Legal Essentials for App Developers

Mobile Applications (or “Apps”) for smartphones and tablets are the latest trend in technology today. As an app developer, your legal needs often exceed those of a standard software developer because your products are created for mobile devices with enhanced, native hardware capabilities. Location-based services (or apps that tap into the GPS capabilities of smartphones) have the greatest potential to raise privacy issues. It is important as an app developer to reduce your liability as much as you can to avoid costly litigation later.

Elliott & Davis’ team of cyberlaw attorneys can sit with you and discuss the legal services you need to protect your hard work and to foster its success in the marketplace.

The following is a list of mobile app-specific services we provide:

  • END USER LICENSE AGREEMENTS

(or a EULA) is a contract between you and your customers when they purchase and use your app. These agreements generally pop up before your customers use your app for the first time. A customer will usually tap “I Agree” after reading a EULA to continue through to use the app.

A EULA gives your customers the permission (or a license) to use your app, states particular rules for using your app (including IP regulations), and also limits your liability for the damaged caused in the event of a malfunction. Due to the large amount of important information contained within this contract, a EULA is a crucial legal component to any app.

At Elliott & Davis, PC we will get to know your mobile apps and draft EULAs that are custom-fit to the functionality they provide. Our professional drafting services, unlike other pay-and-use models, will make sure your specific needs are addressed and your legal questions are answered.

  • CLICKWRAP AGREEMENTS

Clickwrap agreements, like EULAs, are contracts between you and your customers when they purchase or use your services. Unlike EULAs, clickwrap agreements are generally presented within the confines of a website. When a user goes to use the web-based services associated with your apps for the first time, a clickwrap agreement will pop up before entering the requested page. A user will usually click “I Agree” after reading a clickwrap agreement to acknowledge that they have read the contract.

Like a EULA, a clickwrap agreement gives your visitors the permission (or a license) to use your online services, states particular rules for using your online services (including IP regulations), and also limits your liability for the damaged caused in the event of a malfunction. Due to the large amount of important information contained within this type of contract, a clickwrap agreement is a crucial legal component to any web based service associated with your apps.

At Elliott & Davis, PC, our cyberlawyers will get to know your online services and draft a clickwrap agreement that is custom-fitted to your website. Our professional drafting services, unlike other pay-and-use models, will make sure your specific needs are addressed and your legal questions are answered. 

  • PRIVACY POLICIES

Mobile apps collect vast amounts of user data through a variety of different collection methods. One of the most unique types of information collected from a smartphone is location-based information from the native GPS. These collection methods can lead to serious privacy issues with app users. As an app developer, it is good legal practice to have a document within your app that explains where this information is kept and how it is used.

A Privacy Policy is the technical term for the rules you use in the collection, storage, and use of the information your users give to you. Many apps have privacy policies, but most struggle to comply with the various legal guidelines suggested by the FTC and other applicable laws. Others try to use “cookie cutter,” pay-and-use Privacy Policies that are either too broad or that do not address the main functionality of the app itself.

As an app developer, it is critical to ensure that your data collection, storage, and use policies are straightforward and comply with corresponding law. Our skilled cyberlawyers can work with you to draft a privacy policy that is user-friendly and reasonable and, most importantly, that is tailored to the services your app provides.

  • SPECIAL PRIVACY POLICIES

If your app targets an audience of children under the age of 13, or if there is a chance that children will use your app, it is crucial to include a privacy policy that complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”, 15 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.). COPPA was drafted to protect children under 13 years old from unlawful data collection practices. COPPA outlines specific requirements (including privacy policies and obtaining parental consent) from apps directed at children.

Under COPPA, it is required to have a privacy policy attached to a website that is targeted to children under 13 years old. If your app is directed to children, we can help you draft this special privacy policy and also help explain the other compliance requirements under COPPA.

  • TERMS OF SERVICE AGREEMENTS

A terms of service agreement (or “TOS”), also known as a Terms of Use agreement or Terms and Conditions agreement, is a written notice of the rules your users must follow in order to receive the services you have to offer on your app. A TOS is generally legally enforceable and is treated like a contract unless the rules you set for your app are unreasonable and violate consumer protection laws.

If your app has a valid TOS and your visitors disobey your rules, you have the right to enforce consequences for that violation. Depending on the severity of the user’s misconduct and the terms you set in your TOS, you will have the ability to restrict access or terminate that user from having an account with your service.

As an app developer, it is important to have a TOS that not only is enforceable, but is also tailored to the particular services you provide. Elliott & Davis, PC can help you create a TOS that is a perfect fit for your website. Depending on your needs, we can draft documents that closely mimic the services you have to offer.

  • INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY SERVICES

Intellectual property (or “IP”) is the term that describes the different legal rights that correspond to the intangible assets you create and own. Copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets are the major categories of IP that exist today.

Of the major types of IP, Copyright and Trademarks exist most prominently on the internet and are strictly enforced by state and federal law. Elliott & Davis, PC offers a variety of intellectual property services to help protect and regulate the IP featured in your software. These include:

Copyright

        • Registration
        • Enforcement
        • Licensing
        • Compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Trademarks

        • Registration
        • Enforcement
        • Licensing

If you have general questions about IP rights please visit our FAQ, or our Trademarks website at http://www.trademarksmadesimple.com

  • INCORPORATIONS

As an app developer who creates a number of mobile apps, it is good legal strategy to create a business entity. Incorporating your app development business will give you many advantages including:

      • Limited liability
      • Reduced tax exposure
      • Increased Credibility
      • Perpetual Existence

Elliott & Davis, PC can work with you to determine what type of an entity your business needs, register your business with Pennsylvania, and draft the important documents that correspond to your business structure.

Whether you’re a Pennsylvania company or out-of-state company looking to incorporate in Pennsylvania, our skilled attorneys can help. Please visit www.incorporateinpa.com or contact Attorney Eric Davis at 412.434.4911 ext 11 or at eric@elliott-davis.com for a free consultation.

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contact@elliott-davis.com

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