As a general rule, chattels real and personal of tangible or corporeal natures may, at common law, be granted without deed (m). And, although an estate of inheritance or freehold cannot be granted upon condition without deed (n), yet a chattel, real or personal, may be so granted by mere parol (o).
There is also a great difference between the effect of a gift of chattels by mere word of mouth, and a gift of chattels by deed. In the former case, after the gift and before something has been done or said by the donee to show his acceptance of the thing given, the gift is revocable (p). But if the gift be by deed, it vests in the donee upon the execution of the deed, and is irrevocable by the donor until it is actually disclaimed by the donee. After such execution, and before such disclaimer, the estate is in the donee without any actual delivery of the chattel given (q).
*It is, however, necessary to bear in mind that the common law has been much altered in these respects by stat. 8 & 9 Vict. c. 106, s. 3, by which feoffments, partitions, exchanges, leases required by law to be in writing, assignments of chattel interests, and
(m) Shep. Touch. 231; Bac. Abr., Grant, E.
(n) Litt. 365.
(o) lb.; Beeves v. Capper, 5 Bing. N. C. (35 E. C. L. R.) 136; Florv v. Denny, 21 L. J. (Ex.) 223; 7 Ex. 581.
(p) 2 Rolle's Abr. 62; 14 Vin. Abr. 123.
(q) Perkins' Grant,57; Com. Dig. Biens. 52; 2M.&G. 691,note a; Riggers v. Evans, 24 L. J. (Q. B.) 305; 5 E. & B. (85 E. C. L. R.) 367. 48 surrenders in writing of all interests in tenements and hereditaments not being such as might have been created without writing, made after the 1st of October, 1845, with some exceptions unimportant for our present purpose, are void at law, unless made by deed.
A deed is also necessary for authorizing an agent to execute a deed for another (r).1 It is also, as will hereafter appear, in general necessary to a contract by a corporation.
Patents for inventions which have now become a very important class of property, seem by the stat. 46 & 47 Vict. c. 57, to be assignable only by deed or will (s), and such assignment must be perfected by entry on the register of proprietors (t). But it is remarkable, and worthy of attention, that a copyright in any book within the Copyright Act, 5 & 6 Vict. c. 45, may under sect. 13 of that Act, be assigned by entry made in the Book of Registry kept at Stationers' Hall of the assignment, and such assignment so entered is of the same force and effect *as if it had been made by deed. A deed is rendered necessary by the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, to make a valid transfer of a registered ship, or any share therein to a person qualified to be owner of a British ship (u).2
(r) Steiglitz v. Egginton, 1 Holt. N. P. C. 141; Harrison v. Jackson, 7 T. R. 207.
(s) 46 & 47 Vict. c. 57 (Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks Act, 1883), Sched. I., Form D.
(t) See Patents, etc, Act, 1883, s. 87.
(u) 17 & 18 Vict. c. 104, s. 55, Sched. E.
1 An authority under seal is necessary to authorize an agent to execute a sealed instrument: Rowe v. Ware, 30 Ga. 278; Harshaw p. M'Kesson, 65 N C. 688. Where an agent, having only parol authority to bind his principal, executes a contract under seal, if not essential to the validity of it, it should be regarded as mere surplusage and the contract held good as a simple contract: Long v. Hartwell, 34 N. J. 116. [See also note 2, p. *6.]-8.
2 By the laws of the United States patents are assignable " by an instrument in writing " either as to the entire United States or any specified part thereof.
Lastly, with regard to the remedy upon a contract by deed: wherever a promise is made by deed, the performance may be enforced by an action. But the remedy must be pursued within twenty years (x), except in cases of disability by reason of infancy, coverture, lunacy, or absence beyond seas (y), such being the period fixed by 3 & 4 Wm. IV., c. 42, s. 3,1 which, being later in date, though passed in the same session with 3 & 4 Wm. IV., c. 27, is held to have superseded some *inconsistent provisions contained in that statute (z).
Having thus touched on the general division of Con(x) But now the remedy on a covenant in a mortgage deed to pay principal and interest must be pursued within twelve years, as such a covenant has been held to come within 37 & 38 Vict. c. 57 (Real Property Limitation Act, 1874), s. 8, which imposes the limitation of twelve years on actions and suits for the recovery of money charged on land: Sutton v. Sutton, 22 Ch. Div. 511; 52 L. J. (Ch.) 333. And a collateral bond to secure a mortgage debt is equally within that section, so that the remedy on such a bond must be pursued within twelve years also: Fearnside v. Flint, 22 Ch. Div. 579; 52 L. J. (Ch.) 479. Similarly an action on a covenant to pay rent would also seem to be an action to recover rent within s. 1 of the same Act, which imposes the same limitation of twelve years on such an action. And in computing the twelve years in actions under s. 1, s. 4 enacts that no time is to be allowed for absence beyond seas.
(y) See last note.
(z) See Strachan v. Thomas, 12 A. & E. (40 E. C. L. E.) 536; Paget v. Foley, 2 Bing. N. C. (29 E. C. L. R.) 679.
Such assignment is void as to any subsequent bond fide purchaser or mortgagee unless recorded in the Patent Office within three months from its date: Rev. Stat. § 4898. Copyrights are assignable "by any instrument of writing," which must be recorded within sixty days of its execution in the office of the Librarian of Congress; otherwise it will be void as above: lb. 4955. No bill of sale, mortgage, hypothecation, or conveyance of any vessel, or part of any vessel, of the United States, shall be valid against any person other than the grantor or mortgagor, his heirs and devisees, and persons having actual notice thereof, unless recorded in the office of the collector of the customs where such vessel is registered or enrolled : lb. § 4192.