Reading time: 5 minutes

For your business and its app, intellectual property can range from the app’s content to the trade marks you may use to promote it. Whatever its form, when you have intellectual property rights, you gain various legal powers that can stop others from using your property without your permission. While this property may be intangible,  it can still bring value and profit to a business. Therefore, if you use someone else’s intellectual property without their permission, you can face hefty penalties for using their property. This fact is especially true in app development. For some guidance, this article will go through various reasons not to use someone else’s app content in your own app in New Zealand.

Inviting Copyright Infringement Claims

Copyright is one type of intellectual property right in New Zealand. It protects the expression of your ideas in original works, which can range in what they cover. Copyright protects:

  • literary, dramatic, artistic, or musical works;
  • films;
  • sound recordings;
  • communication works; and
  • typographical arrangements of published editions.

As a result, it can apply to a wide range of content. Within your app, copyright can apply to:

  • your app’s code;
  • your app’s data;
  • the visual layout of your app;
  • written content;
  • any audio content; or
  • images or photos.

For example, if you copy the menu style or layout progression of another party’s app, or a picture they use within it, you could be infringing their copyright.

Copyright owners can prevent others from copying their work with this legal right. Usually, the owner is the work’s creator or the party who commissioned the work. Regardless, if you copy their work, a copyright owner can take legal action against you for copyright infringement. 

Prohibited Trade Mark Usage

Trade marks are another intellectual property right you may come across when designing and implementing your app content. These are unique signs that represent a business, and tie them to the goods or services they provide. Common trade marks can include:

When someone owns a trade mark, they can control how others may use it. Usually, this is through a licensing process, where others pay fees to use their trade mark. 

For instance, a business may license its trade mark to another party that manufactures its products.

Without this express permission, you could be using another party’s trade mark in a prohibited way. In this case, they have various legal powers available to them, which can result in serious consequences for you.

Notably, there are some defences to trade mark infringement, such as using another party’s trade mark in comparative advertising. However, these are context-dependent and only become relevant when you are already proving your case against an infringement claim. Therefore, it is best to avoid using another business’ trade mark in your app at all so as not to invite potential legal action.

The various app stores also do not allow apps that invite trade mark infringement on their platforms. Therefore, on top of the various legal issues, you may lose distribution access for your app altogether if you use another business’ trade mark illegally.

Customer Confusion

On top of the various legal consequences, copying another business’ app content may only serve to confuse your customers. If they use your app to find that it re-uses content they have already seen, they may be less likely to engage with it due to its lack of novelty. In addition, they may be less likely to remember your app because it does not stand out amongst your competitors. In fact, they may mistake your app for your competitors’ due to your copying, resulting in fewer downloads for your business. Therefore, to avoid customer confusion, you should not copy another app’s content.

Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand

Our free Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand guide explains how to register and defend your trade mark registration.

Download Now

Reputational Damage

Intellectual property rights exist to protect your ideas, especially when they give you a competitive edge in the marketplace. If your business makes a habit of copying others’ ideas, this can negatively impact you both internally and externally. Your team may be less likely to innovate and develop new ideas for your business, while you may gain a reputation for recycling content. Customers value integrity, particularly in a progressive space like app development. As such, copying other people’s work can discourage customers from downloading your app, negatively impacting any profit you wish to make.

Key Takeaways

It is best not to copy someone else’s app content as a general rule. Not only can you alienate your customers and damage your reputation, but you can also invite serious legal consequences due to intellectual property infringement.

If you need help with your app content, our experienced intellectual property lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I copy someone else’s app content?

You should not copy someone else’s app content for various reasons. In particular, you can invite legal consequences due to any existing intellectual property rights in the app content itself.

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark is a right that protects certain aspects of your business’ brand, namely its unique signs that link the business to its goods or services. Examples include business names or logos.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards