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When you have created an app, you have created intellectual property. There are many ways to protect your intellectual property, and one of these is with the terms and conditions you include in your app. This document sets out everything that you want those who use your app to know. However, many of us are guilty of agreeing to the terms and conditions without reading them correctly (if at all). Still, you should be careful to properly set out your intellectual property clauses in the terms and conditions for your app. For some guidance, this article will go through various intellectual property issues and show you the importance of protecting the intellectual property on your app with terms and conditions. 

Why You Need Terms and Conditions

The excitement of finally launching your app after so much hard work can be a trap for overlooking the terms and conditions. However, this is a crucial document for protecting your business, particularly for intellectual property matters.

For some background, terms and conditions are very common and act as an agreement between creators and users. It is a way for you to tell clients or customers about your products or services and any restrictions that apply to their use. In your case, your product is the app. Terms and conditions can contain a wide range of information, including details about costs or privacy. And, of course, it should include an intellectual property clause. You have worked hard to create all of the intellectual property aspects included in your app, so you want to do your best to protect that. Therefore, a well-drafted intellectual property clause in your terms and conditions can serve that purpose.

Types of Intellectual Property Relevant For Your Business

No matter what the purpose of your app is, it is likely to contain intellectual property that you will need to protect. Chances are, your app contains multiple types of intellectual property! All of these will need to be in your terms and conditions. Therefore, you must understand which intellectual property you may have in your app to protect it best. For example, your app could include intellectual property such as:

  • trade marks, which protects distinctive signs that represent your brand;
  • patents, which protect new and original inventions; 
  • designs, which protect the appearance of your product; or 
  • copyright, which protects original works. 

As the owner, you have ownership protections and rights over that intellectual property. These are:

  • the exclusive right to determine who else can use your intellectual property and on what terms; and 
  • legal protection, particularly concerning any registered intellectual property.

Your app’s terms and conditions will assist you in setting out and enforcing these rights. 

How Intellectual Property Operates in Your Terms and Conditions

To make sure that your intellectual property is protected, you need to ensure you:

  • clearly define your intellectual property;
  • detail the exact powers and protections your intellectual property rights grant you, such as enforcement rights;
  • include the correct details in your terms and conditions; and 
  • make sure users accept them.

The concept of intellectual property is broad, so you must include the correct details of your exact property and how that affects your customers. You can use the information in the sections above to determine which intellectual property you have and therefore need to include in your terms and conditions.

For instance, if you have trade mark rights in your business name and logo, clearly outline these rights in your terms and conditions. That way, customers know that they need to be mindful of your rights when referring to or using these signs.

Defining this correctly will mean that you are giving notice of ownership to your users. This means that there will be no excuse if somebody infringes your intellectual property rights, and you will be in a better place to enforce them. Additionally, it is important to set out the details of your intellectual property, because customers may use your app in many other countries. So, even if your intellectual property is registered in New Zealand, it may not be in other countries where customers are using the app.

On top of that, you need to detail in your terms and conditions any intellectual property enforcement rights you may have. These can range from instant consequences to legal action. For example, you may wish to set out a solution such as user accounts suspension or even termination if they break your intellectual property rules. Additionally, you can set out the legal consequences you will pursue against infringers.

User Acceptance of Your Terms

Your terms and conditions can only bind your customers if they accept the terms. Otherwise, you may have an invalid agreement. In these cases, if something goes wrong, then you cannot rely on your terms and conditions to protect your business and its intellectual property.

Therefore, you must gain user acceptance in a clearly identifiable way. One way to do this is to prompt a pop-up box on app download, requiring users to scroll through your terms and conditions. Then, they can show they have accepted your terms with a tick box saying “I Accept”. Otherwise, you run the risk of users avoiding your enforcement action by saying that they never saw your terms and conditions, which can undermine what intellectual property rights you can access.

Key Takeaways

The intellectual property on your app is your creation and your brand. It is important to protect it because it could harm your reputation and business if used wrongfully. You can protect this property with an appropriate clause in your terms and conditions. This will need clear details of your intellectual property and forms of enforcement of your rights. If you need help with your intellectual property, LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What intellectual property should I include in my terms and conditions?

You can and should include any intellectual property rights you own in the app in your terms and conditions.

Can I enforce my intellectual property clause legally?

You can enforce your intellectual property rights if someone infringes on them. Additionally, you can use your intellectual property clause to show that you outlined your ownership and expectations of use. 

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