The Biden administration has announced it supports patent waiving on Covid-19 vaccines. So where does the word come from?

Joe Biden recently supported the waiving of patents on Covid-19 vaccines so more could be made in the developing world, an idea that was not greeted with unalloyed joy by stockholders in pharmaceutical companies. But where do “patents” come from, linguistically speaking?

As with so much, we owe them to France: patent was a medieval French derivation from the Latin patens, meaning “open” or “obvious”. From early-modern times in English law, “letters patent” were open letters (to enable inspection) from a monarch or government that conferred some right or title on the bearer.

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