Sui generis
Sui generis is a Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 expression, literally meaning of its own kind/genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

or unique in its characteristics. The expression is often used in analytic philosophy to indicate an idea, an entity, or a reality which cannot be included in a wider concept.


In the taxonomical
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

 structure "genusspecies" a species that heads its own genus is known as sui generis. This does not mean, however, that all genera with only a single member are composed of sui generis species. Only if the genus was specifically created to refer to that one species with no other known examples can the species be called sui generis. If the species is alone merely due to extinction, as in the case of the Homo
Homo (genus)
Homo is the genus that includes modern humans and species closely related to them. The genus is estimated to be about 2.3 to 2.4 million years old, evolving from australopithecine ancestors with the appearance of Homo habilis....

genus, the surviving species is not sui generis, because other members of the genus are known, even if they are not currently extant.

Legal applications

In law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, it is a term of art used to identify a legal classification that exists independently of other categorizations because of its singularity or due to the specific creation of an entitlement or obligation. Courts
New York Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court of general jurisdiction in thestate court system of New York, United States. There is a supreme court in each of New York State's 62 counties, although some smaller counties share judges with neighboring counties...

 have used the term in describing cooperative apartment corporations, mostly because this form of housing is considered 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...

 for some purposes 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...

 for other purposes.

When referring to case citations and authorities, lawyers (and Judges) may refer to an authority cited as being sui generis, meaning, in that context, that it is one confined (or special) to its own facts, and therefore may not be of broader application. This is also the modern view that courts are holding when deciding judgments based on Oil and Gas leases.

In the context of British law, the term means "unique".


In statutory interpretation
Statutory interpretation
Statutory interpretation is the process by which courts interpret and apply legislation. Some amount of interpretation is always necessary when a case involves a statute. Sometimes the words of a statute have a plain and straightforward meaning. But in many cases, there is some ambiguity or...

, it refers to the problem of giving meaning to groups of words where one of the words is ambiguous or inherently unclear. For example, in criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

, a statute might require a mens rea
Mens rea
Mens rea is Latin for "guilty mind". In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act does not make a person guilty...

element of "unlawful and malicious" intent. Whereas the word "malicious" is well-understood, the word "unlawful" in this context is less clear. Hence, it must be given a meaning of the "same kind" as the word of established meaning.

This is particularly the case when the two or more words are conjoined, linked by the word "and", as opposed to placed in a disjunctive relationship, linked by the word "or". The interpretation of the two or more words might be different depending on the circumstances. Courts sometimes have to attribute a conjunctive (X and Y) intention to the legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

 even though the list is disjunctive (X or Y) because, otherwise, no overall interpretation of the law in question would make sense.

Town planning

In British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 town planning law, many common types of land use are classified in "Use Classes". Change of use of land within a Use Class does not require planning permission; however, changing between certain Use Classes, requires planning permission. Examples of sui generis use (identified in the Use Classes Order 1987
Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987
The Town and Country Planning Order 1987 is a Statutory Instrument which revoked and replaced the Town and Country Planning Order 1972 as amended by the Town and Country Planning Order 1983. The 1987 order has since been amended, in 1991, 1992, 2005 , 2006 and 2010...

) include embassies, theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

s, amusement
Amusement is the state of experiencing humorous and entertaining events or situations, and is associated with enjoyment, happiness, laughter and pleasure...

 arcades, laundrettes, taxi
A taxicab, also taxi or cab, is a type of vehicle for hire with a driver, used by a single passenger or small group of passengers, often for a non-shared ride. A taxicab conveys passengers between locations of their choice...

 or vehicle hire businesses, petrol filling stations, scrapyards, nightclub
A nightclub is an entertainment venue which usually operates late into the night...

s, motor car showrooms
Car dealership
A car dealership or vehicle local distribution is a business that sells new or used cars at the retail level, based on a dealership contract with an automaker or its sales subsidiary. It employs automobile salespeople to do the selling...

, retail warehouses, clubs and hostel
Hostels provide budget oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available...

s. It is a common misconception, even amongst qualified and experienced town planners, that the change of use from an existing use to one which is "Sui Generis" always requires planning permission. This is not correct. Although this is often the case, permission is only required if the sui generis use is materially different from the existing one. This will be a matter of fact and degree and professional opinion.

Aboriginal law and education

The term has been used in the context of Canadian Aboriginal law
Canadian Aboriginal law
Canadian Aboriginal law is the body of Canadian law that concerns a variety of issues related to aboriginal peoples in Canada. Aboriginal law provides certain rights to land and traditional practices...

 to describe the nature of Aboriginal title
Aboriginal title
Aboriginal title is a common law doctrine that the land rights of indigenous peoples to customary tenure persist after the assumption of sovereignty under settler colonialism...

