Ownership

Legal concept; relationship between a legal person and property conferring exclusive control

To own and operate property, structures (often known today as legal entities) have been created in many societies throughout history. The differences in how they deal with members' rights is a key factor in determining their type. Each type has advantages and disadvantages derived from their means of recognizing or disregarding (rewarding or not) contributions of financial capital or personal effort.

Entities with shared voting rights that depend on financial capital distribute surplus among shareholders without regard to any other contribution to the entity. Depending on internal rules and regulations, certain classes of shares have the right to receive increases in financial "dividends" while other classes do not. After many years the increase over time is substantial if the business is profitable. Examples of this are common shares and preferred shares in private or publicly listed share capital corporations.

Entities with a focus on providing service in perpetuam do not distribute financial surplus; they must retain it. It will then serve as a cushion against losses or as a means to finance growth activities. Examples of this are not-for-profit entities: they are allowed to make profits, but are not permitted to give any of it back to members except by way of discounts in the future on new transactions.

In a communist nation, the means of production of goods would be owned communally by all people of that nation; the original thinkers did not specify rules and regulations.

Intellectual property laws are designed to protect different forms of intangible subject matter, although in some cases there is a degree of overlap.

Patents, trademarks and designs fall into a particular subset of intellectual property known as industrial property.