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Property I
University of Kansas School of Law
Davis, Michael J.

I. First Possession: Acquisition of Property

A. Methods of Acquisition:

1. Discovery & Conquest: Methods of acquiring territory in international      law. Discovery is the sighting or finding of previously unknown or uncharted            territory, frequently accomplished through a symbolic act such as a landing.       Conquest is the taking of possession of enemy territory through force,             followed by formal annexation of the defeated territory by the conqueror. 

a. Underlying Theories: 

i. Principle of First in Time: The notion that discovering or                                          possessing a thing first justifies ownership rights. Under this                                       theory, a discovery merits full rights to occupancy and                                                       possession.

ii. The Labor Theory: A person must apply labor to something                                               before true ownership occurs.  Under this theory, discovery                                        gives the right of occupancy, but not title. 


2. Capture: A wild animal is in a state of nature. In contrast to the first in     time principle, occupation or possession of a wild animal requires more than             a sighting or even pursuit. One must deprive the animal of its liberty or bring  it within control to have possession.  

3. Creation: “Any expenditure of mental of physical effort, as a result of        which there is created an entity, whether tangible or intangible, vests in the      person who brought the entity into being, a propriety right to the commercial exploitation of that entity . . .”

a. Intellectual Property: The law will protect a person’s invention, but                       the idea or concept is free for imitation. Imitation is the lifeblood of                                   competition. It’s lowers prices and is good for customers.

i. The purpose behind copyright, patent, and trademarks is to                                                 create a limited monopoly, which promotes activity and                                                             invention, but is limited to advance competition.      

ii. Patents are granted for novel, useful, and nonobvious                                               process or products. They last for 20 years from the date of the                                 original application. When expired, the process or product in                                        question enters the public domain where it can be exploited by                                 anyone.

iii. Copyrights protect the expression of ideas in books, articles,                                   music, art, etc. A copyright lasts for 70 years after the creator’s                                   death

iv. Trademarks are words and symbols indicating the source of                                   a product or service; owners of marks are protected against                                           use of similar marks when such use would result in confusion.                                                The purpose is to aid consumers and businesses. 

(A) There can be a protectable property interest in                                                        news. The facts of the news are not protected, but when                                              one invests time, labor, skill, and money into salable                                                             product, it deserves protection from competitors.                                                  Probably can only be applied in special circumstances.                                                  (INS v. AP)

(B) A business does not have a protectable interest in                                                    particular aesthetic patterns. Competitors are free to                                                    imitate them. (Cheney Brothers v. Doris Silk Corp.)

(C) A business may use the name of a competitor in an                                                  advertisement (e.g. for comparison). It may be taking a                                                             “free ride” on a competitor’s good name, but it’s also                                                            providing a service to customers by offering                                                                      comparable goods at a lower price.   (Smith v. Chanel)

(D) A large expenditure of money in advertising a                                                          product does not create a right. (Smith v. Chanel)

(E) Protection of literary property cannot be limited to a                                               direction appropriation of the text. However, general                                                    ideas, themes, and character archetypes are not                                                               protectable. (Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp.)

(F) A living organism can be patented if it is invented or                                                            engineered. (Diamond v. Chakabarty)

(G) The common law right of publicity gives a person                                                    exclusive right to their name, likeness signature and                                                       voice. Using an image or likeness in parody, which may                                                    remind the public of a certain celebrity without                                                                       implying an actual endorsement, is not a violation of                                                      this right.   (White v. Samsung)

(H) To what extent, if any, is the proprietor if file-                                                          sharing software responsible for the downloading of

nder has rights against all but the rightful                                               owner
iii. Abandoned: The finder has full entitlement


2. Adverse Possession: There are several competing theories underlying     adverse possession. First, it may be to punish people who have sat on their rights for a certain amount of time. Second, it could be primarily to reward         occupiers based on the idea that using something long enough gives you a             certain right that can’t be taken away. Lastly, some think the point is merely             to keep all titles straight.

a. Adverse possession is generally dictated by statutory law. For                                example, a statute may require that an occupier without color title (an                   invalid title) have actual possession for the statutory time period.                                 Further, actual possession may require by (1) that the property be                           protected by a substantial inclosure, and (2) that the property be                                cultivated and improved. In Valkenburgh v. Lutz, the court required a                                     full inclosure, significant improvement, and nearly full cultivation of                                  the land.                    

b. The general rule of law in most jurisdictions requires the following:

i. Actual entry giving exclusive possession that is
ii. Open and notorious
iii. Adverse and under a claim of right, and
iv. Continuous for the statutory period

(A) The taking of land does not require a hostile intent,                                                             only intent to take possession of the land. Thus, a                                                          taking by mistake can meet the intent requirement.                                                            (Manilla v. Gorski)

(B) Open and Notorious: Where the taking is accidental                                                            and along a border between parcels where the intrusion                                              is not clear or self-evident, and may require a survey to                                                        discern, the occupation is not “open and notorious”