In a move that could prove very significant for innovators, the European Parliament recently voted to implement a common patent system for European Union member states.
The vote passed with the support of 471 members of the parliament. Another 160 members opposed the bill, while 42 abstained.
Two EU member states - Italy and Spain - opposed the new procedure. The structure of the new system, however, leaves room for them to join at a later stage.
Creating a unified European standard for intellectual property enforcement has proven difficult for a variety of reasons, including language diversity. The EU has 23 official languages.
Michel Barnier, internal market commissioner for the EU, described the existing patent system as an "unacceptable reality." According to Barnier, the new proposal is both "politically acceptable and economically necessary."
The new system is widely expected to make the process of applying for a patent in the EU both simpler and less expensive. According to a recent report in the Register, companies and individual innovators often pay 10 times more for a patent in the EU than in the U.S.