There are several types of property rights law, and within those types there are more specific spheres of property law. The three main types of property are real property, personal property, and intellectual property. The different rights pertaining to each of these kinds of property are divided between rights of ownership and rights of use, though the specifics as to what these rights entail vary by jurisdiction.
Real property rights law refers not only to the ownership and use of any tract of land, but any structure affixed to the land as well. The right of ownership of real property is not absolute, as governments may regulate the use of the land through zoning laws. For instance, certain land may not be used for anything other than residential purposes, and the type of residential housing may even be regulated.
Real property rights law also applies to anyone entering a lease or other agreement to rent real property for any purpose. Property usage rights are limited not only by law, but also by the owner of the real property through their lease agreement. The owner does not, however, have absolute power to limit their tenant’s use of the property. Generally, the applicable governing body regulates lease agreements to protect the privacy of tenants from nosy or bullying landlords.
Personal property is any tangible property other than real property. While ownership and use of some personal property is regulated for public policy reasons, personal property rights law is generally much less rigid. Depending on the item, owners of personal property are free to lease, sell, and lend any item they own at will. The use and ownership of such items are typically regulated only if they pose some sort of public health or safety issue that must be addressed.
Intellectual property is an abstract concept that requires rights for intangible property, and as such, the property rights law regarding intellectual property is very complex. “Intellectual property” generally refers to copyrighted, patented, trademarked, and trade secret property. Each of these terms has their own complex body of law involving both the use and ownership of the ideas or creations to which they apply.
Ownership in intellectual property stems from the concept that people should be given ownership rights for the products of their mind — in both an academic and creative sense. Intellectual property rights law does not grant absolute power in the ownership of such property. Exceptions for the fair use of such intellectual property are carved out in the body of intellectual property law.