles of ours), but let's take some time to look at the case of Ivan Kabalin in Croatia. In PDF form we now have all the relevant documents, even in English.



"In case you haven't got enough already," says a source of ours, "there is a story about a Croatian engineer and inventor called Ivan Kabalin who developed an improved razor design and alleges that his patent was "stolen" by Gillette. Again this involves allegations of irregularities at the Croatian SIPO under Topić's management. Unfortunately, we don't have the full details of the Kabalin case, but there are some Croatian reports."

Here is an article from 2007 and another from 2013, which strangely enough was removed (we don't know why). The Web Archive still has a copy of the latter article, which is written in Croatian.

We have received an English translation of the second one of these reports (the removed one). It's a long article from November 2013 where it is reported that Kabalin has filed a complaint with the EU Anti-Fraud agency OLAF. Here it goes [PDF with addenda]:

CROATIAN PATENTS WORTH BILLIONS – BUT NOT FOR THE INVENTORS!



EU accession has not brought any improvements in this area Date: 16 October 2013 Author: Franjo Dobrović

Following Croatia's accession to the EU this summer, many of our citizens hoped that this would lead to rapid and efficient changes, especially in relation to the judicial system with its multiple layers of corruption. At the beginning of September, the Croatian engineer Mr. Ivan Kabalin submitted a complaint to OLAF [the EU Anti-Fraud Office] in Brussels - via the Croatian Ministry of Finance. He requested an interim status report concerning Docket No. OF / 2005 / 0390. This case and a number of others, all of which share a common denominator, namely corruption, have prompted us to once again focus our attention on the problems relating to the field of intellectual property rights.

THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE ACTS AS OLAF'S POSTMAN

We contacted the Ministry of Finance for clarification and received confirmation of the authenticity of the request along with a note explaining that the case had been referred to the State Attorney's Office and the Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs. We were particularly surprised by that because the Ministry of Finance, together with its Antifraud Division (SSNIP) acts as a postman for OLAF providing mailbox facilities for the latter in Croatia. To be more precise, we quote from their official response: "Accordingly, OLAF does not have an office in the Republic of Croatia, so the SSNIP is main focal point for the exchange of information and coordination of OLAF’s activities in the Republic of Croatia."

If that is so, the question arises as to why our citizen’s document was not forwarded by the Ministry of Finance to OLAF, but to Ranko Ostojic [the Minister for the Interior] and Mladen Bajic [the Chief Public Prosecutor].

In addition, the State officials used their reply to provide us with the following insight into their mission: "The Department for Combating Irregularities and Fraud (hereinafter referred to as the SSNIP) is responsible for the coordination of legislative, administrative and operational activities of the bodies in the AFCOS system, aimed at protecting the financial interests of the European Union, and, consequently, for direct cooperation with OLAF. The scope of SSNIP's work is prescribed by the Regulation on the Internal Organization of the Ministry of Finance (Official Gazette 32/12, 67/12, 124/12, 78/13 and 102/13)."




CROATIA AS AN INTELLECTUAL COLONY

Mr. Ivan Kabalin’s request to OLAF relates to alleged irregularities and breaches of law at the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), which for many years was headed by the controversial Željko Topić. To remind our readers, Mr. Kabalin filed his innovative solutions with the then Central Bureau for Patents, as it was formerly called, i.e. what is now the State Intellectual Property Office. Kabalin specifically states that, apart from the aforementioned chicanery to which he and the Republic of Croatia have been subjected, there is plenty of publicly available evidence to indicates that the U.S. administration has been an active participant in the expropriation inflicted on both himself and his homeland.

While Mr. Kabalin hopes that his concept has not been irrevocably stolen from him for further industrial application, it must be noted that the state of which he is a citizen is apparently in no position to offer him any protection in this regard. The former member of the Croatian Parliament Pero Kovačević has asked the Croatian Government to comment on Mr. Kabalin’s allegations that the decision of the SIPO in this matter was unprofessional and irresponsible.

Mr. Kabalin patented a special razor which is known to the world today as the Gillette Sensor Excel, a product from which the U.S. company Gillette earns billions of dollars a year. The same invention is also marketed worldwide by the British company Wilkinson Sword while the true inventor is living in abject poverty near Petrinja.

Unfortunately, the Republic of Croatia has condemned itself to being an intellectual colony. In the interest of foreign exploiters, certain individuals have left the inventions of Croatian inventors devoid of any effective protection. At a time when technology rules the world and the number of inventors per capita puts the Republic of Croatia among the leading countries in the world in that field, the legislation in force results in a situation where patents are essentially worthless. Therefore it comes as no surprise that The Law School of the University of Zagreb has only recently introduced an elective course on intellectual property.

Apart from Mr. Kabalin’s case, a further reason for OLAF’s involvement in investigations in Croatia relates to a state institution of the Federal Republic of Germany – the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt - DPMA) which some years ago in the context of international cooperation provided financial assistance amounting to tens of thousands of Euros for improving the documentation and computerization of the SIPO. However, it appears that the payment was remitted to the private bank account of the former SIPO director, Mr. Željko Topic. How the details of his private bank account found their way into the official correspondence and documents of SIPO and whether or not the error was ever corrected remains an unsolved mystery for the moment.




WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE STATE ATTORNEY'S OFFICE?

Aside from Mr. Kabalin’s petition, our portal has received several documents from German sources which indicate a malfunctionining in the cooperation and coordination between our national authorities and international institutions. According to documents which we have obtained, it would appear that either the State Attorney's Office (SAO) or USKOK have issued a document confirming that there are no criminal proceedings against the former director of SIPO, Mr. Željko Topić as all charges against him have been dropped. According to the information at our disposal, this is not correct because the County and Municipal State Attorney's Offices in Zagreb are currently processing at least six pending criminal cases against Željko Topić.

So it seems that someone from the aforementioned State authorities responsible for conducting prosecutions improperly issued a document by which the compromised former SIPO Director maintains his current position at the European Patent Office (EPO), a European intergovernmental institution based in Munich. If this is the case, such a document could only have been signed by the Chief Public Prosecutor.

Against this background, the matter starts to assume the dimension of a criminal offence of abuse of office and authority specified in the Criminal Code as an offence against official duties. It is precisely because the SAO and USKOK failed to exercise proper control over the operations of the SIPO that individual citizens were forced to do the job that these bodies were under an official obligation to perform: i.e. to investigate and prosecute criminal offences which had been reported to them or of which they themselves had become aware in the course of their official duties.

This international scandal involving the suspicion of illegal actions on the part of the Chief State Attorney also brings the Republic of Croatia into disrepute. The rule of law is proclaimed as a matter of public interest and it deserves to be accorded priority over the interests of current President of the Republic or those of the Prime Minister or the presiding official of the SAO.

According to our information, proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which also refer to Mr. Topić’s bribing of the former Minister of Science in the Government led by the corrupt Ivo Sanader are still pending.

As long as the real culprits are not brought to account, i.e. those persons who have failed and who still continue to fail to take measures to prevent such irregularities thereby committing a grave and cumulative breach of official duties defined in the Civil Service Act as the offence of negligent performance of duty, conduct of this kind will continue to generate a profound sense of dissatisfaction among the citizens of Croatia. An even greater problem than those relating to the Croatian judicial system, seems to be the inaction of the administrative apparatus which, as a rule, is not held to account for its negligence. It is not sufficient to loudly proclaim the rule of law, this principle also needs to be enforced.




The situation in Croatia was recently described in graphic terms by an American journalist:

"There is a country in the Balkans where the Government despises its citizens as inconvenient witnesses, where the laws lack legitimacy and where anarchy is the normal state of affairs."

TOPIĆ UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE SIPA*?

[* SIPA = The Bosnian State Investigation and Protection Agency]

In response to numerous media reports, the European Patent Office (EPO) carried out an investigation at the University of Banja Luka, with the aim of examining the allegations relating to the forgery of Mr. Topić’s M.Sc. degree. In his report (which is attached to this article), the EPO investigator Florian Andres claimed to have found nothing suspicious in the documentation or during his discussions with the Dean of the University Rector, Dr. Stanko Stanić. However, according to our sources in Banja Luka and Sarajevo, Dr. Stanić neither knows nor could have known anything about a possible forgery in the case of Mr. Topić’s “M.Sc.” university documents because he signs off thousands of diplomas in a purely formal capacity without going into the details of the documentation placed before him.

The trail relating to the potential forgery of Mr. Željko Topić’s university documentation leads from Banja Luka to Sarajevo. Why? Because the Faculty of Economics in Banja Luka was established by the Faculty of Economics of the University of Sarajevo in the 1970s. Coincidentally or not, the mentor listed on the degree thesis of Mr. Željko Topić [i.e. Dr. Boris Tihi] is a retired economics professor from the Faculty of Economics in Sarajevo who now works as an economic adviser in the Office of the Ministerial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, i.e. the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our sources in Sarajevo close to the government reported that their current economic advisor can neither confirm nor deny that he acted as a mentor for anybody at the Banja Luka Faculty of Economics prior to 1990! Of particular interest here is the fact that Mr. Topić’s master's thesis does not list the names of the committee members before which the controversial thesis was defended but only bears the name of the mysterious mentor from Sarajevo.

According to unofficial information, this matter is under investigation by the the State Investigation and Protection Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SIPA) which is responsible for collecting and processing data of interest for the implementation of international and criminal law. It now looks as if the intrepid EPO investigator Mr. Andres may have to go on another official journey. But this time to Sarajevo ...

Given that the EU and other international bodies are following this case with great interest, it can be expected that Mr. Željko Topić, M.Sc., will very soon become a major focus of attention for all those who take an interest in patent-related matters connected to the former Yugoslavia, but unfortunately in a negative sense.




