EU leaders have agreed to introduce a single European patent, ending decades of dispute with a deal that will cut costs for inventors and industry.

The scheme will end the fragmented system where it typically costs an inventor up to €35,000 to protect an idea throughout the European Union.

The measure is viewed as an important part of a growth drive for Europe's stagnating economy.

President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said that
"after 30 years of discussion on the European patent, we have reached an agreement on the last outstanding issue - the seat of the unified patent court."

A streamlined patent scheme had been held up by disagreement between Germany, France and Britain over who should host the court that will adjudicate in patent disputes.

The court is to be split between three centres - Munich, Paris and London, depending the type of patent.

Registering a patent in the EU is currently far more expensive than in the US, because a patent must be taken out in many countries rather than with one EU agency.

The European Patent Office (EPO) estimates that a single patent, which may now come in 2014, could cut the registration costs by more than two-thirds.

Once in place, the single patent system will avoid the need for inventors to register and defend their ideas in many countries and languages.

Italy and Spain, have so far refused to back a deal because the new regime stipulates the official languages for patents as English, French and German.

Italy may join later but it is not clear if Spain will.

They had wanted Italian and Spanish included too.