In the United States, the various types of ownership in real property (land and buildings) and personal property, including intangible property like intellectual property, are governed by the field of law known as property law. Property refers to rights to resources that are legally protected, such as real estate and individual possessions. Contract law allows for the exchange of property, and tort law allows for the protection of property in the event of a violation.

Although there are some federal laws (such as those pertaining to patents and copyright) and some local laws that are involved, state law dominates the field of property law in the United States (on areas such as zoning and tenancy). States’ property laws typically derive from common law and have been amended by statute.


The traditional view and the bundle of rights view are the two main perspectives on the right to property in the United States. While the bundle of rights perspective contends that the property owner only has a bundle of legal uses over the property, traditionalists hold that the concept of property has a fundamental, inherent meaning. The two points of view are on a spectrum, and the distinction may be one of emphasis and focus.

The right to exclude is the fundamental component of property, according to William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England.

wrote that the right to exclude is the fundamental component of property. In other words, even though the right to exclude has restrictions, the owner of property must be able to keep others out of the thing in question. Inferentially, the owner is free to use the item unless another restriction, like zoning laws, forbids it. Other traditionalists contend that the rights of exclusion, use, and transfer are the three fundamental rights that define property.

Legal realists prefer the alternative perspective that property simply refers to a collection of rights that are outlined by social policy and law.

It is merely a matter of policy as to which rights are included in the collection known as property rights and which collections are preferred to other collections.

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