What Is an Intangible Personal Property?

Esther Ejim

An intangible personal property is a type of property that has no physical dimensions and as such, cannot be seen. Even though intangible property cannot be seen, it has some sort of value, which classifies it as property. Sometimes the value of intangible property is tied to the owner of the property, establishing the link between the owner and the intangible property.

Man climbing a rope
Man climbing a rope

An example of an intangible personal property that is intrinsically linked to the owner of the property is something like good reputation or goodwill that an individual or an organization commands. For instance, if a physician enjoys a lot of goodwill among the members of the community as a very dedicated and careful surgeon, any type of defamatory action could have dire consequences for that individual, both on a personal and professional level. Assuming a patient brings an unmerited lawsuit against the surgeon for leaving a surgical blade inside his or her abdomen during an operation, such a lawsuit is capable of destroying the reputation and goodwill that the doctor has in the community. This attack on the intangible personal property of the physician may also lead to dire professional and economic losses.

Intangible personal property may also include aspects like the goodwill that an organization enjoys among its consumers and host community. Assuming the company has worked very hard to present a corporate image where the environment is treated with utmost respect, any action that sullies this image is tantamount to a legally actionable attack on the company’s intangible asset in the form of its reputation ad goodwill. For instance, if someone vandalized the environment and blamed it on the company, then this would be seen as an attempt to destroy the company’s intangible personal property.

Another type of intangible personal property is a copyright to a literary work. The copyright cannot be seen nor felt, but it is still acknowledged under the law to be the intangible personal property of the owner. These assets are protected by the law in the same manner as physical property like houses and cars. A trademark is also recognized under the law to be the intangible personal property of the organization or individual to whom it is affiliated. Such a property is classified as intangible because it is not physical property that can be felt in the same way as company machinery and buildings.

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