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Contract Plus Tort = Property: The Trade Secret Illustration

41 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2011 Last revised: 11 Oct 2015

Matthew Edward Cavanaugh

Western State University College of Law

Date Written: March 24, 2012


This article commences with an introduction to the use of Hegel’s famous dialectical method as an arithmetic analysis of law. It reviews Hegel’s assertion that the sum of property and contract is tort and crime, and then suggests a better dialectic is that contract plus tort equals property. This article then reviews the doctrines of contract, tort, and property, focusing on the plaintiff’s rights and remedies, and who can be defendants in each of the three doctrines. The article next reviews the law of one particular type of intellectual property, trade secrets, because this article uses trade secrets as a good example of how contract and tort total to property. This article then culminates in an explanation of how trade secrets illustrate that property is the sum of contract and tort, because property rights, remedies, and defendants are the total of contract and tort rights, remedies, and defendants. This article gives illustrations of how the thesis explains certain oddities from property law other than intellectual property, and the article then concludes.

Keywords: Hegel, dialectic, arithmetic, analysis, sum, property, tort, contract, rights, remedies, defendants, trade, secret, total, intellectual

JEL Classification: K40, K11, K12, K13, O34

Suggested Citation

Cavanaugh, Matthew Edward, Contract Plus Tort = Property: The Trade Secret Illustration (March 24, 2012). 16 Marq. Intell. Prop. L. Rev. 427 (2012). Available at SSRN:

Matthew Edward Cavanaugh (Contact Author)

Western State University College of Law ( email )

1111 N. State College Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831-3014
United States
714-459-1131 (Phone)

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