Acronym that generally refers to:

(a) Standard Essential Patent (for which see Essential Patents)

or humorously to

(b) part of the now superseded European Standard for condoms, EN 600. The latter refers to events in the adoption of European Community Standards for condoms designated by the CE mark. In 1992-3, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, the European Standardisation Committee was pressed to set a common European standard for condoms  – which, since they are also contraceptives, were subject to medical device laws in many EU member states that set differing standards for what could be sold. A single EU standard would allow condoms made in any EU country that met EN 600 to be legally sold in any other, but such a standard would, amongst other criteria, required setting standard dimensions, thus establishing a size for the average European male member that condoms are intended to fit, jokingly referred to as, the Standard European Penis. The standard was voluntary, that is to say, EU member states could choose to adopt it or not and could allow different national standards to co-exist (including different dimensions.)

At the time, all member states agreed on a length of 152 millimetres after surveys of urologists in various member states, but the Italians objected that the proposed girth of 55mm was too large, suggesting not more than 54mm. This intervention took place in a midweek hearing in Brussels and was met with incredulity, laughter – the story then circulated in various in-house newsletters of EU staff by that Friday and was reported many in many ribald press articles around Europe over the weekend (often conjoining the words “Italian,” “lovers,” “lothario” and “small.”) The following week the Italians withdrew their objections, anecdotally blaming the Committee’s interpreters’ “outrageous” mistranslation of the Italian representative’s statement for the “misunderstanding.”

Years after EN 600 was adopted, the issue was apparently revived as Germany asserted that the condom size adopted was about 20% too large, arguing that earlier surveys had been incorrect because the male participants had mostly lied. This issue appears to have not been seriously pressed by German authorities, perhaps because of the bemused commentary it would likely attract – and because EN 600 did not in fact prevent the sale of condoms of different sizes to that specified in Germany. In developing this glossary, Origin’s fact checking did indeed determine that this version of the story is not apocryphal Eurosceptic exaggeration (of which see below), but true.

However, the already amusing story of the adoption of EN 600 was the subject of a distorted story by one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, then a Brussels correspondent for a Eurosceptic British newspaper, who inferred that the entire episode was some sort of Euro-plot to require all European condoms to be too small for the average British man (thus appealing to his readers credulity and sense of superiority.) To make the story more interesting, Johnson suggested that any condom for dimensions larger than EN 600 would be banned in Europe, which was also simply false (the standard is voluntary.) Moreover, the standard was in fact pressed for by the UK since the largest condom manufacturer in Europe by far was the London Rubber Company (LRC); this unhelpful detail for his story was, typically for Johnson, also omitted. Johnson was later to move on to greater, or lower things, depending on one’s point of view.

See Standards, Mandatory, Compliance.

Related Terms