Google Play policies protect your intellectual property (IP) as well as that of other app developers and content creators in the store. The policies and their enforcements help ensure proper use of copyright, trademarks, and developer identity in Google Play.
As an app developer, these IP policies benefit you. At the same time, it's your responsibility to ensure that your app does not violate the IP of other developers or content creators. Violations of IP-related policy may result in suspension of your apps from the store and termination of your developer account.
This document introduces several key areas of IP-related policy that you should understand before publishing on Google Play. In each area you'll find best practices and examples to help you avoid common types of mistakes and violations.
Copyright is the legal right granted to an author or creator for a literary, dramatic or artistic piece of work. As soon as you create an original piece of work and fix it in a tangible medium, the work is automatically protected by copyright law and you are the owner of the copyright. Likewise, when other people create content, they may own the copyrights for those works.
How to report infringements
If you feel your copyright is being infringed, you may file a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) request. Please see copyright procedures for more information.
Copyright infringement is an improper or unauthorized use of a copyrighted work. If you publish an app in Google Play that uses another party's copyrighted works improperly or without permission, your apps can be suspended and your developer account terminated.
As you design your app and prepare for publishing, make sure to review Google Play policies and analyze all of your content. If your app uses or links to another party's original work, make sure that your app is not infringing on copyright. Not all uses of another party’s work are infringements on copyright, and the rules vary by country and can be complex.
If you are unsure whether your use of another party's work infringes on a copyright, consider getting legal advice before publishing, or simply request permission to use the work from the copyright owner.
Here are some guidelines to help you avoid copyright infringement policy violations:
- Respect copyright laws—Do not let your app infringe on the copyrights of others. That includes linking to other apps or web sites that contain obviously infringing material (please refer to the Spam in WebViews guidelines), and using icons or images that are obvious infringements.
- Know your app's content—Before you publish, look for content that may be protected by trademark or copyright in your app and get legal advice if necessary. Protected work could typically include product names, brands, images, music, and similar works.
- Create original work—If you’re not sure whether something will violate another party's copyright, the safest approach is to create something that's completely original, such as images or audio that you’ve created yourself. When you create your own original content, you rarely have to worry about infringing on existing copyright.
- Ask permission to use copyrighted work—If you want to use another party's copyrighted work in your app, you should ask for permission from the work's creator or copyright owner and include appropriate copyright attribution.
A common misunderstanding is believing that your app may use copyrighted content without permission, provided that you clearly indicate that your app is not the "official" app that readers may be familiar with. That is not the case. Even if you let users know that your app is "unofficial", it still violates Google Play policies if it uses or links to copyrighted content without permission. Also, this type of "unofficial" app may violate impersonation policies.
The example app below shows an app that uses screenshots/images of known artists without their authorization and lists popular songs. The combination of these may induce users to download music ringtones that infringe on copyright. This is a violation of Google Play policy.
Impersonation is when an app attempts to imply a relationship to another app or developer, where no relationship actually exists.
For example, if your app displays the brand, icon, or title from another app in order to get to users to download your app, you are leading users to believe that your app is developed by the same entity as the other app and offers similar content or experience. This is an impersonation of the other app and developer, and it is a violation of Google Play policy. If you publish apps that violate impersonation policies, your apps can be suspended and your developer account terminated.
No matter what type of app you offer or what your motivation, don’t try to imply an endorsement or relationship to another company or product where none exists. Don’t try to establish your app as the "official" version of another party's work by prominently featuring their brand names or trademarks in your app title or description.
Even if your app description states that your app is an "unofficial" version, the use of the other app's branding, trademarks, and other content still can violate policy by presenting content that isn’t yours.
Here are some guidelines:
- Don't pretend to be someone else— Don't represent that your content is produced by another company or organization if that is not the case.
- Don't support infringing sites or apps— Don't divert users or provide links to any other site that mimics Google Play or represents itself as another application or service.
- Don't use another app's branding— Don’t try to pass off your app as the official version of someone else’s property by using a person or entity (or brand) name in your app title or description.
Below is an example of an "unofficial" app that violates Google Play policy by impersonating another company and an existing product. Specifically:
- The example app has a name and icon that appear to be impersonating an existing product.
- The example developer name implies an endorsement or relationship to another company and their products where none exists.
A trademark is a brand that uniquely identifies a product and distinguishes it from other products. It can be a word, name, symbol, or combination of those that is intended to identify the source of the product. A trademark is specifically acquired by a company or other entity through a legal process and once acquired gives the owner exclusive rights to the trademark usage.
How to report infringements
If you feel your trademark is being infringed, you can request a content review. See Removing content from Google for more information.
Trademark infringement is improper or unauthorized use of a trademark. Google Play policies prohibit apps that infringe trademarks. If you publish apps in Google Play that use another party's trademarks, your apps can be suspended and your developer account terminated.
As you design your app and prepare for publishing, make sure to review Google Play policies and analyze all of your content. If your app uses a trademark not owned by you, or if you are not sure whether a brand is a trademark, you should get legal advice before publishing. As with copyright, the rules vary by country and can be complex.
Here are some guidelines for avoiding trademark infringement policy violations:
- Understand and follow trademark laws—Don't let your app infringe on the trademarks of others.
- Know your app's content—Before you publish, look for brands and potential trademarks used in your app and store listing and get legal advice if necessary.
- Use a distinct name—Don't give your app a name that is confusingly similar to another company's trademark.
- Don't use trademarks to imply a relationship—Don't describe your app using another company's trademarks in a way that implies an endorsement by or affiliation with the other company.
- Use a distinct app icon and logo—Don't use a modified version of another company’s trademarked logo.
A common misunderstanding is believing that your app may use a brand or trademark without permission, provided you clearly indicate that the app is not the "official" or original app. That is not the case. Even if you let users know that your app is "unofficial", it still violates Google Play policies if it uses another party's trademarks. Also, this type of "unofficial" app may violate impersonation policies.
Below is an example app that violates Google Play policies by infringing on another party's trademarks. Specifically:
- The example app name is confusingly similar to another party's trademark.
- The example app icon is a modified version of a another party's logo.
DDA 4.4 Prohibited Actions
When you publish an app on Google Play, you agree to the terms of the Developer Distribution Agreement (DDA). Section 4.4 of the DDA prohibits certain types of actions on your part. For reference, you agree that you will not engage in any activity with the Market, including the development or distribution of Products, that interferes with, disrupts, damages, or accesses in an unauthorized manner the devices, servers, networks, or other properties or services of any third party including, but not limited to, Android users, Google or any mobile network operator.
For details, please refer to the complete Developer Distribution Agreement.