Term Paper: Real and Personal Property Intangible and Tangible

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Property Rights

What are the underlying reasons for the law to continue to make distinctions between real and personal property, intangible and tangible property?

Intangible property, or incorporeal property, is that which a corporation or person owns and can transfer by sale to another person or corporation, but is not a physical substance. For instance it may be a copyright, a trademark or a patent. It is not real estate or personal property. Some jurisdictions refer to it as choses in action. It is distinct from tangible property in that it is not something that is physical and can be physically handled, as is tangible property.

There are two kinds of intangible property, legal and competitive intangible property (). Ownership of intangible property allows the owner legally enforceable reproduction rights. A copyright owner can reproduce the work that carries the copyright and no one else can legally reproduce it without the owner's permission. For instance, an artist may own the copyright to a cartoon character, which is intangible property, but is the source of legal tangible property, such as comic books.

Real property is tangible, such as land, buildings or the fixtures in the buildings. We often refer to it as real estate. Personal property is also tangible, but is distinct from real property in that it can be carried away. It is a thing that one person owns, such as an automobile, some tools or a boat. A person may own, as personal property, a comic book about a cartoon character (the same character mentioned above); this is personal property which the person may sell or keep. But the person may not reproduce a picture of this character for sale, as only the owner of the copyright for the cartoon character has the rights of reproduction of this image.

Although with the advent of computers, the line of distinction between tangible and intangible property seems to be blurring somewhat ("A number of recent decisions... have suggested that this section includes intangible, as well as tangible losses.") 18 U.S.C. 641, which usually applies to tangible property, applies sometimes to intangible property. In United States v. Girard, 601 F.2d 69, 71(2d Cir.) cert. denied, 444 U.S. 871 (1979), the case… [END OF PREVIEW]

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