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My friend recently received an email regarding copyright infringement of app title in the app store. What surprises him is that, that company is asking for compensation from him individually, or would file a legal complaint.

I am wondering if this is possible. I mean, when copyright infringement takes place in the app store, is it legitimate to ask for compensation from that individual?

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    Your friend took something from them, why would your friend think they wouldn't have to compensate for that? – Nij Nov 30 '16 at 17:49
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    What country is this in? In the United States, titles and product names are not eligible for copyright because they are too short. You could be committing trademark infringement, by causing confusion about the identity or source of a product, but that is a completely different issue. Are you sure the email makes a copyright complaint? – apsillers Nov 30 '16 at 19:18
  • @Nij Hm... I guess what he is thinking is that, the worst case is probably the app being removed by the app store. And the title copyright is kind of in the grey region. – zeroflaw Nov 30 '16 at 23:37
  • @apsillers Thanks for your document. Sorry that maybe i am confused. I think you are probably pointing the right thing - 'Trademark infringement'. In that case, is it legitimate? (i will change my question after the verification) – zeroflaw Nov 30 '16 at 23:40
  • @apsillers it is an asian receiving email from a probably non-asian... by the way, it is app-store related. – zeroflaw Dec 1 '16 at 0:32
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Be aware that there are lots of scammers around who make untrue threats to make you pay money. There might be hundreds of developers who got a very similar email from the same person.

It is very, very unlikely that the title of an app would constitute copyright infringement. Trademark violation perhaps, but not copyright infringement. Even if it did, the normal steps would be send a DMCA notice to Apple, and then either be happy that your app is gone, or to sue you. Asking for payment seems very dodgy.

I would first make sure that there is a legitimate business asking for money, with a legitimate copyright. Preferably a business older than the title of the app. And there must be no payment unless you get a written statement of which copyright they own (so you can sue them for fraud if they are lying), and a guarantee that there will be no further action. "Pay me or I take you to court" alone means they can still take you to court after paying.

Also remember that "copyright" is about the right to copy. If you use the same application name as somebody else by coincidence, that's not copying. For copyright infringement, you must have actually copied something. (Of course you can be sued and lose if someone convinces a judge that you copied, even if you didn't).

  • Your words are more practical. "the normal steps would be send a DMCA notice to Apple ..." Thank you. – zeroflaw Dec 3 '16 at 12:12
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Copyright infringement is a legal issue.

The injured party is entitled to seek damages from the alleged infringer: either actual damages or a statutory amount per copy (i.e. per download). Unless the infringer agrees to pay they need to go to court to get the money. Whether this is worthwhile for them depends on how easy it is to prove the infringement, the amount what they expect to gain, their assessment of the infringer's ability to pay without going broke and how much it costs to pursue. "What they expect to gain" may include publicity: if they think that pursuing the infringer sends a message to others they may do it even at a cost.

Copyright infringement is also a criminal matter where the state can seek criminal sanctions like fines and jail time.

Your friend should hire a lawyer.

  • Thank you for your information. Allow me to ask a little more, if he removes the app from the app-store immediately, is the case still valid? From what he told me, the 'injured party' seems insisting on the compensation. – zeroflaw Dec 1 '16 at 0:36
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    Yes, he is liable for compensation for the breach - he is likely to trigger a criminal case if the infringement is ongoing. – Dale M Dec 1 '16 at 1:54

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