Property Boundaries

With all the talk about property as a “right” and not a “thing”, it is easy to forget that rights often relate to tangible physical objects, and that spatial issues are extremely important.

At the same time, there’s a legal line drawn between property rights to tangible and intangible resources. This lesson explores both types of boundaries that divide one owner’s rights from another’s.

First we’ll deal with real property boundaries on the vertical plane. Read pages 173-201. The cases in this section of the chapter are used to reinforce the usefulness of an economic analysis of law.

Then we’re going to talk about lateral boundaries, covering the materials on pages 201-222.

After covering the 3 dimensions of the boundaries of land, we’ll cover the boundaries between different kinds of property, in particular real and personal property. This is the law of fixtures, covered through readings on pages 222-231, which deals with the legal distinctions between things attached to land (fixtures) and things not attached to land (chattels). That’s only 9 pages, but read them carefully because we’ll put your understanding into practice during class. Come prepared to apply the readings.

As you’ll learn, the concept of “property” is not limited to physical objects. There are boundaries between tangible and intangible assets too. Through our first Monday film, Fire in the Blood, we’ll look at the intersection between intellectual property and human rights,┬áspecifically the relationship between international patent law and access to medicines in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a topic close to my own heart, as it connects directly with┬áthe work of a research partnership that I co-lead, the Open African Innovation Research (Open AIR) network.

Next we dive into the doctrinal aspects of intellectual property rights. Here we begin to get into the lines that divide ownership of tangible vs. intangible resources. Please read the materials on Read pages 246-262, covering copyrights and patents, for our lesson on “Blowing in the Wind.”

Trade-marks is a topic we’ll leave for the next day, when we’ll also deal with the issue of cyber-squatting and cyber-trespass. The materials for “Marking Off Cyberspace” can be found at pages 262-281 of your casebook.