Property: A Bundle of Sticks or a Tree?

65 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2014

See all articles by Anna di Robilant

Anna di Robilant

Boston University - School of Law

Date Written: June 18, 2014


In the United States, property debates revolve around two conceptual models of property: the ownership model, originally developed in Europe and now revisited by information theorists and classical liberal theorists of property, and the bundle of rights model, invented in the United States by Hohfeld and the Realists. This article retrieves an alternative concept of property, the tree concept of property. The tree concept of property was developed by European property scholars between 1900 and the 1950s, as part of Europe’s own “realist” moment. It envisions property as a tree: the trunk representing the owner’s right to govern the use of a resource, and the branches representing the many resource-specific property regimes present in modern legal systems (family property, agricultural property, affordable housing property, intellectual property etc.). This article argues that the tree concept of property provides a descriptively more accurate and normatively richer account of property than the two currently dominant models.

Keywords: property law, property theory, legal history

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

di Robilant, Anna, Property: A Bundle of Sticks or a Tree? (June 18, 2014). Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 66, No. 3, 2013, Boston Univ. School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 14-26, Available at SSRN:

Anna Di Robilant (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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