Personal Chattel – a tangible good or an intangible right (such as a patent)


1. Pertaining to the person.

2. Limited to the person; not transferrable to anyone else.

3. Pertaining to personal property, as opposed to real property. [1]

chattel personal:

1. A tangible good or an intangible right (such as a patent). — aka personal chattel. [2]

1. Property unrelated to land. (EXAMPLE: movables.)  The term is used in contrast to real chattels. [1]

     Excerpt from Joseph J. Darlington’s A Treatise on the Law of Personal Property (1891):

     “Chattels personal are the subjects of the present treatise. In ancient times they consisted entirely of movable goods, visible and tangible in their nature, and in the possession either of the owner or of some other person on his behalf. Nothing of an incorporeal nature was anciently comprehended within the class of chattels personal. In this respect the law of personal property strikingly differs from that of real property, in which, from the earliest times, incorporeal hereditaments occupied a conspicuous place. But, although there was formerly no such thing as an incorporeal chattel personal, there existed not unfrequently a right of action, or the liberty of proceeding in the courts of law, either to recover pecuniary damages for the infliction of a wrong or the non-performance of a contract, or else to procure the payment of money due. Such a right was called, in the Norman French of our early lawyers, a chase or thing in action, whilst movable goods were denominated choses in possession. Choses in action, though valuable rights, had not in early times the ordinary incident of property, namely, the capability of being transferred; for, to permit a transfer of such a right was, in the simplicity of the times, thought to be too great an encouragement to litigation; and the attempt to make such a transfer involved the guilt of maintenance or the maintaining of another person in his suit. It was impossible, however, that this simple state of things should long continue. Within the class of choses in action was comprised a right of growing importance, namely, that of suing for money due, which right is all that constitutes a debt. That a debt should be incapable of transfer was obviously highly inconvenient in commercial transactions; and in early times the custom of merchants rendered debts secured by bills of exchange assignable by endorsement and delivery of the bills. But choses in action,

1 hot so secured, could only be sued for by the orig creditor, or the person who first had the right of an o i process of time however, an indirect method of asslg . 0 Was discovere , the assignee being em owereri to u the name of the assignor; and in the re gn of Henry v. Was determined that a ‘chose in action may be ass g ‘. over for lawful cause as a just debt, but not ior ma ad hance, and that where a man is indebted to me in 20! , a another owes him 20!. by bond, he may assi n this be a d debt to me in satisfaction, and i may justi y for s n g ,0 the name of the other at mglown costs.’ Chases in arr

having now become assigna e, became an important so”

of personal roperty; and their importance was “if” my by an act 0 the following reign, whereb the tar lg oi interest for money which had previously em on my Was rendered legal to a limited extent. Loans a d “Vivi, gages soon became common, forming a kind of incorpm. personal property unknown to the ancient law. in the res of Queen Anne, promissory notes were rendered, by a“ of parliament, assignable by indorsement and de very, the same manner as inland bills of exchange. But at er choses in action continue to this day assignable at law On y by empowering the assignee to sue in the name of the assignor.[2]


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[1]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[2]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[3]: Joseph J. Darlington, A Treatise on the Law of Personal Property 6-10 (1891) (citations omitted).


Back to Chattel

Types of Property

Essential Terminology

Intro to U.S. Law

Legal Precepts Adopted (from Europe) into The U.S. Constitution

§ § of Law Embedded into the Constitution Pursuant to the American Revolution

Indian Country Law

Civil Proceedings (Torts) – Pro Se Self-Help

Criminal Proceedings Pro Se Self-Help

Federal Rules of Procedure

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