Abstract (law)

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In law, an abstract is a brief statement that contains the most important points of a long legal document or of several related legal papers.[1]

Abstract of title[edit]

The Abstract of Title, used in real estate transactions, is the more common form of abstract. An abstract of title lists all the owners of a piece of land, a house, or a building before it came into possession of the present owner; the abstract also records all deeds, wills, mortgages, and other documents that affect ownership of the property. An abstract describes a chain of transfers from owner to owner and any agreements by former owners that are binding on later owners.[1]

Clear title[edit]

A clear title to property is one that clearly states any obligation in the deed to the property, it reveals no breaks[clarification needed]in the chain of legal ownership. After the records of the property have been traced and the title has been found clear, it is sometimes guaranteed, or insured. In a few states, a different system of insuring title of real properties provides for registration of a clear title with public authorities. After this is accomplished, no abstract of title is necessary.

Patent law[edit]

In the context of patent law and specifically in prior art searches, searching through abstracts is a common way to find relevant prior art document to question to novelty or inventive step (or non-obviousness in United States patent law) of an invention. Under United States patent law, the abstract may be called "Abstract of the Disclosure".[2][3]

Administrative process[edit]

Certain government bureaucracies, such as a department of motor vehicles will issue an abstract of a completed transaction or an updated record intended to serve as a proof of compliance with some administrative requirement. This is often done in advance of the update of reporting databases and/or the issuance of official documents.


  1. ^ a b Sheppard, Stephen Michael (21 May 2012). The Wolters Kluwer Bouvier Law Dictionary: Desk Edition. New York: Aspen Publishers. ISBN 9781454806110.
  2. ^ United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) web site, 608.01(b) Abstract of the Disclosure
  3. ^ 37 CFR 1.72 - Title and abstract.

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