Intangible property
Intangible property, also known as incorporeal property, describes something which a person or corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

 can have ownership of and can transfer ownership of to another person or corporation, but has no physical substance. It generally refers to statutory creations such as copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

, trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

s, or patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

s. It excludes tangible property like real property
Real property
In English Common Law, real property, real estate, realty, or immovable property is any subset of land that has been legally defined and the improvements to it made by human efforts: any buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, roads, various property rights, and so forth...

 (land, buildings and fixtures) and personal property
Personal property
Personal property, roughly speaking, is private property that is moveable, as opposed to real property or real estate. In the common law systems personal property may also be called chattels or personalty. In the civil law systems personal property is often called movable property or movables - any...

 (ships, automobiles, tools, etc.). In some jurisdictions intangible property are referred to as choses in action. Intangible property is used in distinction to tangible property
Tangible property
Tangible property in law is, literally, anything which can be touched, and includes both real property and personal property , and stands in distinction to intangible property....

. It is useful to note that there are two forms of intangible property - legal intangible property (which is discussed here) and competitive intangible property (which is the source from which legal intangible property is created but cannot be owned, extinguished, or transferred). Competitive intangible property disobeys the intellectual property test of voluntary extinguishment
Extinguishment is the destruction of a right or contract. If the subject of the contract is destroyed , then the contract may be made void. Extinguishment occurs in a variety of contracts, such as land contracts , debts, rents, and right of ways...

 and therefore results in the sources that create intellectual property (knowledge in its source form, collaboration, process-engagement, etc) escaping quantification.

Generally, ownership of intangible property gives the owner a set of legally enforceable rights over reproduction of personal property containing certain content. For example, a copyright owner can control the reproduction of the work forming the copyright. However, the intangible property forms a set of rights separate from the tangible property that carries the rights. For example, the owner of a copyright can control the printing of books containing the content, but the book itself is personal property which can be bought and sold without concern over the rights of the copyright holder.

In English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

 and other Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 legal systems, intangible property is traditionally divided in pure intangibles (such as debts, intellectual property rights and goodwill
Goodwill or Good Will may refer to:* Goodwill , the value of a business entity not directly attributable to its assets and liabilities* Goodwill, Maryland, United States...

) and documentary intangibles, which obtain their character through the medium of a document (such as a bill of lading
Bill of lading
A bill of lading is a document issued by a carrier to a shipper, acknowledging that specified goods have been received on board as cargo for conveyance to a named place for delivery to the consignee who is usually identified...

, promissory note
Promissory note
A promissory note is a negotiable instrument, wherein one party makes an unconditional promise in writing to pay a determinate sum of money to the other , either at a fixed or determinable future time or on demand of the payee, under specific terms.Referred to as a note payable in accounting, or...

 or bill of exchange). The recent rise of electronic document
Electronic document
An electronic document is any electronic media content that are intended to be used in either an electronic form or as printed output....

s has blurred the distinction between pure intangibles and documentary intangibles. [addedon20101027 by colbert2422: Libling, D. F. 1978: *The Concept of Property: Property in Intangibles,* The Law Quarterly Review, v. 94, Jan 1978, pp. 103–119. Cited for its applicability to copyright materials. With respect to copyright, he states: *Any expenditure of mental or physical effort, as a result of which there is created an entity, whether tangible or intangible, vests in the person who brought the entity into being, a proprietary right to the commercial exploitation of that entity, which right is separate and independent from the ownership of that entity.* Since the present work is derivative [ 17 U.S.C. § 101 (1982)], there is a commitment to share payments among the originators of the source works. [ There are over 1,000 sources for the material in this volume - WHC]. See Plant 1934 for a comment on embodiments of ideas. California has a law on this relating to artistic works. See Section 14.1 of the model ordinance at the beginning of this volume PQOLVOL1 for a proposed application of this concept. nb the Alaska Permanent Fund creates a right to certain state revenues for every man,woman and child in that state. Is it tangible or not???]

See also

  • Industrial property
  • Intellectual property
    Intellectual property
    Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...

  • Important Intangible Cultural Properties
    Important Intangible Cultural Properties
    The Important Intangible Cultural Properties are aspects of intangible culture that the government of South Korea has officially designated for preservation since the inception of the program in 1964...

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