Intangible good

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Intangible goods are not physical assets , including services and rights . They include not only the material goods of the economic goods .


In terms of their representational nature , intangible goods can be divided into production and consumer goods :

                                                                  / Produktionsgüter
                                              / Dienstleistungen <
                                             /                    \ Konsumgüter
                       / immaterielle Güter <
wirtschaftliche Güter <                      \          / Produktionsgüter
                       \ materielle Güter ⋯   \ Rechte <
                                                        \ Konsumgüter

The production goods are used by companies or the state, for example, for the production of consumer goods, while the consumer goods among the intangible goods are consumed by private households for the purpose of the direct satisfaction of needs.

An example of services used as consumer goods are human services for the private household (provided by a lawyer or doctor ). Services that are assigned to the production goods can be, for example, management consultants or auditors .

Concerning rights, concessions , licenses , patents , trademarks , trademarks, industrial property rights , goodwill and copyrights should be mentioned.

Material and immaterial goods

Intangible goods are not to be equated with property law ownership of material goods.


  • The principles applicable in property law also apply to intellectual property law:
    • intellectual property and tangible property grant an absolute right , which allows the owner to use incorporeal and each of the use of this third item be excluded.
    • Only those rights can be acquired that have been created by the legislator ( mandatory type ), such as patent law or utility model, copyright or designs, trademark law. The subject matter (which intellectual property can be protected) and the content of the law are specified by the legislature. Rights that deviate from this cannot be contractually agreed;
    • the principle of separation and abstraction must also be observed in intellectual property law (controversial for copyright law, e.g. on the other hand: Schricker , § 31, marginal no. 2);
    • The property allocation is linked to an externally obvious event, for example through entry in a public register (principle of publicity ). However, copyright arises when the work is created and not when it is performed or published.
    • the object on which the intellectual property right exists must be sufficiently determined ( principle of specificity )
  • Property ownership can generally be transferred in full from the right holder to another person (derivative or derivative acquisition of rights ) and individual rights of use can be granted (original or original acquisition of rights). In principle, this also applies to intellectual property. An exception, however, is copyright in Germany, which can only be acquired from a legal predecessor by way of inheritance law.
  • The use of intellectual property and property can be restricted by law, e.g. B. by legal barriers in favor of third parties or the general public. In doing so, usage rights can also be granted compulsorily (e.g. emergency right of way , compulsory licenses in patent law).


  • As far as intellectual property exists in a personal right (droit moral), it is, in contrast to property ownership, generally not transferable to another person (e.g. moral right, see §§ 12 ff., 29 UrhG, or inventor's personal right, see § § 37, 63 PatG).
  • Intellectual goods are ubiquitous (ubiquitous). This means that an intellectual property can be subject to different legal systems at the same time. Therefore, intellectual property rights may need to be registered in several countries (if registration is required). The property ownership, on the other hand, is only subject to the law of the place where the property is located.
  • Intellectual property can be used non-rivally by any number of people at the same time. It is only through the allocation of monopoly rights that an artificial scarcity is created, while the exclusive use of physical objects is constantly and inseparably brought about by their nature.
  • The criminal law protection of intellectual property is provided by the respective protective laws. The regulations on property offenses (theft, robbery, etc.) of things, however, do not apply to intellectual property law.
  • There is a large proportion of intellectual property to which the legal system does not assign intellectual property law. These are e.g. B. in copyright works in the public domain , for example individual words or chords (low level of creation ), or works whose term of protection has expired (revocation of property rights, release). In contrast, abandoned items are the exception.
  • Abandoned items can become the object of property again. Works in the public domain and the use of expired patents, on the other hand, remain free in the long term.
  • Intellectual property is limited in time and the restrictions on the assigned rights are considerably more extensive and far-reaching than with property ownership. Property ownership, on the other hand, remains in place until the property is destroyed.
  • Since the use of intangible goods seldom requires the possession of a copy of the work , it is much easier for anyone to access the intangible goods compared to material goods. The protection of rights that exist in the intangible property therefore has different requirements than the protection of rights in the property.
  • There are a variety of different types of intellectual property. This makes it possible for an intellectual property to be subject to several different intellectual property rights at the same time from various points of view (e.g. a logo can be protected by copyright and trademark law). In addition, there is very often a right of ownership to the embodiment. The owner of the property is usually different from the owner of the intellectual property right. A non-trivial complexity in the possible legal claims is therefore more the rule than the exception. This diversity continues to require structuring through similarly diverse, different legal regulations.

Intangible goods as commodities

There are companies that only market their intellectual property as an asset. Such companies do not actually manufacture goods ( fabless ), but - in the broadest sense - construction plans and license them to manufacturing companies. Some examples:

In the patent field, patent holders who improperly use their monopoly rights are sometimes referred to as patent trolls . This includes in particular patent holders who do not research or manufacture goods themselves ( non-practicing entities ). From a competitive point of view, their exercise of power is largely rejected.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ DP Majoras (FTC): A Government Perspective on IP and Antitrust law.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives ) Lecture July 4, 2006 at the Research Institute for Economic Constitution and Competition eV - FIW mwN.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /