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Creating a gaming app

Development of gaming mobile apps is a hot topic following the unexpected success of games such as ‘Angry Birds’. Mobile apps are much cheaper and quicker to develop than traditional computer games and can generate huge revenues – it is estimated that Angry Birds generated $106 million in 2011.

June 2012

We have set out below a list of top tips of issues that every business wishing to develop a gaming app needs to look out for. Happy developing!

Intellectual Property (IP)

Do you own the IP in the software for your app?
If you are using a third party developer, make sure you obtain the IP in the app software by including an ‘assignment’ of this IP in your contract with your developers. If you are only getting a licence from the developer, make sure it is perpetual and that you have access to the code in the event of the developer’s insolvency – this is done by the developer putting your code in ‘escrow’ with a trusted third party such as the National Computing Centre (NCC).

open source software

Do you know if 'open source' software is included in your app?
'Open source software' is software which is freely shared in the development community but which is still used under specific license terms. These terms vary depending on the software being used. Some require any improvements to that shared software also to be disclosed to the development community (it’s kind of hippy) so you need to be sure that by including particular open source software, you are not then obliged to give away your ‘crown jewels’ (the coding behind your app).

Does your app contain music?
Assuming you haven’t commissioned a composer to write the music for your app, then you will need to check you are licensed to use the music and that the licence covers your intended usage. This is most commonly covered by a term in your agreement with an app development company that it has obtained these rights. Fees for the music should be a one-off payment.

Have you protected your gaming brand by registering it as a trade mark/copyright?
music notesThe name of your game should be protected with a registered trade mark in the key territories in which you are selling your game in the correct classes (which as a minimum must include class 41). You should also run a trade mark search to check if the name of your game infringes someone else’s existing trade mark. This can be done by consulting a trade mark lawyer or trade mark agent.

You do not need to register your copyright in any country in Europe as it arises automatically without a registration requirement but in other countries such as the US this may be advisable in order to enforce your rights.

Apple agreement

Have you read the iPhone development agreement (or other android development agreement)?
In addition to the terms you would expect around commission, these agreements contain less expected restrictions such as what you may do with user data. Read the small print!

Privacy rules

Do you know what data your app collects?
Have you flagged this to users clearly in your terms and conditions that apply to the app when downloaded particularly if you are sharing it with third parties?

You should make sure your app doesn’t contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive, objectionable or defamatory content – this is a term of all iPhone and android platform agreements.

Apple’s iOS and android providers also cover certain privacy concerns in their ts and cs around use of sensitive user data so make sure your app does not breach those terms.

Ts and Cs

Terms & conditions

You will need to check your ts and cs contain the usual disclaimers that one would expect in a software licence namely that the app is being provided 'as is' and without any warranty as to performance. This may not be enforceable in every jurisdiction.

You need to be upfront about charges for your apps, this must be made clear. Be extra vigilant about drafting your ts and cs very clearly if your app is aimed at kids. Be particularly careful if aiming your apps at kids in the US as the Federal Trade Commission has levied million dollar fines for not complying with the rules on this which require parental consent in some circumstances. Check also that the rating of the game is correct and if the game is an adult game that the registration process is sufficiently sophisticated to weed out any purchases by kids.

If you have any questions on this article please contact us.

Creating a gaming app

"Assuming you haven’t commissioned a composer to write the music for your app, then you will need to check you are licensed to use the music and that the licence covers your intended usage."