An EU Perspectives Valentine Special
Borgen, the well know Danish political television-drama, featured a whole episode in which Birgitte Nyborg the Danish Prime Minister has to choose Denmark’s next European Commissioner. Whilst the politicians fret and bicker over who the best candidate is, Katrine Fønsmark a young, ambitious journalist working for The Express, suggests to her editor that she cover the story.
Fønsmark gets a pretty swift put down from the editor, “No one wants to read about the EU. Its too complicated. It’s not sexy. It’s just not sexy enough.” The EU’s sexlessness is reiterated twice just in case the attractive journalist hadn’t quite got the message. To which EU Perspectives would like to respond, au contraire, Mr Editor.
Brussels can be sexy – and in more ways than one.
There is a lot more sex talk going on in Brussels than even the most smutty of tabloid editor’s is probably aware of – and we’re not just talking about illicit affairs, dastardly betrayals or shady Eurocrats getting hot under the collar in the corridors of euro-power.
On no siree we’re talking about bone fide, European Court of Justices cases, in which matters of high principle affecting the EU’s single market are determined.
No 1: The case of the French topless waitresses
Anyone heading east from Brussels by train will have to pass through Brussels Nord – a less than salubrious part of the EU capital – where ladies of the night advertise their services in brightly lit windows that line the railway track. A reminder that the Belgian State does not have a problem with women selling their bodies and that prostitution is a regulated, not illegal, activity.
So when, in 1980, two French ladies, Mademoiselle Adoui and Madam Cornuaille, working as topless waitresses in the Belgian city of Liege, were asked to leave the country on grounds of public decency, they decided to get on their moral high-jumping EU horse and contest the decision on the grounds of discrimination.
Belgian prostitution and topless waitresses are fine – but not French?
The French ladies won their case and thereby struck a victory for topless waitresses wishing to bare it all across the 27 EU Member States. Result: so long as it is not forbidden to serve drinks topless in the Member State in which these ladies reside then they can go ahead and serve a neon pink cocktail in the buff regardless of nationality.
No 2: The Case of the blow-up Love Love dolls
On 7th and 11th of October 1982 Her Majesties Customs and Excise workers impounded 432 “Miss World Special” dolls, 48 “Love, Love” dolls, 10 “Rubber Lady” dolls and 12 “sexy vacuum flasks,” that were trying to make their way into the UK via Heathrow Airport. The description in subsequent court papers of certain items might make readers blush so they won’t be repeated here.
The offender: Conegate – a German (note – not British) manufacturer. Annoyed that their profitable merchandise had been forfeited Conegate fought back. Their arsenal included a very powerful weapon – if it is so offends British sensibilities why is the sale and manufacturer of the very same items not forbidden in the UK?
It wasn’t. UK lawyers had a tricky time trying to defend such a blatant act of discrimination and the learned judges in Brussels didn’t let the UK get off this lightly. Customs and Excise were ordered to hand the items back to their German manufacturer. Result: a level playing field for all sex merchandise across the EU.
No 3: The mysterious case of the rotating balls
If you think the Germans only excel in making big cars then think again.
For our next case – hot off the press since it was only decided in January 2013 – we’re heading back to Germany and a company going by the name of Fun Factory based in the port-town of Bremen. Need we say more?
Like any other edgy forward-thinking company Fun Factory has chosen to plough a certain proportion of its profits into innovation and technology. The court case itself is sketchy on details but one can only imagine that Fun Factory has special premises in which graduate students and PhD doctors conduct costly and lengthy research into designing state of the art, top of the range products to satisfy their client’s needs.
When, therefore, the EU Trade Mark office based in Alicante, refused to offer their three-balled vibrator EU wide intellectual property protection through the use of a Trade Mark, Fun Factory was not going to take it lying down. They appealed. They lost. They appealed again on the grounds that no other product in the whole of the EU offers their clients anything so thrilling and satisfying as three round revolving balls.
EU IPR officers retorted that a vibrator with three revolving balls is nothing new. Most vibrators, apparenty, are designed as “une forme de baton” – however other products exist that are round.
The EU’s General Court agreed, “Even if vibrators often have an elongated shape, several other shapes do exist in this market alongside each other with products that have a spherical, rounded or flattened appearance.”
Result: products with three round balls calling themselves vibrators are generic – thus no Trade Mark protection.
So you see, Mr Editor, EU Perspectives agrees with you that sex sells. One need only think “Grey” for “Green” $ signs to spring to mind. However, don’t dish the EU before you’ve done a little bit of research.
Send off your hottest, sexiest Danish journalist to Brussels to do some digging and you’d be surprised what she may come up – and Denmark could be given the honour of breaking the story ahead of The Daily Mail.