Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Intangible Property Definition:

Incorporeal property; personal property that lacks a physical existence.

Related Terms: Incorporeal, Chose In Action, Property

In the 2011 case of Tucows.com v Lojas Renner, Madam Justice Karen Weiler of the Court of Appeal for Ontario wrote:

"Intangible property refers to personal property that cannot actually be moved, touched or felt, but instead represents something of value such as good will."

In Preston, Justice Brown of the Supreme Court of California wrote:

"Tangible personal property means personal property which may be seen, weighed, measured, felt, or touched, or which is in any other manner perceptible to the senses....

"Although there is no statutory definition of intangible property, such property is generally defined as property that is a right rather than a physical object.

"Thus, for purposes of the law of taxation, intangible property is defined as including personal property that is not itself intrinsically valuable, but that derives its value from what it represents or evidences."

In words very similar, Justice Kidd of the Court of Appeals of Texas wasn't kidding when he wrote, in Adams v Great American Lloyd's:

"Tangible property is capable of being handled or touched and may be evaluated by the physical senses. Intangible property, on the other hand, has no physical existence but may be evidenced by a document with no intrinsic value."

Intangible property is similar to chose in action, and has been described as intangible property.1

Other examples include the right to make a claim at law, mortgages, liens, intellectual property, or certificates of stock, bondspromissory notes and franchises. Shares in a partnership2 or a company (whether private or publicly traded) are considered intangible property. A domain name is another example as would be a deed to real property - the document has no value itself per se but is evidence of a property right.

In Easthaven Ltd. v. Nutrisystem.com, Justice Nordheimer of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice used these words:

"It does seem to me to be difficult to characterize a domain name as property. When I say property, I refer to either real or personal property. I appreciate that a domain name, like a copyright or a trademark, could be properly characterized as intangible property.

"Property (means) the right to possess, use, and enjoy a determinate thing (either a tract of land or a chattel) (and) intangible property, property that lacks a physical existence.

The definition of intangible property aptly demonstrates the problem which is central to the issue here. A domain name lacks a physical existence. The mere fact that is registered through a corporation that happens to carry on business in Toronto does not give the domain name a physical existence in Ontario. A domain name is still simply a unique identifier for a particular Internet site located on a particular computer."

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