Can Someone Steal My Mobile iOS App Idea?

Posted by Davzo Inc

Posted in Startup

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A simple answer would be “yes”, but things are a bit more complicated than that. Unless you are a programmer yourself, you will have to work with an iOS mobile app development company to bring your app idea to life. This naturally raises concerns. Won’t they try to cash in on your idea? What guarantee do you have that they won’t try to steal it?

Before looking at some of the practical ways in which you can protect your mobile iOS app idea from theft, it’s important to understand that a great idea isn’t enough to make a great app. The success of your app depends on how well the app is designed, coded, implemented, and marketed. At the end of the day, an idea is only an idea. Mobile app ideas in themselves are not worth much unless they are acted upon, unless they are turned into well-built and engaging apps.

Copyright, Trademark, or Patent?

iOS apps are considered intellectual property, so it is possible to protect your app by securing copyright, trademark, or even a patent for it.

  • A copyright covers the source code, graphics, text, and the audio-visual content of your app and grants you the right to choose who can copy, modify, or distribute your app.
  • A trademark, on the other hand, protects your app logo and name, so that competitors cannot use them to capitalize on your success.
  • A patent gives you the right to prohibit others from copying your patented app or parts of it, including certain features.

Securing a copyright, trademark, or patent is possible once the app has been built and released. It is not possible, however, to obtain a copyright, trademark, or patent on your app idea alone. If you want to protect your app idea, you have to look beyond these traditional methods of protecting intellectual property.

Protecting Your iOS App Idea – Your Options

If you are concerned that your app idea is so good that it may be stolen, there are a few things you can do, but it’s crucial to do them before the development phase actually begins.

  • Hire a reputable iOS app development company

    Established developers cannot afford to steal your app idea. The risks they are incurring doing so outweigh the benefits they can derive from the theft. Even if the app idea itself is outstanding, they still have to build the app, publish it, and market it, so there’s no guarantee that they will make any money with it. And while this goes on, you can raise an outcry on social media and get their public relations team into trouble. Researching your app development company before handing them over your app idea doesn’t have to be a boring or time-consuming process. Assess the quality of their website and portfolio, check their social activity, and find out what past clients had to say about them. You can even try some of the apps they have developed by grabbing them from the App Store. - Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with your app developer

    Offered by most reputable iOS app developers, a Non-Disclosure Agreement legally compels the developer to keep your iOS app idea secret. An NDA can also help you retain the rights to your app.

    It is important to understand, however, that an iOS app development company may not agree to sign an NDA if you don’t provide them with enough information about your app. In other words, if you are merely looking for a development cost estimate without offering them the promise of a commitment, they have nothing to gain signing an NDA.

    Before signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement, there are a few things you should know:

    1. Both you and the developer have to be at least 18 years old for the NDA to be legally enforceable.
    2. The NDA does not prevent the developer from building an app that is similar or even identical to your own if another individual or company comes to them with the same idea while they are working on your app.
    3. The NDA should protect both you and the app developer, so be wary of one-sided forms developers may draw to protect only their interests.
    4. NDAs usually have a time limit of two to five years, and are seldom indefinite.
    5. Developers are more willing to sign an NDA if you are a promising startup or an established brand.
  • Hire an intellectual property lawyer

    An intellectual property lawyer isn’t cheap, but if you are about to pour thousands of dollars into a major iOS app development project, it can be a sound investment. A lawyer can prevent all manner of legal problems, as well as help you secure copyright, trademark, or even a patent for your app, should that be necessary. What’s more, a lawyer can ensure that the NDA you sign is safe and cannot be used against you later on.

  • Don’t share your app idea with everyone

    During the mobile iOS app developer screening phase, and especially if you begin your search for a developer on freelancer websites such as or, you don’t have to share all the details about your app. Give potential developers the broad outline of your app, and they should be able to give you a good estimate. Be more specific only after you find a mobile app development company whose good reputation and promising services have convinced you to choose them for your project.

The Bottom Line

While in theory app ideas can be stolen, you can prevent this from happening by choosing to entrust your app idea to a reputable iOS app development company with a strong online presence and a favorable track record. For such a company, the benefits of stealing your app idea do not justify the risks they are taking, and that in itself is the best protection you can get. Signing an NDA can further limit your risks. Hiring an intellectual property attorney, on the other hand, can be expensive and so is best left to major app development projects for highly competitive industries.

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