London is to hear all European patent cases concerning medical biotechnology, hygiene and chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, following today’s vote in the European parliament in favour of setting up a new court system for a unitary EU patent.

The vote signals the final stage of nearly 40 years of attempts to simplify the EU’s patent regime and bring down the cost of a pan-European patent, currently 10 times that of a US patent.

Paris is to host the new court’s seat and president’s office, while administrative management is to be based in Munich, where mechanical engineering cases are to be heard.

Intellectual property (IP) partner William Cook of London firm Marks & Clerk said: ‘Despite the technical concerns of many lawyers around Europe, the new unified court has a very real chance of reducing costs and complexity of enforcing patents throughout much of Europe.

‘Technology-driven industry will welcome a court with straightforward, reliable and cost-effective procedures. Will we get one? That will surely be down to how the judges run the court: with strong and balanced judicial leadership, we will get there.’

However IP and technology dispute associate Beatriz San Martin of City firm Field Fisher Waterhouse said: ‘We have real concerns that the recent changes have been rushed through and the proposals may not achieve the purpose of a more-efficient system.

‘Many are worried that it will be prejudicial to small and medium-sized businesses, whilst big industry has urged parliament to reject the system for creating legal uncertainly and increased patent troll activity.’

The new package comprises three elements: a draft regulation setting up the unitary patent, another regulation setting up its translation arrangements into English, French or German, and a draft international agreement setting up the patent court system.

Italy and Spain, alone among the EU’s 27 member states, have refused to participate in the two regulations because the court’s languages do not include Italian or Spanish. Italy, however, is to sign up to the international agreement.

The translation regulation is set to be adopted by 21 December 2012 and the intergovernmental agreement on the court system on 18 February 2013. The formal ratification process is expected to be completed by November 2013 and the entire process, including setting up the court system, by April 2014.