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acquisitive prescriptiongaining a right over land by passage of time. At common law a right could only be acquired prescriptively if use, enjoyment or benefit (user) as of right could be shown to have been enjoyed from ‘time immemorial’. For this purpose, the year 1189 was fixed as the limit of legal memory, so that any right enjoyed at that date was unchallengeable. In practice, however, it was impossible to demonstrate this, so by the middle of the 19th century 20 years’ uninterrupted use was sufficient to found a claim at common law (see also LOST MODERN GRANT). Most legal systems employ a similar concept. In current English law an owner may apply for registration in respect of registered land after 10 years ADVERSE POSSESSION. The same concept applies in international law.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006