The European Parliament has approved legislation that will establish one patent for 25 of the 27 European Union member states.

The move, which comes after more than 30 years of internal discussions, will cut the cost of an EU patent by up to 80 pc, the parliament said in a press release.

"Today's vote is good news for the EU economy and especially for European small and medium enterprises," said Bernhard Rapkay, one of the parliamentary leaders in the unitary patent negotiations.

Parliamentarians said the legislation will remove a major obstacle to making Europe more competitive.

The current European patent regime "is effectively a tax on innovation" said Raffaele Baldassarre , an Italian parliamentarian who led talks on the regime for translating EU patents.

And Legal Affairs Committee Chair Klaus-Heiner Lehne, a German member of parliament, added: "People in China are telling us that we cannot have a single market without a unitary patent".

The new patent regime will provide automatic unitary patent protection in all 25 participating member states. Italy and Spain have not yet signed up, but could do so at a later date.

The EU Commission said that, when the new system is up to speed, the cost of an EU patent could drop to 4,725 euros from an average 36,000 euros today.

As part of the agreement, which takes effect January 1, 2014, the EU member nations will also establish a unified patent court. This will require ratification by 13 contracting states and the UK, France and Germany need to be part of that group.