Smartphone revolution and exponential growth of app usage has changed our lives dramatically. Studies reveal that today, human beings spend more time on mobile applications than any other platform. These apps have completely changed our lives, making their presence felt across all domains – from music & entertainment to banking, business, education, news, shopping, flight & hotel booking, travel, and so much more. These applications provide enterprises with unique capabilities to harness mobile technology to reach new and existing customers, as well as facilitate seamless business operations.

However, these capabilities also encompass legal considerations that every developer should note before building a mobile app. Here, we shall look at some of the important legal aspects to consider when developing a mobile app. Make sure that every company considers these aspects from the very beginning and throughout the app development process.

1. Sign Non-Disclosure Agreement with Third Parties to Maintain Confidentiality
The mobile app industry is continuously breaking boundaries, coming up with unique and innovative concepts every day. In such a scenario, maintaining confidentiality becomes paramount to prevent competitors from poaching intellectual property or ideas. During mobile app development process, confidentiality issues will arise when you integrate with third parties like designers, copywriters or vendors. It is crucial for third parties to thoroughly understand your app vision and how it will work to assist you effectively. But at the same time, make sure that all information related to your app is kept secret. Therefore, you must sign an NDA with third parties. This will help safeguard your business data and innovative ideas from being disclosed as third parties will have legal binding for non-disclosure. If you do not sign an NDA, your vendors and third parties will be at liberty to divulge critical business data and secrets to your competitors.

2. Clearly Define the Contract for App Development
The contract for mobile app development must clearly define the scope of work expected of you and your third party. It should include everything that you deem to be important and legally viable. In addition to NDA and clause for secrecy, the contract should also include other aspects like post sales service, tenure of app support, etc. The idea is to clearly articulate roles and responsibilities of both the parties and to ensure maximum protection from third parties.

3. Data Protection and Privacy
Mobile application users implicitly trust an app that they download on their device, and it is vital that their trust is not violated. Thus, data protection and user privacy is one of the key legal considerations when building a mobile app, and a failure to provide which can lead to detrimental consequences on the enterprise. From the point of view of data protection, a mobile app should include similar guidelines as that or websites and online businesses. So, it is important that the app should include a clear and comprehensive privacy policy that outlines under what circumstances the app collects user data like name, location, contact details, unique I.D, etc., and if such data is retained or shared with third parties. If the app has a multi-country coverage, it should comply with the privacy and data protection laws of all the countries that it targets.

4. Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual Property refers to the elements used during app development process and promotion. This includes app design, name, graphics, logo, source code, etc. For organizations building a mobile app, ignoring the significance of protecting intellectual property rights can be detrimental. If you and third parties involved in the app development process are not clearly aware of with whom lies the intellectual property right, it can cause security infringements and legal issues. Buying a patent can help protect your IP rights. If your app is not patented, your intellectual rights can be protected with trade secret agreements that clearly states that all kinds of unauthorized public disclosure about the application are banned except for promotional purposes as issued by the company.

It is also important to get your app copyrighted to prevent unique and innovative ideas from getting copied by competitors. It is also crucial to get the codes registered to avoid designs or features from getting replicated. To avoid further legal hassles, make sure that you do not infringe intellectual property rights of a third party, intentionally or unintentionally. To prevent the risk of unintentional infringement, ensure that your app is 100% original, and your developers have not copied the code or content from another app. You can also conduct a patent or trademark search before you start building an app.  

5. App Distribution and Advertising
Major app stores like Apple App Store, Google Play, and Microsoft Windows Phone Marketplace often require app building companies to follow certain compliance policies to distribute their apps via these platforms. The agreements provided by these platforms often require you to integrate certain additional usage and compliance policies, and particular terms must also be included in the end user agreement with users of the app.

Regarding app advertising, legal considerations are same as that for websites, networked communications, or emails. You should also consider important advertising and promotion laws pertaining to advertising or promoting the app, serving 3rd party adverting through or in connection with the app, or conducting contests in or through the app.

There are a lot of details involved in each of these legal issues, and an awareness of all these considerations would be essential to avoid infringements and security vulnerabilities. Having an in-depth understanding of these legal aspects will ensure that you have a hassle-free path to app success and longevity in the market.