Europe's complex and costly procedures for patenting inventions look set to be simplified after Euro MPs gave the go-ahead for a new system.
Under the plan, 25 of the 27 EU member states will adopt a uniform procedure for registering patents in Europe.
Currently European patents can cost ten times more than patents registered in the US because of translation costs.
Italy and Spain oppose the plan, which envisages using English, French and German for translating patents.
For about a decade, efforts to get an EU-wide agreement on patents have been blocked by language disputes and the lack of unanimity.
The European Parliament vote means that a common patent system can be launched under the EU "enhanced co-operation" procedure - an innovation under the Lisbon Treaty.
The fast-track mechanism enables nine or more EU countries to push ahead with a measure, even if it has not been agreed by all 27.
The mechanism has only been used once before - to get a divorce law adopted in 2010. It clarifies the rules for spouses in cross-border lawsuits involving different jurisdictions.
New patent legislation is a vital component in the EU's drive to make the single European market function better.
The European Commission has warned that Chinese firms are rapidly narrowing the performance gap with the EU.
The legal affairs spokesman of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, Sajjad Karim MEP, said emerging economies "are literally breathing down Europe's neck" and the new patents regime "will be a big part of what is needed by our entrepreneurs".