In Law, what is the Merger Doctrine?

Simone Lawson
Simone Lawson
A merger doctrine in a civil procedure refers to an agreement that is entered into by disputing parties.
A merger doctrine in a civil procedure refers to an agreement that is entered into by disputing parties.

Merger doctrine is a procedural term used in several areas of law. As an abstract concept, merger doctrines tend to seek fairness and equality between two entities. The meaning of the term varies according to the concentration of law in which it is used. Merger doctrines generally are found in antitrust law, civil procedures, copyright law, criminal law, trust law and real property law.

In the case of antitrust law, a merger doctrine typically refers to an approach the court system uses to facilitate mergers between corporations. This approach aids merging companies that may be faced with reduced competition and raised prices. A horizontal merger doctrine may be discussed when direct competitors are merging, and vertical merger doctrines are discussed when a company merges with its suppliers. In this case, the merger doctrine can protect lesser parties that merge with higher-functioning companies.

A merger doctrine in a civil procedure refers to an agreement that is entered into by disputing parties. A proposition is presented in which the litigants agree to a settlement that is supervised by the court. Once the doctrine is agreed upon, the court has the authority to modify and adjust the agreement as deemed necessary.

Doctrines of merger found in copyright law protect the relationship between idea and expression. A merger doctrine assures that an expression of an idea remains copyrighted while the idea itself is free to be used by others in other forms of expression. In this case, the doctrine protects companies and individuals that want to re-approach copyrighted expressions.

Merger doctrines in criminal law occur when it is required to merge lesser criminal charges with more serious existing charges. This doctrine allows for varying degrees of offenses and punishment. A merger doctrine in criminal law differentiates between a manslaughter charge and a felony murder charge.

Real property contract merger doctrines represent property and deed mergers. These mergers basically state that any agreements made in the contract that are not reflected on the deed become null when the deed is transferred to the buyer. This doctrine typically only applies to covenants of title and may be abrogated to allow certain terms to survive after the merger.

The law of trusts merger doctrines fuse legal titles if a person becomes a sole beneficiary of a trust as well as a sole trustee. This merger may deem that the beneficiary owns the property outright. This sort of doctrine would be applicable to those who wish to name a sole benefactor in their will.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@SkyWhisperer - I always face those hurdles when I switch jobs. I have to sign mounds of paperwork steeped in the legalese of intellectual property laws.

In essence, the company is telling me in so many words that they own any and all ideas that I create on the job, regardless of this or that or the other thing.

I always sign the paperwork, even though I am skeptical of how enforceable the claims are. How can you own my ideas? Some ideas exist in my head and may only be sketched on paper, or I may create the bare bones of the source code at work and finish it up at home on my spare time.

I’m talking about stuff that is not directly related to work I am doing for the employer, but inspiration that I may have received while on the job. I think it’s a very fine.


@everetra - I am surprised that merger doctrines extend beyond the usual scope of the term. The merger doctrine for copyrights is one such example, where the doctrine applies to your own ideas, abstractions in themselves.

With this law, you have to separate the idea from its expression. In patents and inventions, that would be more easily understood in my opinion because there you have more concrete things to work with.

With ideas and expression in copyright form, it’s a little more challenging. If you cite the idea of a work but you don’t say it the way the author said it, is that considered copyright fair use? What if you don’t cite the source but simply state the idea – is it considered public domain?

It’s a delicate balancing act defining in what sense the author may own the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself.


@starrynight - I agree in principle that governments should stay out of mergers so that the free markets can function freely, but I think the whole point of government intrusion is to ensure that the free markets do in fact work.

For example, take a telecommunications giant merging with another heavyweight in the telecommunications industry, creating a virtual monopoly that will squeeze all the smaller telecom players out of business.

The free market would work, all right, but not for everybody. The only surviving entity would be a monopoly, and monopolies go against the spirit of the free market economy. So in that situation, government involvement is OK in my opinion.


@Monika - It does sound like a merger doctrine is necessary in law. However, I don't agree with the courts legislating mergers in business.

I think our businesses are far too regulated in this country. If two companies want to have merger, I think they should be able to do it with out the government getting involved.

I think a free market works better for everyone. But we're definitely shying away from that in this country. We're supposedly a capitalist society, but I don't think our economy is truly a capitalist economy anymore.


I think it's interesting there is a merger doctrine in criminal law. I don't have much experience with the criminal justice system, so until a few years ago when I took a law class I didn't know much about the whole process.

However, the instructor for the class told me something that I found a bit surprising, but it made sense. Apparently when someone is arrested on charges, they try to charge them with as many things as possible. That way if they manage to weasel out of one of the charges, maybe the others can stick. Kind of similar to getting Al Capone on tax evasion instead of his other crimes.

Anyway, I assume they do this a lot. Thus, rules about merging the charges are necessary.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • A merger doctrine in a civil procedure refers to an agreement that is entered into by disputing parties.
      A merger doctrine in a civil procedure refers to an agreement that is entered into by disputing parties.