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Can You Only Have Ownership of Physical Possessions?

Can You Only Have Ownership of Physical Possessions?

Although you can have ownership over physical possessions, you can also own intangible assets. Continue reading to find out more.

31st May 2019

Ownership can be described as the sole control which a person exercises over something to the exclusion of all others. However the term ‘something’ has a wide scope and can refer to intellectual property, land/real estate as well as physical possessions. There are so many businesses that compete with each other to sell the same products or provide the same services. Businesses should avoid interfering with someone else’s property even if they cannot physically see it.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property refers to having legal ownership over something which is intangible in subject matter. This could range from being an idea for a product or service, a patent and confidential information about the business. If someone has thought of something themselves, they are entitled to have exclusive ownership over it. Therefore, it is essential that businesses do their research and make sure they haven’t copied someone else’s brand or idea. The laws surrounding intellectual property aim to encourage creativity and innovation for businesses and to protect their ownership rights. Businesses should ensure they properly register their intellectual property.

How Can I Protect My Intangible Assets?


Trademarks are almost essential for businesses and are a way of allowing them to distinguish from their competitors. It is also a marketing tool to promote their brand, products and services. There are different types of trademarks which can be in the form of a corporate logo, a scent or even a sound. Although these are not necessarily physical possessions, the law still recognises them as someone’s property because they created it.

Patent Protection

In larger businesses, it is likely that third parties may try and sell products that your company has created. For example, there are many stores that sell ‘knock off’ designer handbags of brands such as Michael Kors and Gucci. In these situations, companies should apply for a patent protection which will prevent these third parties from selling variations of their products. Patent protections are also effective in outlining when a company has organised with manufacturers that they can in fact sell the same products.

The Ugly Ugg’s Issue

The Ugg brand is owned by an American company, Deckers, and has a registered trademark in 130 countries but not in Australia because it is too generic. Due to this, Deckers filed a lawsuit against an Australian manufacturer to stop him from selling the boots. This led to him losing over $20 Million in sales, showing how businesses have to be careful when dealing with trademarks and intellectual property.

Final Remarks

Physical possessions are easier to prove ownership of through the law because they can be seen. However, businesses should ensure that they identify the type of intellectual property that they own and take measures to protect them. This promotes creativity, innovation and protects the rights of people and the ideas they come up with. For more information on what intellectual property is, read this article.

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Aditi Ramesh

Aditi currently works in the Content Team as a Legal Intern for Lawpath. She is in her third year of a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) at Macquarie University. She is particularly interested in Property and Criminal Law.