Maiorana, P.C.

Mobile App Intellectual Property

I wrote an i-Phone app and sold it to a customer. How do I protect myself?



We get this question once in a while. A client will be a software developer, and write an app for a customer that pays for the app. The question is whether the app developer can reuse the code or not.

An important aspect of all business transactions is to have a clear understanding of what each party is going to do for the other party. Some people try to do this without a written agreement. That is generally a bad idea. Even the best of friends tend to get adversarial when there is money on the table. That is what happened in our Interference case, discussed here. Two buddies, actually college roommates and quite close friends, had a loose business arrangement. Once things started to heat up, they ended up not talking to each other ever again. It is a sad story. Things can get even more complicated when a third party gets involved with one side or the other.

For any intellectual property related matter, we recommend having a strong written agreement. For a software application, such as a mobile app that would be distributed through the Apple store, or the Google Play store, a software developer should understand that they are generally considered a “work for hire”. What this means is that the customer owns the code, which is generally protected by copyright. If a developer wants to reuse portions of the code, they should have that clearly spelled out in a written agreement. If a developer provides novel coding techniques developed prior to the project, we can include agreement provisions to ensure that developer rights in those are preserved and guide the developer to appropriately protect related developer intellectual property rights. In many circumstances the developer and customer should use more than one agreement including: a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and an application development agreement. Developers should be wary of providing prior developed source code to a client before these agreements are executed.

An app developer should have this agreement in place before they start working on the app because when lawyers are involved after the fact, things tend to get messier than if there was a clear agreement in the first place. So a software developer that writes mobile phone apps should have their own agreement in place that their clients sign ahead of time. We can help in drafting such an agreement. As intellectual property attorneys, we can likely do a better job than a general practice attorney representing a client would do. For a Silicon Valley licensing attorney, our rates are very competitive in part because our main office is in Michigan. You will get personalized service, and an individually tailored agreement to suit your needs. We can also help you negotiate the agreement if your customer needs further clarification of our proposals. Our expertise at aligning interests between developers and customers can avoid unneeded conflicts with your customers as you strive to protect your rights. Give us a call. We have decades of experience at your disposal.

Call to set up your initial interview. MI - 586-498-0670 or CA - 408-890-6549.

Email us at (office-ca@MaioranaPC.com) or(office@MaioranaPC.com).

  • Chris Maiorana
  • October 2017
Topics: intellectual property attorneys, software developer, software application, Silicon Valley licensing attorney

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