Back to Insights Back to Insights

It is hard to imagine a world without mobile apps. They add so much to our lives, in the form of entertainment, the ability to remain healthy, music, managing finances, planning travel – in fact, almost every aspect of our lives are affected by apps. 

As to how many mobile apps are available, the figures are mind-blowing - there are approximately 3.04 million apps on the Google Store and an estimated 2.09 million apps exist on the Apple App Store. In addition, there is good news in terms of growth opportunities for businesses launching an app for mobile devices.

According to Grand View Research, the international mobile application market size, currently valued at USD 170.52 billion, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.5% between 2020 and 2027.

For small business owners creating an app legal issues must be considered to ensure their commercial interests are protected. To help guide you we discuss the top 5 legal requirements that will help protect your app idea.

1. Ownership of the app

The general rule of app ownership is that whoever writes the software code owns the app and the authorship of the code is protected by copyright. Of course, if one of your employees writes the code during their employment, the ownership usually belongs to the company.

During the app development process, many startups engage a third-party developer or development company to write the software code. It is vital to ensure that the contract between your business and the developer states clearly that you own the present and future rights related to the software code.

For further copyright protection, ensure any third-party developers you instruct sign a confidentiality agreement (also known as a non-disclosure agreement) which covers matters such as market research, plans for the app, potential users, testing data, and any other important information that could be deemed confidential.


Free NDA template


2. Licence and distribution agreements

To reach users, your new app must be available through major platforms such as App Store and Google Play Store. You will need to agree to the terms of an operator’s licence and distribution agreement. Examples of such agreements include Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement or the Apple Developer Program License Agreement

You will need to carefully read over these terms and conditions, especially those concerning content, marketing, privacy, and ongoing support. 

As you can well imagine, Apple and Google will not negotiate on their terms so to avoid user complaints and being deleted from the app store, it is wise not to launch the app until it is fully compliant with the operator’s agreement.

3. Trademarks

Think about the most successful apps such as Headspace, Spotify, and MyFitnessPal. One thing they all have in common is extremely strong brands. This ensures users can distinguish between the aforementioned apps and the hundreds of competitors essentially offering the same content/functions.

Applying for a trademark can be a complex process and you may need to instruct an experienced Intellectual Property Solicitor to run a trademark clearance search and apply for both a UK trademark and protection in other relevant jurisdictions.

 4. Intellectual property for mobile applications

Do not misjudge how easy it is to infringe someone else’s intellectual property rights when developing your mobile app. You must be careful never to copy part of another business’s software/source code without first obtaining a licence. If you are using open-source software be mindful of any conditions of use. It is also important to have clear terms regarding intellectual property infringement set out in the developer’s agreement.

Find out more about how to protect your apps copyright.

5. International laws for apps

The wonderful thing about the internet is it is borderless. A business in Japan can create a mobile app to be used by people from as far away as the UK. Care must be taken, however, to ensure your marketing and distribution practices comply with consumer protection, data protection, and software licensing laws in other jurisdictions.

If your mobile app is being marketed in other jurisdictions such as the EU, America, and the South Pacific, you will need to partner with a Commercial Law Solicitor who can advise you on various laws your small business will need to comply with. 

Getting compliance right at the beginning of the process will save an enormous amount of time, money, and stress as it will mitigate your risk of future cross-border regulatory investigations or intellectual property infringement claims.

Get legal assistance from LawBite

Venturing into the world of mobile app development is undeniably thrilling, offering a pathway to business success. This dynamic sector holds the potential to reshape industries and make a global impact. However, to ensure your journey is smooth and your business thrives, addressing the critical legal aspects of mobile app development is paramount.

Consideration and implementation of measures to address the five key legal issues associated with mobile apps are integral to securing your business's success. From data protection to intellectual property concerns, each facet demands careful attention for a robust legal foundation.

Should you require tailored support for your app development project, our team of adept technology lawyers are here to assist. To learn more, book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our expert lawyers or call us on 020 3808 8314. We're here to help you harness the legal prowess that propels your app development project towards unprecedented success. 


Additional resources

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

Free legal support for businesses

The LawBite Free Essentials Plan acts as your very own legal assistant, ready to provide expertise and guidance on the common legal issues that SMEs and businesses face.

Free Templates
  • X 3 legal document templates
  • Drafted by our expert lawyers
  • New documents added every month
Legal Healthcheck Tools
  • Business-specific surveys
  • Understand how compliant you are
  • Checks in, GDPR, IP, Brexit and more
Resources, Webinars and Articles
  • Access to the latest LawBite events
  • Legal guides for businesses
  • Smarter business law videos