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Ownership: Definition, Example and Related Terms

What is Ownership ?

Ownership, in the simplest terms, is having legal rights and control over something. It means that you have acquired something, either by buying it, earning it, or receiving it as a gift, and now it's yours. You have the right to use it, enjoy it, and decide what happens to it. If it's a toy, you get to play with it. If it's a book, you get to read it. If it's money, you get to spend it or save it. But, when we talk about 'ownership' in the world of business, things can get a bit more complex.

In a commercial context, ownership often refers to owning parts of a business, like shares in a company. For instance, if you own shares in Apple Inc., you have a small piece of ownership in that company. As a part-owner, you might receive dividends (a share of the company's profits) and you can vote on important company decisions.

However, ownership isn't just about owning physical things or shares in a company. It can also refer to owning rights or responsibilities. For example, if you write a song or invent a new product, you own the copyright or patent. This means you have the exclusive right to use, sell, or license your creation. If anyone else wants to use it, they need to get your permission first (usually in exchange for payment).

In the world of contracts, ownership is a key concept. Contracts often involve transferring ownership of goods, services, or intellectual property from one party to another. When you buy a car, for instance, you sign a contract that transfers the ownership of the car from the seller to you. In a business deal, one company might transfer the ownership of a patent to another company in exchange for a fee.

Ownership can also involve responsibilities. If you own a pet, for instance, you have the responsibility to take care of it. In a business, the owners have the responsibility to make sure the business operates legally and ethically. If the business does something wrong, the owners can be held accountable.

So, ownership is not just about having rights, it's also about having responsibilities. And in the world of business, understanding the details of ownership is crucial for making smart decisions and avoiding legal problems.


  • Scenario Description
    John buys 100 shares in Company XYZ. John now has ownership in Company XYZ. This entitles him to a portion of the company's profits in the form of dividends, and he can vote on company matters. His ownership is also his investment in the company, so if the company does well and its value increases, his shares will be worth more.
    Company ABC licenses a patented technology from Inventor PQR. While Inventor PQR retains ownership of the patent, Company ABC now has the right to use the patented technology. The licensing agreement outlines the terms of this right, including any fees to be paid to Inventor PQR, and potential consequences if Company ABC breaches these terms.

Related terms