A large number of mobile applications have made it through app stores and turned out to be a huge success. The popularity of mobile applications is all-time high now and the trend is said to stay here in the near future too. Mobile app downloads have been steadily increasing and it is expected to reach 258 billion by 2022. Such greater popularity of mobile applications is due to the fact that it has helped people to connect with things and people across the globe through the simple means of the internet. This means, whether you are an app developer or an app start-up, you will be selling your app to millions of users spread across the globe.
Now the issue is that you cannot come up with a unique and fresh app idea every now and then. You cannot have great app ideas like Uber or Facebook again. This is the reason you will find a large number of clone apps with the same existing idea on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store trying to make money out of someone else’s labor.
This means if you are working on a unique app idea then it is important that you protect it and for that, you need to know your legal rights on the app product.
In case you have no in-house team to take care of app development then you will have to approach an agency or hire developers to get your app idea turned into a full app solution. For the same reason, it is very important that you partner with agencies or developers who have a good reputation in the market.
Before you finalize a partner, you should take up some time to go through the website, check with past clients, and read their testimonials. Reputed partner companies will have case studies and portfolios mentioned on their websites.
Whenever a third-party designer or developer writes the code for the app, they technically own the code. So it is wise to have a contract before the development starts to make sure the project is released to you completely once the development is finished.
One of the effective ways to keep your app idea safe is by ensuring that the information is shared selectively to only those people who need it. It is definitely important that you need to share the app idea with your clients or with other stakeholders, however, it would be wise to share only what is necessary. So in simple terms, the more you keep the information to yourself, the lesser the chance are that others will have it.
Building an app is not done by a single person, rather there are many brains at work! In order to carry out the app design and development, you will need some help. You will either have to go for a freelancer or hire a development company to get technical skills on board. So, now the question that pops up is how you are going to trust someone to keep the project information confidential and ensure they won’t use it once they have done working for you?
It is ideal for app development if you are able to speak freely about your project idea and its vision, and have the freedom to share every small detail.
The ideal way to make this happen is by signing a non-disclosure agreement before the development work has been started by the developer. NDA in simple terms is a legal contract that is signed between two parties to decide the kind of information which will be shared with them and the kind of information which will be withheld from sharing outside. The best thing about NDA is that it will let you live in peace as you will know that all your ideas will be kept confidential.
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Such kind of non-compete agreement is made internally within the company to discourage the employees from sharing any sensitive information regarding the app and the idea itself, to any rival companies. This way you will also get to stop someone from working for competitors on the same kind of project that you are currently working on. It is very important to keep such agreements as genuine as possible because such a clause will keep the agency or developers from taking up new projects in the future even when they have completed working with you. If such a contract is set for a limited time frame then chances are more that the contractor will sign the agreement. To keep both parties satisfied it would be wise enough to approach a lawyer to develop such a non-compete agreement.
If you have a unique or fresh app idea in mind then it is one thing while building it into an excellent app is another. Once the code has been written for the app then you should be able to ensure that no one takes it away from you. How your idea is expressed can only be protected by copyright law but, it does not protect your idea itself. So if you have an amazing app idea, start coding and saving it on your computer.
You need to work on securing the app right through its development stage. You will be able to save your app idea to a greater extent by coming up with a well-planned app architecture. Chances are very less for anyone to steal your app code if you follow the modern security approaches properly. Some of the ways in which you can protect your app idea are by implementing encryption, secure the input fields in the app, and regularly review the login page in the app.
The best way to protect your app idea is by building it on your own. This becomes important when you are not good at designing or coding. For the same, you will have to hire someone. As the people you hire for the job will be developing the app for you and so will be the first owners of the copyright from the perspective of copyright. So once they have finished their work, it is important that you get them to sign over the copyright to you. This way they will not be able to make any claims on the app after it becomes successful in the market.
If you have any time browsed through the app store in search of a particular app, you may have come across clones. Such applications may be infringing copyright and trademark.
It will become possible for you to make a copyright infringement claim if you can prove two things straightaway – 1. You possess the copyright ownership, 2. You have the proof that the other party had access to your app and could have copied it. In most of the cases, it is quite easy to prove your ownership if you have all the paperwork done. However, it will not be that easy to prove that the app idea has been copied from you.
The best way to handle this situation is by creating a brand identity, and by going for trademark registration to protect it. Generally, the brand image and the name becomes the strong link between you and your customers. You can stop others from using the same brand name, logo or identity, knowingly or unknowingly through registration. In a normal scenario, registration has the validity of 10 years and you get to renew it later.
Patenting is the best way of protecting your intellectual property from any kind of fraud or infringement. So is it possible to patent your app? There are a few countries where it is not possible to patent software and this means that in such countries you cannot apply for a patent. There are some countries where you can get it done but, the process is time-consuming and expensive. For the same, you need to prove your idea is unique and useful.
Now the issue with mobile apps is that its code keeps on changing and so even if you get the app idea patent, you will have to go through the same process again and again. In short, it can be tricky to get your app idea patented. However, you can choose to go for professional attorneys to get the job done.
It is very important to write down everything that you do with the app. precisely, make it a point to write down everything even the smallest thing that you do with the app. such a thing can prove to be very helpful in cases of any legal conflict or when there is a need for some technical changes.
As said above, even the details which you seem to be having no importance should be noted down. The document should definitely contain the brainstorming sessions, code of the app, final drafts, meetings conducted with the stakeholders, etc.
Keeping a record of every meeting and discussion conducted for app development is a good practice. So in case, any information gets leaked, then it can be found out quickly.
In case you find someone is copying your app idea then you should take action against them. If you manage to pursue someone who has copied your idea from not doing so, you will discourage others from doing it.
In case someone manages to copy your idea and creates the same kind of app but with added features then things may be different. The additional features can be anything like different screens within the app or adding different features to the characters. In that case, both the apps will look different. So during the legal battle, this can help build solid arguments on both sides.
There are more than 2.96 million apps on Google Play Store and it does not look for copyright infringement whenever a new app gets uploaded. This means you may not even realize that your app has been cloned and uploaded over there. The apps there will only be removed after someone marks it as fraudulent and meanwhile the app would have made enough profit before it is officially removed. This means it would be quite easy to take down a clone app if you have your trademark and copyright things already sorted out.
There are high chances that we may get inspired by the apps developed by others or from the apps which are already available on the app store. So the best way to avoid this situation is by staying as original as you can. There are a few apps that are quite popular in the market like Uber or Facebook and they are dominating their respective industries. So instead of cloning the same business models, try to come out with something which is original and has your ideas put to work.
Developing an app from your own idea from scratch is an amazing thing. You own it and you are proud of it. So by no means, you want someone else to take away your happiness and all your hard work. The best way to ensure it is by protecting your app concept with proper copyright measures and ensure no one takes it away from you.
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