Best Practices to Protect Your App Idea From Being Stolen: Tips from Cleveroad

11 Apr 2018
9 min
author avatar
Daria R.

If you are planning or already started to develop your own product, you have to know exactly how to protect a business idea from being stolen or copied. Some people believe that the idea costs nothing unless it's implemented. I have to disappoint them because in real life it doesn't work this way. Without a clear and well-considered strategy, someone can not only copy the idea of your app but also launch it before you and steal your users. If you have a great app idea but still don't know how to protect it, stay with us and we'll teach you the best practices to defend your idea and your business form cloning.  

Current security issues on the market

According to the Arxcan company report, it's a company that provides mobile applications security, 97% of all top Google Play apps and 87% of the top App Store apps were copied for the last few years. These clones bring real harm to businesses and steal potential users which leads to income and market share loss. Here are some of the examples when some popular ideas were cloned:

protect app idea - stolen apps

The most well-known instances of an app copying

  • Yo messenger developers were shocked when they got to know that similar application Yolo steals lots of their customers. 
  • Flappy Bird, one of the brightest examples that got wide media coverage. News portal The Guardian reported that the third of all games published in Appstore in a day are the clones of Flappy Bird. The Flappy Bird phenomenon motivated thousands of developers to create similar games. And the fact that the creator of the original game deleted his app from the store, clones became even more popular. 
  • Uber. The app has such a great business model (service on deliver) that it was not only copied for thousand times but also adopted and applied to many other spheres.

And all these great ideas faced really hard times trying to persuade app stores and judges that the fact of theft has really happened. Because of that, in such a situation, before accusing anyone in a court, make sure that it was really copied. 


Want to create innovative startup but don't know how to promote it with a limited budget? Here are the great 7 ideas to advertise your app for free!

There is a very fine line between copying and inspiration reaching. So you need to understand if an app was copied or was used as a source of inspiration. If the second variant is more obvious, then your chances to prove the fact of copyright infringement are very little.

You have to figure out in what way the app was copied. Was it a name, description, screenshots, or the code of your app? This evidence will be more significant if you have your trademark registered.

How to protect your app idea

Yet, we believe that it's better to use all possible preventive methods and learn how to protect your app idea from being copied before it's been stolen. And first of all, you have to consider what you want to protect: a ready-made technical product, a concept of the product, a technology, an algorithm or a service. And understand on what stage of the development you are at the moment:

  • You have only a bare idea, that's all.
  • The product is under development and you already have a prototype.
  • It's a finished product.

If you need to know the approximate cost of your app but you don't want to contact a development company yet, then watch our video about the cost of an app development and how we make it's estimation.

How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App?

Another factor you have to control is a number of people who have access to your project. In a case, you have only an idea and are looking for partners for your project you can use gentlemen's agreement discussing the details with the potential team members. Gentlemen's agreement is also a way to protect your app idea from being copied during the first initial stages. It's an oral discussion of the information when all the parties agreed not to share the information and not to use it or use the idea by themselves.

The other option to secure an idea is an NDA agreement for software development. What does NDA stand for? Some people underestimate this document, yet it guarantees some degree of security to your data. NDA is an official document that contains all the conditions of data sharing, who and to what extent is responsible for data security, how the data can be used and other terms of the commitment.

An NDA for software development is a great option for a small team or a company. Along with this document, you also need to remember that only a limited number of people should have an access to the information. Thus it will be much easier to control information flows.

Use of an NDA for software contractors in a wise approach which may become the most efficient method to protect your intellectual property. Nevertheless, sometimes a desire to protect an idea may influence negatively on a business development. Let's take a look at some benefits of NDA and cases when it may have negative impacts.

When to sign an NDA

NDA software development agreement guarantees the protection of all your rights on an idea and project during the development stage. All the intellectual properties connected with the project and it's development belongs to you. So if your competitors release a product which somehow is similar to yours because of the data leakage in the company, you have all chances to prove your rights in the court.

NDA agreement for an app development is a must if you hire an off-side developer(s). It's a necessary step that will not only ensure the confidentiality of your idea before it's being launched to the market but also will exclude the possibility of intellectual property unauthorised use after the product launching. The agreement also guarantees that in a case of contractual breach, a hired company (team or a developer) cannot continue developing the product or using the ideas that formed the basis of your product. Here's a list of advantages of an NDA signing provides you with:

what does an nda protect

What pros an NDA gives you

  • Keeps an idea of a project in secret. 
  • Protects your rights on the project and it's idea in a case of information leakage. 
  • Keeps the rights on a project after the release in a case with off-side developers. 
  • Keeps the rights on a product in a case of termination of the contract with off-side vendors. 
  • Protects a product and it's components on the development phase and after it has been published.

When NDA can have negative impact

There are a lot of benefits which has a non disclosure agreement for an app development if compared to the other types of agreement. Yet, it can be not enough or it can have some negative impacts sometimes. Let's find out when exactly.

non disclosure agreement for software development - drawbacks

When an NDA isn't an option

Fundraising stage

A non-disclosure agreement for mobile app can bring you more drawbacks than benefits during this stage. It's very important to keep a balance here. Of course, there is some risk when you share an idea with the potential sponsors. Nevertheless, your stakeholders won't invest in your project if you refuse to tell the details before an NDA signing. What you can do here is to discuss the general concept of a product, fields where it will concern and the technologies that will be applied during the development. You can share the details after the contract has been signed.

Development team hiring stage

During this stage, you will face the same disadvantages of confidentiality. The potential vendors should be informed of the task and stack of work. Although the main concept should be in secret until you sign the agreement. If you hire off-side developers it is better to talk about the advanced technologies and tools, main issues of the development process without too much detail. The Non-Disclosure Agreement has to be signed at the same time as a treaty of Cooperation.

More tips how to protect an idea for an app

It was estimated that about 97% of all mobile apps don't have suitable protection, which makes them more vulnerable for piracy. To prevent such aspects, use our tips to guarantee the security for your product:

how do you protect an app idea

How to protect an idea for an app or a website

Protect yourself with a trademark

It allows you to limit your rivals with the help of symbols, icon, logo or a phrase, connected with your app or company. Moreover, you can register the name of your trademark for all features and services which your application provides. It's not the easiest path, however, it will protect you from the companies that may want to copy your idea. Along with that, a trademark provides additional protection from various legal issues and judicial processes.

Choose an outsource company carefully

Before you choose who you are going to work with, you have to find as much information as possible about your potential vendor. Read feedback about them and contact their customers if it's possible. You can also visit a website Clutch, where you can find a lot of companies and their customers' feedback. Reliable and reputable companies will provide you with such information. The collaboration with professional vendors dramatically reduces the likelihood of idea stealing.


All the pros and cons of freelancers and development agencies are here, in our comprehensive investigation!

Install Google Alerts for an app

Set up notifications for a name and keywords used in your app. You'll get notifications if the system sees anything similar.

Write about your copyrights

If you add the note about it into your app you can dramatically reduce the number of offenders that may want to use your content.

Invest in security of your app

Invest in security of your app, even if it increases the budget. It may seem irrelevant when you just develop your app but you need to keep in mind that the well-considered architecture of your product can help you with the security issues. If your app was created by an amateur, it can be easily hacked! When you hire professionals and build your app in accordance with all the modern technologies and security approaches you can be sure that no one can copy your code!

What to do if someone has already copied your app? If you found a piracy app in the store, you need to inform App Store about it. The stores can lower the rate of the clone or even remove clones. When Flappy Bird problem received wide coverage in mass media, Apple Store and Google Play lowered the positions of the clones. Each store has it's own procedure for such cases. Here are the links you can use to inform Apple App Store, Google Play and Microsoft Windows of the violations and piracy incidents.

Of course, it all sounds scary if you are developing your first app. Yet, with a right preparation, reliable partners and development team you can be sure that your app will stay yours. If you want to keep your ideas secure, drop us a line, we know how to keep secrets!

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog because the next time we'll shed light on custom accounting software development, don't miss it!

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