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Integrating Emerging Technology and Property Law Doctrine in Undergraduate and Postgraduate Property and Trusts Law Teaching

Brendan Grigg, Senior Lecturer, Flinders University


In this presentation I detail the way in which I draw on reported decisions concerning emerging technology, specifically distributed ledger technology, to teach fundamentals of doctrinal property law and trusts law to support the development of practice-ready law graduates. This is principally through an assessment scheme in both undergraduate and postgraduate property and trusts law topics that has two principal objectives: (1) it teaches fundamental property law and trusts law doctrines; and (2) it introduces students to emerging technological developments and related legal questions.

The assessment scheme requires students to engage with decisions of courts from around the common law world that concern whether blockchain and non-fungible tokens (which are based on distributed ledger technology) are property.1 The 2022 decision of the High Court of New Zealand in Ruscoe and Moore v Cryptopia Ltd,2 (‘Ruscoe’) for example, is a leading decision on the property status of cryptocurrency. This decision was followed in cases concerning non-fungible tokens; first by the Supreme Court of Singapore in Janesh s/o Rajkumar v Unknown Person,3 and then by the High Court of England and Wales in Osbourne v Persons Unknown [2023] EWHC 39 (KB)).

In resolving these disputes, the courts had to grapple with complex – yet fundamental – threshold questions about what property is. These are the very same questions that property law students grapple with. The decision in Ruscoe4 also illustrates the importance of the property question in the context of trust law, which requires that the property that is subject to a trust be identified with certainty.

This assessment scheme ensures that these students have a solid foundation in property law doctrine and a familiarity with emerging technologies that are likely to be expected by the legal profession when they graduate.


  1. B2C2 Ltd v Quoine Pte Ltd [2019] SGHC(I) 3; [2019] 4 SLR 17 (SICC); Vorotyntseva v Money-4 Limited t/a Nebeus.Com [2018] EWHC 2596 (Ch); AA v Persons Unknown [2019] EWHC 3556 (Comm); Ruscoe and Moore v Cryptopia Ltd (in liq) [2020] NZHC 728; Robert Ong Thien Cheng v LUNO Pte Ltd and BitX Malaysia Sdn Bhd [2021] 3 All Malaysia Rep 143; Janesh s/o Rajkumar v Unknown Person (“CHEFPIERRE”) [2022] SGHC264; Osbourne v Persons Unknown [2023] EWHC 39 (KB)).
  2. Ruscoe and Moore v Cryptopia Ltd (in liq) [2020] 2 NZLR 809
  3. Janesh s/o Rajkumar v Unknown Person (“CHEFPIERRE”) [2022] SGHC264.
  4. Ruscoe and Moore v Cryptopia Ltd (in liq) [2020] 2 NZLR 809.