"Patrimoine / Patrimony" - a Myths and Metaphors Seminar on IP and Private Law


Chancellor Day Hall 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

Patrimony evokes at once a general sense of transmission and the idea of an assemblage, ever since the origins of the term in Latin, where patrimonium denoted the "property of the family, inherited from the father".

The Civil Law first shared this idea of an assemblage. There the concept of the patrimony takes the shape of a universality, composed of items of property as well as of obligations, and is generally tied to a person.  This idea is also embodied through collective patrimonies -already know to the Romans under the metaphorical expression patrimonium populi, which meant public treasure- composed of property, of information, of features that are judged essential for society, the human race or its environment.

Whether the patrimony is personal or collective, it also conveys a sense of transmission. Among other things, it brings to mind the patrimony of the deceased and his succession, the circulation in the market of rights we dub "patrimonial" or, just as well, the inheritance constituted by cultural, genetic, and biological patrimonies.

If the patrimony is, on balance, an assemblage of transmissible things, its content nevertheless remains unclear and the categories which arise from it remain porous.

For example, what are we to make of the economic facets of extrapatrimonial rights? What are the rights in one's image, if not a monopoly similar to intellectual assets? Thus, what could they be if not "intellectual property"? Moreover, shouldn't we see all privileges which bear an economic cast as patrimonial rights?
And what of intellectual property rights with respect to traditional know-how? Are marketing and development appropriate legal mechanisms to address the subject-matter of the patrimony constituted by cultural heritage or, more generally, to address the field of creation?

From private law to intellectual property law, the concept of the patrimony leads to the use of legal categories whose bright-lines seem ever more clouded and grey, if not to say ever more mythical. Besides, will metaphors serve as pedagogical devices, thereby allowing us to better grasp the nature of these patrimonial fissures?

Those interested in attending this second seminar will be able after November 5th, to consult the texts and images prepared by our panellists and, if they wish, publish their own comments (with the images of their choice) on the M&M website.


Lionel Smith, France Allard and Valérie Laure Benabou

Publish your comments!

For this third seminar, we offer interested persons the possibility of publishing a comment on our website as to the text of one of our panellists.

Each comment must include a text with a maximum length of 600 words and, if possible, one or a few images meant to illustrate the principal ideas of the text.

These comments can be transmitted to us, before or after the seminar, by eric.labbe [at] mcgill.ca (email).