Understanding whether intellectual property is personal property is important if you are planning to use the intellectual property in question for financial gain or for business purposes.

What Is a Property?

Generally speaking, anything that can legally be owned can be considered property. Property can usually be grouped into one of two main categories:  

  • Real property  
  • Personal property.

Personal property may also be further categorized as either:  

  • Chattels  
  • Intangibles.

Certain state regulations may also define the different categories a property may fall under. It depends on the purpose of the property in question. There are generally three different types of property an individual or legal entity may own. The first two include:  

  • Real property, such as land or materials that are attached to the land.
  • Chattels, commonly referred to as "personal property."  

Generally speaking, owning these two types of property equates to the following rights:  

  • The right to possess the property.  
  • The right to enjoy the property.  
  • The right to sell the property.  
  • The right to prevent any other individual or legal entity in the world from doing the aforementioned things.

Laws that address issues such as ownership and control over properties of this nature typically handle questions that arise over a dispute related to property ownership. There isn't usually much question regarding who owns real or physical properties, nor is there typically much question regarding what complete ownership of that property should mean.

With individuals and companies, personal property is:

  • A property the entity in question owns, and 
  • It can be moved. 

In other words, the property must not be associated with a plot of land to be considered personal property. In simple terms, personal property encompasses anything that cannot be considered real property, such as buildings or land.

What Constitutes Personal Property for a Business?

For a business, personal property may be considered anything, from small items such as staplers and calculators to vehicles and industrial machinery. Examples of personal property a business may own include:  

  • Manufacturing equipment  
  • Office furniture  
  • Office equipment  
  • Computer equipment  
  • Mobile devices.  

Overall, almost anything that is not physically attached to the company's buildings and land may be considered a personal property.

What Is a Real Property?

Real property is generally described as land and anything attached to this land in question. This is why land is usually referred to as realty or real estate. Although building materials such as wood and steel aren't land when they are used to build structures on a piece of land, they become a part of that same real property. 

Likewise, any foliage, such as trees or bushes, that grows on the land is also considered to be a part of the real property. Plants that require cultivation, however, such as grains, vegetables, fruit trees, etc., are sometimes treated as a separate property. They not considered to be a part of the real property.

Real property is property that cannot be moved. The main difference between a real property and a personal property is that the real property is permanently immovable. It is always in the same physical location, and it cannot be physically relocated somewhere else. This includes land and anything that is built on it, as well as anything growing on the land's surface or anything that exists below the surface.

What Is Personal Property?

Personal property is basically anything that can't be considered real property. Personal property is a property that can be moved from one place to another. It is not attached to or associated with a particular piece of land. Personal property may be anything that can be owned, except for land or anything attached to it. This can include physical possessions of virtually every kind, so long as they can be moved and owned by an individual. 

Personal property can be either:

  • Tangible
  • Intangible. 

Simply put, personal property may be a physical object, something that can be seen, touched, and felt. Alternatively, it can be a nonphysical item, such as an idea, a concept, or a piece of digital property. According to this definition, there are situations in which intellectual property may also be considered a personal property.

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