Letters patent

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Letters patent issued by Queen Victoria in 1900, creating the office of Governor-General of Australia as part of the process of Federation Letters Patent Australia.jpg
Letters patent issued by Queen Victoria in 1900, creating the office of Governor-General of Australia as part of the process of Federation
Letters patent transferring a predecessor of the University of Lorraine to Nancy in 1768 1768 transfer of the University to Nancy.jpg
Letters patent transferring a predecessor of the University of Lorraine to Nancy in 1768

Letters patent (Latin : litterae patentes) (always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch, president, or other head of state, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation. Letters patent can be used for the creation of corporations or government offices, or for granting city status or a coat of arms. Letters patent are issued for the appointment of representatives of the Crown, such as governors and governors-general of Commonwealth realms, as well as appointing a Royal Commission. In the United Kingdom they are also issued for the creation of peers of the realm.

Contents

A particular form of letters patent has evolved into the modern intellectual property patent (referred to as a utility patent or design patent in United States patent law) granting exclusive rights in an invention (or a design in the case of a design patent). In this case it is essential that the written grant should be in the form of a public document so other inventors can consult it both to avoid infringement and understand how to put it into practical use. In the Holy Roman Empire, Austrian Empire, and Austria-Hungary, imperial patent was also the highest form of generally binding legal regulations, e.g. Patent of Toleration, Serfdom Patent etc.

The opposite of letters patent are letters close (Latin : litterae clausae), which are personal in nature and sealed so that only the recipient can read their contents. Letters patent are thus comparable to other kinds of open letter in that their audience is wide. It is not clear how the contents of letters patent became widely published before collection by the addressee, for example whether they were left after sealing by the king for inspection during a certain period by courtiers in a royal palace, who would disseminate the contents back to the gentry in the shires through normal conversation and social intercourse. Today, for example, it is a convention for the British prime minister to announce that they have left a document they wish to enter the public domain "in the library of the House of Commons", where it may be freely perused by all members of parliament.

Meaning

Letters patent are so named from the Latin verb pateo, to lie open, exposed, accessible. [1] The originator's seal was attached pendent from the document, so that it did not have to be broken in order for the document to be read.

They are called "letters" (plural) from their Latin name litterae patentes, used by medieval and later scribes when the documents were written in Latin. This loanword preserves the collective plural "letters" (litterae) that the Latin language uses to denote a message as opposed to a single alphabet letter (littera). [2]

Usage

Letters patent are a form of open or public proclamation [3] and a vestigial exercise of extra-parliamentary power by a monarch or president. Prior to the establishment of Parliament, the monarch ruled absolutely by the issuing of his personal written orders, open or closed.[ citation needed ]

They can thus be contrasted with the Act of Parliament, which is in effect a written order by Parliament involving assent by the monarch in conjunction with its members. No explicit government approval is contained within letters patent, only the seal or signature of the monarch.[ citation needed ]

Parliament today tolerates only a very narrow exercise of the royal prerogative by issuance of letters patent, and such documents are issued with prior informal government approval, or indeed are now generated by government itself with the monarch's seal affixed as a mere formality. In their original form they were simply written instructions or orders from the sovereign, whose order was law, which were made public to reinforce their effect.[ citation needed ]

For the sake of good governance, it is of little use if the sovereign appoints a person to a position of authority but does not at the same time inform those over whom such authority is to be exercised of the validity of the appointment.[ citation needed ]

According to the United Kingdom Ministry of Justice, there are 92 different types of letters patent. [4] The Patent Rolls are made up of office copies of English (and later United Kingdom) royal letters patent, which run in an almost unbroken series from 1201 to the present day, with most of those to 1625 having been published.[ citation needed ]

United Kingdom

Commonwealth realms

In Commonwealth realms, letters patent are issued under the prerogative powers of the head of state, as an executive or royal prerogative. They are a rare, though significant, form of legislation [ dubious ] which does not require the consent of parliament. Letters patent may also be used to grant royal assent to legislation.[ citation needed ]

In the United States

Letters patent issued by the United States General Land Office US General Land Office Deed 1845.jpg
Letters patent issued by the United States General Land Office

The primary source of letters patent in the United States are intellectual property patents and land patents, though letters patent are issued for a variety of other purposes. They function dually as public records and personal certificates.[ citation needed ]

In the United States, the forgery of letters patent granted by the President is a crime subject to fine, imprisonment up to ten years or both (18 U.S.C.   § 497). Without letters patent, a person is unable to assume an appointed office. Such an issue prompted the Marbury v. Madison suit, where William Marbury and three others petitioned the United States Supreme Court to order James Madison to deliver their letters for appointments made under the previous administration.[ citation needed ]

Form of United States letters patent

United States letters patent generally do not fit a specific form, except for the eschatocol, or formal ending:

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, the undersigned [public official], in accordance with [relevant law], has in the name of the United States, Caused these letters to be made Patent and the Seal of [relevant agency or government official] to be hereunto affixed.

