mobile app

4 Legal Tips To Protect My Mobile App

 Image CC2.0  Johan Larsson

 Image CC2.0 Johan Larsson

You've searched every App store out there and know exactly what's missing. You're ready to take that idea out of your head and turn it into a money making venture. Read on for four areas where you can get tripped up in developing and launching your mobile App.

4 Legal tips to protect my mobile app

1. Have a written agreement with the App developer: You need to know if you own the App and the IP in the app. It seems like an easy question, but often when I talk to App developers and folks with App ideas, they don't understand who actually owns the finished App. If you are hiring someone to develop your idea into an App, make sure you have a written agreement spelling out who owns what.  Even more important, make sure you understand that agreement. Your App might include intellectual property including patents, copyrights and trademarks.

If you are hiring someone to develop your idea into an App, make sure you have a written agreement spelling out who owns what. Even more important, make sure you understand that agreement.

2. Have a written privacy policy: The Federal Trade Commission requires a privacy policy; California law, as well as other state's laws, requires a privacy policy and if you plan on launching out of the country, you need to understand those laws, too.

3. Have a unique product name and a trademark application ready: A trademark is a brand identifier that helps your consumers distinguish your product or service from similar products and services in the marketplace. If you've checked the iTunes Store or Google Play lately, you know they are crowded marketplaces and the name of your App has got to stand out and be memorable.

4. Have your App compliant with submission requirements: If your App is misleading to consumers and provides inaccurate descriptions of the App's functionality, it will most likely be rejected by the iTunes Store and Google Play. This will send you back to the drawing board and delay the launch of your App.

25 Tips For Launching Your Mobile App in 2015

Image CC2.0 Jason Howie  

Image CC2.0 Jason Howie

California has one of the most stringent privacy laws that applies to websites and mobile apps that target California residents.

From marketing to tech to legal, there's a lot to learn before you launch your mobile app. My top three tips to a successful app launch in 2015 are Privacy, Privacy, Privacy.

Targeting kids with your app?: Make sure you comply with California’s new law “Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World” effective January 1, 2015. Don’t be marketing tobacco, alcohol, tanning beds and a long list of other items to those under 18.

Is Your App Available in the EU or on a device that might be used in the EU?: You must comply with European Union privacy laws. Which means the end user needs the ability to consent to a lot of the ways in which the user’s data is processed.

Do you have a posted and easily accessible privacy policy in your App?: California has one of the most stringent privacy laws that applies to websites and mobile apps that target California residents. Since you can’t control who downloads your app, you must comply with The California Online Privacy Protection Act.

Penalties can vary for violations of these laws, but the California Attorney General actively pursues violators of the California Online Privacy Protection Act and has gone after Delta Airlines and Amazon for their non-compliance.

Click here for 25 Tips For Launching Your Mobile App - including my legal tips. I am not affiliated with Zco Corporation nor do I endorse or sponsor their post

Video - Developing Mobile Apps and FTC Advertising Guidelines

Have you considered that marketing for your mobile application must comply with Federal Trade Commission advertising guidelines? The bottom line is make sure you disclose what information you are collecting, how you collect and what you do with the information once it is collected.  Always remember there are heightened privacy concerns when your mobile app is targeted to children.

Take into account these best practices for advertising and privacy concerns when building and marketing your mobile app.

Truthful Advertising:

  • Tell the truth about what your app can do. 
  • Disclose key information clearly and conspicuously.


  • Build privacy considerations in from the start.. 
  • Be transparent about your data practices. 
  • Offer choices that are easy to find and easy to use. 
  • Honor your privacy promises. 
  • Protect kids’ privacy. 
  • Collect sensitive information only with consent. 
  • Keep user data secure.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace and to provide information to businesses to help them comply with the law.  Read more about Marketing Your Mobile App: Get It Right From The Start.

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Can Trademark Protect My Mobile App?

Image Copyright Rob Enslin via CC by 2.0

Image Copyright Rob Enslin via CC by 2.0

App owners should always consider protecting the brand name of their App by filing a trademark application.

A trademark is a brand identifier that helps your consumers distinguish your product or service from similar products and services in the marketplace.  Because there is no "one size fits" all when it comes to preparing a trademark application, you need to understand how your mobile application functions and explain that to your trademark attorney.

The goods and/or services associated with a mobile application may fall into multiple international trademark classes.  As you visit with a trademark attorney, make sure to fully disclose how your mobile app works and precisely what information will be downloaded or accessed by the end-user.  For proper trademark protection it actually does make a difference whether or not content is downloaded to the end-user or is only accessed by the end-user via the mobile app.

Below are a few descriptions of goods and services related to mobile apps found at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

IC 009 - Downloadable software in the nature of a mobile application for {specify the function of the programs, e.g., for use in database management, for use as a spreadsheet, for word processing, etc. and, if software is content- or field-specific, the content or field of use}

IC 038 -  Wireless communications services, namely, transmission of {_________________}

IC 041 - Entertainment services, namely, non-downloadable {________________________} presented to mobile communications devices via a global computer network and wireless networks

IC 042 - Development of downloadable software applications for others for use in connection with {____________}

The list is not exhaustive and just gives you a glimpse at some of the options to consider while researching, preparing and filing a trademark application for a mobile app. Keep in mind what you register for your mobile app may, or may not, be sufficient to protect the non-mobile or web version of the same product line.

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How Do I File A Trademark Application?


Do I Need A Trademark Lawyer?

Most business owners ask themselves do I need a trademark attorney to file a trademark application? Having a trademark attorney on your product or service branding team is key to success.  A trademark lawyer can spot potential pitfalls and help you navigate the complex application and follow-up process with the USPTO. 

While anyone can file a trademark application with the USPTO, there are intricacies to:

  • determining the strength of your trademark;
  • reviewing how other people might be using the same or similar trademark; and
  • appropriately answering the questions on the trademark application.

The job of a trademark attorney is to guide you in selecting a strong trademark; help you in navigating the application process; counseling you in your options if your trademark application is refused (office action issued); and preparing you for what happens after you secure a registration.

How Can I Educate Myself On The Trademark Process?

You can prepare and file a federal trademark application online with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Here's a link to the USPTO website.   Another great resource from the Trademark Office is the Trademark Basic Facts for small business owners.

Follow this link for more Trademark Basics from Texas Trademark Lawyer Tamera Bennett.

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