The doctrine of "abuse of rights" is found in various forms in the legal codes of states that adhere to civil law, and refers to the concept that the exercise of otherwise legitimate rights can be rendered illegal or otherwise limited if deemed malicious or injurious to the wider community.
Some common conditions leading to a ruling of "abuse of right" include: (a) the predominant motive for exercising the right is to cause harm; (b) no serious or legitimate motive exists for exercising the right; or (c) the exercise of the right infringes upon the prevailing moral standards of the community, or is contrary to good faith.
The doctrine of abuse of rights can be a very useful corrective for cases where people are obviously abusing the spirt of the law but not the letter. However, in the wrong hands, it also opens of the possibility for the quasi-legal suppression of the legitimate exercise of rights using the façade of vaguely defined "moral standards."
The doctrine of abuse of rights is generally held to be virtually unknown in common law, although some have argued that this concept exists in common law as well and was the original basis for the development of tort law.