How do you suppose property rights over Pokemon work?
Easy. They don’t. Next question, please.
…yeah, all right, fine
Anything I say about this is, to some extent, bull$#!t. I mean, obviously the Pokémon games and anime don’t really care about, like… the legal conventions around Pokémon training, because it’d take a weird kind of nerdy child to look at a world where kids make friends with magical creatures and say “yeah, but can we hear a story about their lawyers?” But I don’t think they consider Pokémon property, the way pets are considered property in the real world. I mean, even in the real world, that is contentious, right? Some animals – mostly primates and cetaceans – now have specific legal rights or even full legal personhood in some countries, and there are pressure groups that are actively trying to see more legal rights extended to common pet animals like cats and dogs. If treating animals strictly as property doesn’t fly in our civilisation, I doubt it would in the Pokémon world. A lot of the things you can do with your personal property – destroying or abandoning it, for instance – I think would be widely seen as… if not illegal, then at the very least extremely sleazy if you tried to do them with a Pokémon. We “release” a lot of Pokémon in the games, especially if we’re breeding them, but I think this is a conflict between the games’ mechanics and their ideals; Lusamine actually calls us out for this in the climax of Sun and Moon (well, kinda – she believes it’s fine to treat Pokémon like property and says that the player’s own actions prove we believe it too; she’s also the closest thing those games have to a villain, though).
I don’t think you can sell them either, normally; you can trade Pokémon, but then you’re sort of exchanging two things that are, like… both priceless in the same way. In the anime trading is rare, and part of what makes trading a good idea is if the Pokémon buy into it (Ash’s Aipom for Dawn’s Buizel is the textbook case). Yeah, there’s a few counterexamples for selling Pokémon, but I think most of them are… well, iffy? The most obvious one is the Magikarp salesman, who is, like… clearly trying to scam you, and is explicitly portrayed as a con artist in the anime. And you can buy Pokémon for coins at generation I and II game corners, but the original game corner was set up by Team Rocket to launder stolen Pokémon, and I think maybe in Hoenn and Sinnoh it occurred to the developers that “hey, this is actually not consistent with the ethos of the world we’ve created; let’s not keep it.” I think these should maybe not be our standard for interpreting law and custom.
So yeah, I don’t think property law is really applicable at all. I can’t prove it, but I think the legal status of children and cultural expectations placed upon parents are a better analogy (though obviously still not perfect).