User data privacy

5 Legal Considerations for Developing a Mobile or Web App

21 May 2024

While developing a new app for your business, it’s easy to get caught up in the features and functionality and forget about the legal considerations of app development. 

It’s important to make sure that your app is compliant, protects your intellectual property, keeps your user’s data safe, and protects your company from potential liabilities. 

While developing your app, here are five legal considerations to keep in mind: 

1. Intellectual Property Rights

It is never too early to start protecting your intellectual property. When you think about monetizing your app, you probably think about how much to charge your users or how it will enhance your relationships with customers. You might be overlooking the most lucrative asset: your intellectual property

When you protect your intellectual property, you can later sell your app, or your business, for significantly more than you could without these protections. 

Additionally, by protecting your intellectual property you can prevent competitors and other software developers from copying or stealing your hard work. 

Here are a few ways to protect your intellectual property: 

  • Copyrights: protect your app’s source code, design, and other creative elements
  • Trademarks: register your app’s name, logo, and other branding to prevent your competitors from using any of your branding assets
  • Patents: protect your unique and innovative features

It is also important to respect the intellectual property rights of others when you incorporate their code into your app.  This can be open source or commercial software or integrations with web services.  In order to avoid infringing the copyright of these companies and developers, you need to keep track of this code and provide copyright notices and disclaimers as required.

2. App Store Guidelines and Review Process

Prior to launching your app, you should review the submission guidelines and policies of the app stores or web services that you plan to distribute your app through. Your app will need to comply with their content and policy restrictions to prevent your app from being removed down the line. 

Nearly all app publishers require that you include a Privacy Policy with your app that complies with their requirements. This is not a copy and paste exercise. You will need a customized privacy policy for your app in order to make it through the app approval process and protect yourself from data privacy claims.

3. User Data Privacy

In developing a Privacy Policy for your app, you need to think through what data you collect from your users during the registration process and other touchpoints throughout their experience. This is the first step to comply with data protection laws and regulations. 

Here are a few things to consider: 

  • Where are your users?  Make sure that your app is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
  • Make sure your Privacy Policy informs your users about the type of data that you collect, how you use it, and what security measures you have in place to protect their information. 
  • Obtain consent from usersbefore you collect or process their data.

An attorney who specializes in both technology law and privacy can help you understand which laws and regulations apply to your app. 

3. End-User License Agreement (EULA)

In addition to a Privacy Policy, you need to have a clear End-User License Agreement (EULA) for your app. 

The EULA should outline your user’s responsibilities and prohibited actions within the app – including any flow-through terms required by your web services provider. It also protects your company’s rights and interests while also limiting your user’s ability to redistribute your app without permission. In your EULA, you can limit your liability and choose how and where disputes get resolved.

Finally, you should include disclaimers within your app that are required in your industry. 

5. Developer Agreements

If you plan to outsource components of the app development to other app developers, designers, or third-party service providers, you need to make sure that your company and its intellectual property are protected. 

Prior to starting the development process, you should sign clear and comprehensive contracts wwith these vendors outlining the roles and responsibilities of both parties.

These contracts should include confidentiality provisions, explicitly define who owns the intellectual property rights of the app’s components, and the developer’s obligation to report use of third party code. You should also include comprehensive data privacy terms if your developer will have access to your customers’ data.

Technology  Law Firm

Navigating the process of protecting your new app can be challenging without the help of skilled business and intellectual property lawyers who understand your technology. At West Hill, we specialize in helping software companies protect their intellectual property and business ideas. Contact us today for more information.