The European Parliament has voted in favour of a common single patent system for all member states, in a move that could free technological innovators from intellectual property concerns and administrative burdens as they release new products.
The moves are the result of enhanced co-operation in the Parliament. This means that ratification of the law is not required by all member states but instead those that wish to adhere to the system can do so, while other nations are able to join in the future if they wish.
The decision to create a common patent system was supported by 471 members and opposed by 160 members, with 42 abstentions.
Just Italy and Spain have decided not to sign the patent procedure, but can still join at any time in the future.
The decision was well received by intellectual property experts, including Keith Hodkinson, chairman at law firm Marks & Clerk, who said that innovation is encumbered by cost barriers and wasteful activities.
"The current regime with its cost barriers and wasteful use of resources has led to patchy protection across EU markets. This hasn't helped anyone," he said.
"I am delighted that the EU Parliament so strongly supports the proposals to implement the compromise regime. We must not let language issues be used to obstruct a desirable reform."
It is now up to the European Council of Competitive Ministers to formally adopt the plans once they have been supported by the European Commission. This is expected to happen in early March.
The move to a single patent system was held back in November by the need for unanimous approval.
The European Parliament said that, while this situation has persisted, people seeking patents had been forced to pay 10 times as much as their US counterparts before getting approval.
The Parliament expects that supporting a unitary patent system and abolishing the differences between member states will increase inventor protection and help tackle infringements.
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