If you are creating an app, it can be difficult to know who owns the intellectual property of the final app. Copyright protects the expression of original ideas in a material form. This protection is automatic for the author or creator of these materials, without formal registration. However, if you have hired a developer, they may be classified as the creator of the app. This article explains how to protect your app idea and whether you own the copyright in your app.


The people who use the app will not own the software when they download the app. The app developer would typically have an End User Licence Agreement (EULA) that will give people the right to use the app under agreed terms. For example, clauses in the agreement might restrict users from modifying the app.

Both Apple and Google’s app stores previously made users agree to a standard EULA when a customer downloaded an app. However, Apple and Google now allow marketers to use their own EULA to make sure developers can protect their software.

App Developers

By default, the app developer will own copyright protection over the app coding because they constructed the codes. Depending on how you want to use the app, you will need to take different steps to ensure that you have a lawful right to use it. When you engage a developer to build customised software, such as a data management app for your construction business, it is important to distinguish what rights they will be giving you over the app once it’s fully developed. Specifically, whether you will have full ownership of the software or merely a licence to use it. 

Full Ownership

Having full ownership over the software means that all intellectual property generated in the process of developing the app will be assigned to you when it’s finished. This is usually laid out in the intellectual property clause of a Development Agreement or in a separate IP Assignment Agreement. Having full ownership means that you can to use the software in any way you wish. This includes re-building or modifying the app without notifying the original developer.


On the other hand, if you make an agreement to obtain a license to use the final software, you need to be mindful that any ideas you come up with to modify the software may not be protected. It is important to remember that copyright protects only the material expression of an idea and not the idea itself. Therefore, when the developer translates your idea into the live coding of the app, they will have ownership over the software unless you agree otherwise.

Key Takeaways

Even if you come up with the idea for your app, you may not have copyright over the final product. If you hire a developer to create the coding for your app, they will likely own the copyright. As such, when engaging a developer to build an app for you, it is important for you and your developer to have a Development Agreement of some kind that will transfer the intellectual property to you when the app is complete. 

If you have any questions or need to develop a Development Agreement or IP Assignment Agreement, you can contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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