Disclaimer refers to a form of risk. It warns people, denying any responsibility, and letting the people know that they are to continue at their own risk. Deriving from an Anglo-French origin, this word was originally used in Old French in the mid-15th century. It is added for the benefit of the public, to warn them of the risk and the harm that they might put themselves in. Certain disclaimers even minimize further damages after one has already been hurt or injured.

Disclaimers vary, and there is no uniformity. These differences arise from the situation in which disclaimers are used, as it might be used in specific contexts, may vary according to official formalities, etc. In terms of legal agreements, however, the presence of disclaimers may or may not be acknowledged in legal disputes, as there might be other legal details that could either nullify or overshadow the importance of the disclaimer.

A few different examples of uses of disclaimers include:

  • Patent Law: When one has the sole rights to a title or an invention, the patent applicant can limit the protection that he/she receives from the patent. That is to ensure that a consistency would be maintained with claims regarding the patent, and also so that the patentee does not wrongly use the patent against his/her competitors. The introduction of disclaimers, in this case, may vary because of how specific it may be to the patented invention/ title.
  • Literature: Disclaimers in fictions attempt to avoid accountability for criticisms, and it is known as the “all persons fictitious disclaimer”, and the wording and the effectiveness of the disclaimer may differ due to various different reasons.
  • Estate Law: A disclaimer in the case of an inheritance or estate law is a voluntary document written and signed by the heir stating that he/she refuses to accept part of the estate. That way, the disclaimed estate is then given to the next in line after the heir. There may be several different reasons for doing this, which includes already having enough wealth, or perhaps the imminent death of the original heir.
  • Email Disclaimer: This is a general warning or notice added to an outgoing email for reasons as such as discrimination, virus, copyright, and confidentiality (when the email is about to be sent to an unauthorized recipient). Email disclaimers have legal effect in several courts in the United States.
  • Mandatory Disclaimers: These are messages on products which have been made mandatory by the government. They tell the buyers of the limitations of the product. For instance, in 1927, after the government decreed the Federal Caustic Poisons Act (FCPA), sellers were ordered to provide warning labels on poison bottles.

Disclaimers may come in various different forms, but at the end of the day, they all serve the same purpose, to warn us of what is ahead, and to let us know that we’re going to be solely responsible for the actions that we take from that point onwards.