We have already considered that real estate may be tangible or intangible, although it is in great part tangible, the intangible species being quite generally obsolete. Personal property may also be divided into that which is tangible and that which is intangible and the intangible classes are large and numerous.
Tangible property consists, of course, in objects, as chairs, tables, animals, and the like, and inasmuch as the object of this subdivision is to merely notice the different kinds of personal property, nothing further need be noticed in respect to tangible personal property.
A chose in action is a right to reduce something to possession by a suit at law.
Personal property which one has in his possession or enjoyment is frequently termed a chose in possession, and a right to sue to reduce something to possession is called a chose in action. Thus, a chair possessed by one is a chose in possession, but a right to sue on a promissory note, or a right to sue for breach of contract to sell a chair, is a chose in action. Choses in action are therefore of the nature of intangible personal property, but all intangible properties are not choses in action, as for instance a patent, but an infringement of the patent would give the owner of the patent a right to sue and thus would be a chose in action for the recovery of damages. The word is not always used in the same sense, but more generally describes rights to sue in contract or for the commission of torts consisting in injuries to property.19
Below are enumerated some forms of intangible personal property.
(1) Patents. A patent is a right, granted by sovereignty to exclusively make, use and vend an invention, for a period of years.
(2) Copyrights. An author has a right to prevent others from making use of his intellectual productions, until he publishes the same to the world. By statute, he is allowed to retain the exclusive right of publication for a period of years by complying with the copyright law.
(3) Trademarks. A person may acquire a right in connection with his trade, to the exclusive use of a mark or word used by him upon the goods sold by him, provided his use thereof has been prior to that of others on the same class of goods and provided the mark or name is fanciful, that is not merely descriptive or geographical.
19. Gibson v. Gibson, 43 Wis. 23.
(4) Good will. A good will of a business is a very valuable species of property. It may be sold in connection with the business, but cannot be disposed of independently.20
(5) Stock in corporations. Stock in a corporation is personal property. The property is the stock, itself, and the certificate is a mere evidence thereof, useful but not essential. Stock in the corporation is personal property though the corporation own nothing except real estate.21
(6) Partner's interest in partnership. A partner's interest in a partnership is intangible personal property. It is true he owns, in tenancy in partnership the property of the partnership, but his right in that property is not to any portion thereof, but merely to have his share of the profits after the debts are paid, the assets disposed of, an accounting had. His right is personal property, although the property of the partnership is all realty.22
20. Metropolitan Bank v. St. Louis Dispatch Co., 149 U. S. 436, at 446.
21. Arnold v. Ruggles, 1 R. I. 165; In re Jones, 172 N. Y. 575, 65 N. E. 570 (joint stock company) citing cases.
22. Uniform Partnership Act.