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The exclusive right to use, possess, and dispose of property, subject only to the rights of persons having a superior interest and to any restrictions on the owner's rights imposed by agreement with or by act of third parties or by operation of law. Ownership may be corporeal, i.e. of a material thing, which may itself be a movable or an immovable; or it may be incorporeal, i.e. of something intangible, such as of a copyright or patent. Ownership involves enjoyment of a number of rights over the property. The owner can alienate (i.e. sell or give away) some of these rights while still retaining others; for example, an owner of land may grant a right of way or a patent owner may grant a licence to manufacture the patented goods. Ownership may be held by different persons for different interests, for example when a freehold owner grants a lease or when land is held on a trust of land for persons with interests in succession to one another. More than one person can own the same property at the same time. They may be either joint owners with a single title to the property (see joint tenancy); or owners in common, each having a distinct title in the property that he can dispose of independently (see tenancy in common).

A person may be both the legal and beneficial owner, or the legal ownership of property may be separate from the beneficial (equitable) ownership (i.e. the right to enjoy the property), as when a trustee owns the legal estate in land for the benefit of another.

A legally valid transaction may confer specific rights to use, possess, or deal with property without conferring ownership of it; for example, a contract may appoint a person as the owner's agent for the sale of specified land.

See also estate.

Subjects: Law

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