App due diligence - how to tell if an app is legitimate/ infringes copyright

Buying an app is similar to buying a website, with a few key differences. You’ll want to conduct due diligence for your purchase, both by carefully examining the app and by finding other information about the application and the seller.

Summary:

  • Download and test the app, make sure it works as you expect and as is claimed
  • Investigate the seller and any other apps that they have plus previous selling history on Flippa and reviews in app stores
  • Ensure that evidence of ownership or purchase from another source code/ app development/ framework platform is provided.

Detail:

In order to fully review an app, both in-app and off-app research should be conducted.

In-app research

  • Read the app’s listing very carefully.

  • Download the application and test it on your own device.

  • Ask any questions you have about the listing data in the Comments section of the listing or via Private Messages.

  • Ask the seller how much time they’ve put into the app, and how much maintenance it requires. If they have outsourced some of the development work for the app, find out if the developer(s) will agree to work with the new owner.

  • If the app is a reskin, check to see if the owner holds the proper license to be using the template they have used to create the app.
  • If the app has been purchased from another party or platform/ provider, insist that the seller provides full purchase codes.

Off-app research

  • Google the name of the seller and the app to check for red flags. If you see other very similar apps the best course of action is to stay away or carefully check with the seller that what they are selling does not infringe the IP of the other app developers.

  • Skype or call the seller to discuss the sale.

  • RipOffReport should reveal if the app or business has been mentioned in any scams.

  • Pacer.gov will reveal details of any legal action taken against the seller or business.

  • If the seller is local, or the value of the transaction is large, arrange to meet with them to discuss or view further details of the app.

Performing due diligence is vital to make sure that you do not purchase an app that infringes another person's copyright. If it does it is likely to be removed or banned from app stores and you may be contacted by the other party wanting to take further steps with regards to the infringement. 

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