Discovery and Occupation Law and Legal Definition

Discovery and occupation is a method of acquiring territory on behalf of a nation.

“By the law of nations, recognized by all civilized states, dominion of new territory may be acquired by discovery and occupation, as well as by cession or conquest; and when citizens or subjects of one nation, in its name, and by its authority or with its assent, take and hold actual, continuous and useful possession, (although only for the purpose of carrying on a particular business, such as catching and curing fish or working mines,) of territory unoccupied by any other government or its citizens, the nation to which they belong may exercise such jurisdiction and for such period as it sees fit over territory so acquired”. [Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 307 (U.S. 1901)].