GIVEN under my hand, in [city] the [date] in the year of our Lord [year] and of the Independence of the United States the [years since July 4, 1776].

By [signature of public official issuing letter]

[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Statute of Monopolies 1624 English legislation

The Statute of Monopolies was an Act of the Parliament of England notable as the first statutory expression of English patent law. Patents evolved from letters patent, issued by the monarch to grant monopolies over particular industries to skilled individuals with new techniques. Originally intended to strengthen England's economy by making it self-sufficient and promoting new industries, the system gradually became seen as a way to raise money without having to incur the public unpopularity of a tax. Elizabeth I particularly used the system extensively, issuing patents for common commodities such as starch and salt. Unrest eventually persuaded her to turn the administration of patents over to the common law courts, but her successor, James I, used it even more. Despite a committee established to investigate grievances and excesses, Parliament made several efforts to further curtail the monarch's power. The result was the Statute of Monopolies, passed on 29 May 1624.

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Letters close are a type of obsolete legal document once used by the British monarchy, certain officers of government and by the Pope, which is a sealed letter granting a right, monopoly, title, or status to an individual or to some entity such as a corporation. These letters were personal in nature, and were delivered folded and sealed, so that only the recipient could read their contents. This type of letter contrasts with the better-known letters patent.

Dimissorial letters are testimonial letters given by a bishop or by a competent religious superior to his subjects in order that they may be ordained by another bishop. Such letters testify that the subject has all the qualities demanded by canon law for the reception of the order in question, and request the bishop to whom they are addressed to ordain him.

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Monarchy of Barbados

The monarch of Barbados is the sovereign and head of state of Barbados. The current Barbadian monarch and head of state, since the independence of Barbados on 30 November 1966, is Queen Elizabeth II. As the sovereign, she is the personal embodiment of the Barbadian Crown. Although the person of the sovereign is equally shared with 15 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country's monarchy is separate and legally distinct. As a result, the current monarch is officially titled Queen of Barbados and, in this capacity, she, her husband, and other members of the Royal Family undertake public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of the Barbadian state. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role. The Queen lives in the United Kingdom and, while several powers are the sovereign's alone, most of the royal governmental and ceremonial duties in Barbados are carried out by the Queen's representative, the governor-general.

Royal prerogative in the United Kingdom Privileges and immunities of the British monarch

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The Letters Patent, 1947 are letters patent signed by George VI as King of Canada which reconstituted the office of Governor General of Canada under the terms of the Constitution Act, 1867. The letters were signed on 8 September 1947 and have been in effect since 1 October 1947, replacing the previous letters patent issued in 1931, to expand the role and powers of the governor general in exercising the royal prerogative and allow her or him to carry out an increased number of the Sovereign's duties in "exceptional circumstances".

Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand Royal decree in New Zealand

The Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General of New Zealand is a royal decree and a part of the uncodified New Zealand constitution. Sometimes known as the Letters Patent 1983, the instrument has been amended twice since its original issue in 1983. The letters patent—essentially an open letter from the monarch that is a legal instrument—constitutes the office of governor-general as the monarch's representative in the Realm of New Zealand, vests executive authority in the governor-general, establishes the Executive Council to advise the governor-general, and makes provision for the exercise of the governor-general's powers should the office be vacant.

The Crown Office, also known as the Crown Office in Chancery, is a section of the Ministry of Justice. It has custody of the Great Seal of the Realm, and has certain administrative functions in connection with the courts and the judicial process, as well as functions relating to the electoral process for House of Commons elections, to the keeping of the Roll of the Peerage, and to the preparation of royal documents such as warrants required to pass under the royal sign-manual, fiats, letters patent, etc. In legal documents, the Crown Office refers to the office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery.

Letters Patent (United Kingdom)

Letters Patent, in the United Kingdom, are legal instruments generally issued by the Monarch granting an office, right, title, or status to a person. Letters Patent have also been used for the creation of corporations or offices, for granting city status, for granting coat of arms and for granting royal assent.

References

  1. Cassell's Latin Dictionary, revised by Marchant & Charles, 260th. thousand
  2. Cassell's Latin Dictionary, revised by Marchant & Charles, 260th. thousand: "Literae, Plur: that which is written; Cicero: Dare alicui literas (plur) ad aliquem: to give to a messenger a letter for a third person"
  3. E.g. document dated 13 July 1527 issued Teste Rege titled: "A Proclamation for establishing of trade and merchandizing and traffique within the towne and marches of Callice with divers immunities and freedoms concerning the same", which is self-referenced in the document by the phrase "by theis his lettres patentes of proclamacion" Nichols, John Gough. The Chronicle of Calais from the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII to the year 1540, London, 1846 p.102
  4. "Letter from Sarah Whiteside to Steve Elibank regarding Freedom of Information Request". whatdotheyknow.com. 28 May 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2018.