THE TANGLED WEB BEGINS TO UNRAVEL IN GERMANY

Our claims are confirmed by information coming from German journalistic sources according to which EPO employees have in recent months approached members of the Bundestag based in Berlin who in turn have requested a written response from EPO President Benoît Battistelli. In addition, it seems that an investigative action into the case of Mr. Željko Topić, now a senior EPO employee, has been initiated by the German Ministry of Justice. Thus, our “Master” is accompanied by the strains of ZAMP music not only in the Republic of Croatia but also beyond its borders.

According to our sources, the EPO President Battistelli is currently mounting a vigorous defence of Topić. The explanation for this according to the unofficial information provided by our sources at the EPO in Vienna and the Hague is as follows. Topić faithfully carries out the orders of his master Battistelli as a coordinator of the EPO’s internal voting machine particularly in relation to the countries of the former Yugoslavia which make up a significant proportion of the member states in the decisionmaking body of this organization. So it seems that he literally co-exists with the EPO President in a harmonious symbiosis. In this capacity, he occasionally has the responsibility for inviting the members of national judiciaries to participate in “study tours” thereby becoming involved in a direct conflict of interest. Our portal is in possession of a list of persons who attended one of the aforementioned “study tours”. A tragic-comical aspect of this story is that cases related to intellectual property matters may soon land on the desks of these judges requiring them to decide on matters which may have some points of contact with certain persons from this Balkan saga and which have already been the subject of prior deliberation in some seedy Munich beer hall.

As can be seen, our “Master” is for the time being enjoying the benefits of the European Union. Indeed, he started to enjoy them long before normal Croatian citizens became full members of the EU’s enlarged family, especially when one considers his current salary which is estimated to be in the order of an astronomical EUR 15,000 per month.


Notice in the PDF's first addendum (see the original PDF) just what Mr. Battistelli says in his strongly-worded letter to staff, alluding to a case that was recently dismissed and ruled in favour of Stilin and against Topić. This sure looks like some shrewdly-worded coverup and the above article makes mention of half a dozen criminal cases in Croatia, as we noted before. Topić is under heavy fire as judges too rule against him. The evidence is pointing in a direction that Topić's endless litigation must be fuming over.

"This sure looks like some shrewdly-worded coverup and the above article makes mention of half a dozen criminal cases in Croatia, as we noted before.""As you can see," alleged our source, "this is an ongoing saga because the first of the above reports (untranslated) about Kabalin's problems dates from 2007. By 2014, he doesn't seem to have made any progress and has probably given up all hope at this stage.

"This seems to be typical of Croatia where the pendency times in the legal system are inordinately long. This is one of the major contributory factors protecting Topić so far - he can invoke the "presumption of innocence" because the lawsuits against him are stuck in the dysfunctional Croatian legal system."

This is a SLAPP-like tactic for bullying or silencing opposition, usually opposition with pockets far less deep than the bully's.

"We were informed by Vesna Stilin," added our source, "that she still has a civil lawsuit pending against the first Director-General of the SIPO (Nikola Kopcic) who was dismissed from office in January 2002 due to an undeclared "conflict of interest" (see these documents [PDF] from a while back [PDF] as they are translated into English).

"Kopcic was (and still is) a senior partner in a law firm which was registered to act an authorised representative before the SIPO in intellectual property matters (while at the same time he was the Director-General of the SIPO!)

"In 2001, Kopcic was expelled from the Croatian branch of the AIPPI (International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property) for bringing the organisation into disrepute (copy of the AIPPI document is available [PDF], unfortunately only in Croatian). Amazingly, even after his dismissal as SIPO Director-General he managed to secure a position as a representative of Croatia on the "Council of the Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office" until last year [PDF].

"He now seems to have retired or else he failed to get re-elected as he is no longer listed as a member of the current Council. We just noticed that Kopcic recently managed to get a position as a "Project Deputy Team Leader" on an EU-financed "IPR Enforcement Project" in Bosnia which runs from 2012-2015. See also the entry on his CV.

"Because Stilin was actively involved in trying to get Kopcic removed from office as Director-General of the Croatian SIPO in the late 1990s, he engineered her dismissal from the SIPO in 1999. She was subsequently reinstated as an Assistant Director in 2004 but crossed swords with Topić who got her dismissed again in 2008.

"According to Stilin, a civil lawsuit which she filed against Kopcic in 2000 is still pending before the courts in Croatia!!!

"Here are some of the comments which she made about that:

"In 2000 I started civil process against Mr. Kopcic/DZIV which is still pending: three judges and me suggested settlement between DZIV and me, but Mr. Topic was against it, so that's why he wrote in a „press release“ that I „had been conducting a campaign against the DZIV for over 12 years.“ The biggest problem in accession of Republic of Croatia to EU, was a problem of duration of court proceedings. It is not a justice if you need to wait 14 years for first level court decision, as it has been in this case"

For those who are still confused about the Kopcic story we shall revisit this another day and provide more documents with English translations. There are many inter-connected stories at hand. It's a banana republic, much like what the EPO is becoming. Benoît Battistelli brought quite a mess into the EPO and by choosing to defend this mess he becomes complicit.

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