It’s the iPhone Application developer’s worst (and increasingly justified) fear: Spending significant time, money, and resources building an app only to have it rejected or, worse, pulled from the App Store for alleged legal violations. Carefully navigating the legal landscape in which app development operates is therefore essential to launching and maintaining a successful


Application. Prudence dictates being mindful of the common legal pitfalls to iPhone application development before and during the development process – and not after – when it is often too late. By examining the iPhone SDK Agreement, Apple’s End User License Agreement, and federal copyright and trademark registration, this article provides an introductory overview of the common legal issues surrounding iPhone Application development and the measures developers can adopt to minimize liability and maximize the protection of their intellectual property rights Sci Burg.

The iPhone SDK Agreement

Apple’s iPhone SDK Agreement imposes several important legal requirements, the most notable of which include Privacy laws: Developers must comply with all state, federal, and international privacy laws regarding user data collection and picture or voice capture. Accordingly, personal information collected from a user may not be disseminated without the user’s consent; the unauthorized use of a user’s name or likeness for gain is prohibited. A user’s voice may not be recorded without a conspicuously displayed notice indicating that a recording is taking place. Copyrights in music and Content:

Any music incorporated into your Application must be wholly owned by you or licensed to you on an entirely “paid-up” basis. (Such a license should provide that the one-time, lump-sum payment is final and that you are released from any further payment obligations to the Licensor, no matter how successful the Application becomes.) Further, all Content in your Application must be owned or used by you with the owner’s permission. If you are using Content other than music under a license, the license should state the royalty terms, if any, resulting from any sales of your Application.

Objectionable Content and Materials: Applications may not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive, defamatory, or other Content that Apple deems objectionable. What is “objectionable” is a matter of Apple’s reasonable discretion; legal challenges to a rejection of your Application on this basis will prove difficult. Free and open-source Software: Applications that include Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) must comply with all applicable FOSS licensing terms. The SDK Agreement also requires (perhaps superfluously) that your use of FOSS may not infect the SDK itself.


Due to its “viral” nature, you need to be careful when using open-source code that is subject to a restrictive open-source license if you want to incorporate it into your proprietary software safely. For instance, the GNU General Public License (GPL) terms require that any derivative work containing GPL code be subject to the GPL, rendering the resulting software “open” and the source code publicly available. Not only will any trade secrets in any code carrying a GPL license be forcibly disclosed, but others may freely copy and distribute your source code, give it away for free, or even create a competing product using your code. The viral nature of restrictive open-source licenses can have a devastating impact on your company’s intellectual property assets.

End User License Agreement

Applications made available through the App Store are subject to Apple’s Licensed Application End User License Agreement (“EULA”) unless the end-user enters a valid EULA with the developer. The following provisions of Apple’s EULA are of particular note and should be adopted should you use your EULA:

Disclaimer of warranty: This provision states that the Application is being provided “as-is” without any express or implied warranties regarding the Application’s quality, performance, effectiveness, or reliability. In those jurisdictions where warranty disclaimers are enforceable, such a provision protects the Licensor from potential legal claims arising from using the Application, as the Licensor makes no promises of any kind.