In the field of the legislative texts, a letter patent is an act by which the king gives authority to a right, a state or a preference. It corresponds in our right to a decree taken as a Council of State.
Through legal Latin, the term comes directly from Latin obvious , patere , “open” or “obvious” being. In the beginning, the “letters patent” were open documents carrying a seal official (generally attached by a ribbon) and intended to be read by any interested person, in opposition to the “lettre de cachets”, closed and intended for a single recipient. The “letter patent” is generally the form which a “patent takes”.
To take effect, the letters patent must be recorded by a Parliament, i.e. published in order to become opposable with the thirds.
Are taken by letters patent the statutes of the trade associations (Listes of the medieval ordinances concerning to the trades), of the religious orders, the cities, the academies, the colleges, of royal manufactures, the rights and the collective franknesses, the local habits when they are codified, the preferences of the orders and the congregations, the concessions granted on the royal field (mines, fishing, race, maritime trade, transport, etc), etc.
Are also taken by letters patent of the personal decisions when they relate to its state or its quality, letters of ennoblement, provision of a military office or magistrature, title or raising of title, naturalization, forgiveness, commutation of sorrow, etc.
Like legislative act, the letters patent are distinguished from the Edict, the ordinance or the stop of payment, in what those regulate the administration of a particular object (a trade or a particular city) whereas these regulate the administration of an object in general (municipal Code).
The right to devote itself to the trade was granted against the payment of a tax, which ended up being itself indicated by “license”. This tax of share (including/understanding a right function of the nature of the trade fixes, and a share proportional to the rental value of the professional buildings) lasted in France until 1917, date on which the “license” was replaced by the turnover tax. However, of the taxes derived from the license (additional tax) were preserved until 1925.
More recent uses
Specifically, the letter patent granting a “Patent”, i.e. the privilege of exclusive exploitation of an invention, is at the origin of the English term obvious . The term was also used in this same direction in French right, where the “national license” was the name given to the patents in 1791. This term however did not survive the use in French.
In maritime law, the term survived longer in the “license of health” delivered the buildings which leave the port for a voyage to the long course. This document makes it possible to officially establish the absence of risk of epidemic, and therefore, saving with the ship forty on arrival. A “clear license” attested the absence of any health issue, a “rough license” was limited to certify the place of origin of the building (and almost always forty on arrival involved).
By extension, in the “licensed” language running wants to say “appointed” or “recognized”: “a licensed swindler”.
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