, established by R. v. Guerin
R. v. Guerin
Guerin v. The Queen [1984] 2 S.C.R. 335 was a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision on aboriginal rights where the Court first stated that the government has a fiduciary duty towards the First Nations of Canada and established aboriginal title to be a sui generis right.-Background:The Musqueam...

. Sui generis is also used in Aboriginal education to describe the work of Aboriginal people to define and create contemporary Aboriginal education as a "thing of its own kind". (Hampton, E. (p. 10-11) in Battiste & Barman (Eds.). First Nations Education in Canada: The Circle Unfolds. UBC Press, 1995) The motto "Sui Generis" has been adopted by the Akitsiraq Law School
Akitsiraq Law School
Akitsiraq Law School is a legal education program designed to increase the number of lawyers in Nunavut and the Canadian Arctic, including a program leading to a Bachelor of Laws Degree in Iqaluit, Nunavut....

 both in honour of the defining characteristic of aboriginal title in Canadian Law, and in acknowledgment of the unique form, admissions and curriculum of this one-of-a-kind professional legal education.

Intellectual property law

Generally speaking, protection for 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...

 is extended to matter depending upon its characteristics. The main types of intellectual property law -- copyrights, patents, and trademarks -- define characteristics, and any matter that meets such criteria is extended protection. However, there exist statutes in many countries that extend IP-type protection to matter that does not meet traditional definitions of protected intellectual property, such as intellectual property rights in mask works, ship hull designs, fashion designs in France, databases, or plant varieties
Variety (plant)
Plant variety is a legal term, following the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Convention. Recognition of a cultivated plant as a "variety" in this particular sense provides its breeder with some legal protection, so-called plant breeders' rights, depending to some...


The United States, Japan, and many EU countries protect the topography of semiconductor chips and integrated circuits under sui generis laws, some of whose aspects are borrowed from patent or copyright law. The U.S. law known as the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984
Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984
The Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984 is an act of the US Congress that makes the layouts of integrated circuits legally protected upon registration, and hence illegal to copy without permission.-Background:...

 is codified at 17 U.S.C. §§ 901-915.

Political science

In political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

, the unparalleled development of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 as compared to other international organizations has led to its designation as a sui generis geopolitical entity. There has been widespread debate over the legal nature of the EU given its mixture of intergovernmental
Intergovernmental can refer to:*Intergovernmentalism*Intergovernmental Risk Pool*Intergovernmental organization...

 and supranational elements, with the organisation thus possessing some characteristics common to confederal and federal
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...


A similar case which has led to the use of the label sui generis is the unique relationship between France and New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, since the legal status of New Caledonia can aptly be said to lie "somewhere between an overseas collectivity and a sovereign nation". Whereas there are perhaps other examples of such a status for other disputed or dependent territories, this arrangement is certainly unique within the French Republic.

The old Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 may also fit under this category for its unique organization and place in European history.

In local government, a sui generis entity is one which does not fit with the general scheme of local governance of a country. For example in England, the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 and the Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain. The islands have had a unitary authority council since 1890, and are separate from the Cornwall unitary authority, but some services are combined with Cornwall and the islands are still part...

 are the two sui generis localities, as their forms of local government are both very different from those of elsewhere in the country (for historical and geographical reasons).

The legal status of the Holy See
Legal status of the Holy See
The legal status of the Holy See, both in state practice and according to the writing of modern legal scholars, is that of a full subject of public international law, with rights and duties analogous to those of States....

 has been described as a sui generis entity possessing an international personality.


In the sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 of Émile Durkheim
Émile Durkheim
David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology.Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain...

, sui generis is used to illustrate his theory of social existence as follows. The main objective of sociology is to study social facts, each having a meaning of its own, yet only explainable by other social facts. A social fact, if it is sui generis, cannot be reduced to psychological or biological factors.
Durkheim states that when one takes an organization and replaces some individuals with some others, the essence of the organization does not (necessarily) change. It can happen, for example, that over the course of a few decades, the entire staff of an organization is replaced, while the organization retains its distinctive character. Now this thought is not limited to organization, but extends to the whole of society: a society per se, has its own essence before any individual currently living in it is born, and is thus independent of any individual. A sui generis society will continue its existence (the closest English meaning of sui generis in this sense being 'independent') after the apparently indispensable (or dispensable) or famous (or infamous) historical individual ceases to interact with it, but this appearance is deceptive if society is sui generus.
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