Thing in action

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A 'thing in action' is a property right that has no intrinsic value, but whose value derives from the right to sue in respect of it. The term is quite wide-ranging. For example, a cheque for £20 is not worth £20 in itself, although it gives rise to a right to sue for the £20. A copyright or trademark symbol has no intrinsic worth, but may be very important to the organization that 'owns' it. Things in action include, in the limiting case, rights to repayment of money loaned, and contractual obligations.

Things in action have similar legal properties to tangible property; they possess a value that can be bought and sold, and they can be inherited and passed from one owner to another, albeit with certain complications (see, e.g., passage of title). In contrast, the right to sue in respect of compensation for injury is a personal right, not a property right, and therefore not a thing in action. This is because such a right brings with it the power of transmissibility; in the UK, at least, it cannot be passed from one person to another.

See thing in possession, chose in action, chose in possession.

UK LAW
Land and Property Law