Deepa Varadarajan, ‘Improvement Doctrines’

… And in recent years, a few intellectual property law scholars have begun to highlight the relevance of property law to intellectual property discourse by emphasizing the limits property law imposes on owners rather than its misperceived limitlessness. This Article furthers that effort by exploring property law’s treatment of unauthorized improvement — specifically, doctrines that alter parties’ rights and remedies where a second-comer makes unauthorized improvements (usually, significant in nature) to an owner’s land or chattels. The Article refers to these seemingly disparate doctrines in traditional property law as “improvement doctrines”, because they focus explicitly on the fact and significance of a second-comer’s improvement. Property law’s improvement doctrines “refine and supplement the basic exclusionary regime” of property. Or perhaps, stated another way, they are concerned with “postgrant correction”; they try to “reestablish proportionality” after unforeseen events increase a property owner’s leverage. After setting the theoretical stage in Part I, the Article proceeds in Part II to examine the jurisprudence of improvement doctrines in land and personal property — the doctrines of accession, mistaken improvers, ameliorative waste, and, to a lesser extent, adverse possession. It articulates a framework of the equity and efficiency concerns that have animated improvement doctrines in these traditional property contexts …

Deepa Varadarajan, ‘Improvement Doctrines’. George Mason Law Review, Vol 21:3, 657 (2014).

First posted 2014-05-12 12:31:49

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