Centre for Internet & Society

A steady rise in smart phone penetration in India has led to a corresponding growth of the mobile application development industry. Mobile application development like all technological implementations is subject to intellectual property issues. However, very little is understood about the effect of existing patent and copyright law on this niche industry. I aim to develop an understanding of the mobile applications industry, and how it is governed by current Indian patent and copyright regime. I will also use this research to inform the optimal ways in which policymakers may ensure the continual emergence of the mobile applications industry. This blog post lays down a document delineating the research methodology and research questions within the Intellectual Property in Mobile Application Development in India chapter under the Pervasive Technologies Project. The document is a work in progress.

Introduction to the “Intellectual Property in Mobile Application Development” chapter


Software companies in India were traditionally operating on the software as a service (SAAS model). Service contracts signed within this industry ensured that all IPR developed during a project was owned by the client. With the advent of the smart-phone, many software developers left SAAS enterprises in pursuit of developing their own mobile application products (“mobile apps”). Several developers began to aggressively acquire or create patent portfolios around their products.1 However, it has been observed that mobile apps continue to be increasingly produced in imitation of other products or services or by more discrete means of copying source code or content without the right to do so.


The overall objective of this chapter is to develop a holistic picture of the mobile apps development ecosystem in India in order to portray the decisions developers are making within their practice as a function of how India's intellectual property regime operates within this ecosystem. I will also examine whether existing regimes of intellectual property interact inhibit or accelerate the growth of the mobile applications development ecosystem in India, especially in conjunction with market and cultural forces arising as a result.


Research Questions and Methodology


1. What are the decisions developers are making within their practice in terms of location of their enterprise and clients, scale of audience, funding, business models and mobile apps marketplace (app stores) ?

    1.1. Who is the primary actor in the mobile applications development cycle in India?

    Method: Analysis of the quantitative research conducted by Samantha Cassar across 267 mobile applications developers.2

                    Create a new survey instrument and supplement with relevant external expert interviews obtained from Samantha Cassar's qualitative research.

    • The interviews shall be conducted with respondents based out of Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad

    • The exercise targets 10 developers in each city

The analysis of the interviews and results of Samantha's web survey shall be verified by an expert well-versed with the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data

              1.2 Is the mobile apps marketplace organically developing into a Bazaar model, or a Cathedral model?

       Method: Literature review

               1.3. What are the contractual terms between the enterprise and the employee? What is the typical nature of agreements in the mobile apps development industry between enterprise-employee and enterprise-  client?


            Method: Analysis of the quantitative research conducted by Samantha Cassar and supplement with relevent external expert interviews obtained from her qualitative research.


    1. What is the nature of innovation emerging from the mobile app industry? What is the awareness of the mobile applications developer and its enterprise of rules concerning code, content and design? How does re-use and sharing of code, content and design occur in the mobile application developer ecosystem ? What is the perceived impact of the Indian IPR regime on the aforementioned aspects? Finally, do the emerging trends in re-use and sharing of code run afoul of Indian IP law?

       Method: Analysis of Indian Patent and Copyright regime to assess the legality of prevailing practices in the ecosystem.

                                Analysis of the quantitative research conducted by Samantha Cassar and supplement it with relevant external expert interviews obtained from Samantha's qualitative research.

      3.  The apps marketplace is extremely important since they are the gatekeepers enabling access to apps. What is the nature of the apps marketplace? What are the limitations associated with it ? How do the existing regulatory models intersect with this relatively new marketplace? What is the enforcement carried out by these app stores in terms of IP?

             Method:  Literature review and analysis of the new survey instrument.


           4. How does Indian Copyright law and patent law apply to the mobile applications development ecosystem, in respect of the various business models operating in the industry?
    Literature review

      4.1. The patent regime is grounded on a laboratory model of innovation. What does the niche mobile applications development industry (working on a micro-creativity model of innovation) require differently from the patent regime to foster growth?

      Method: Literature review


      4.2. Similarly, copyright law has a distinct design for digital objects. Examine the design and its suitability to regulate a mobile application.

      Method:  Literature review to trace the development of copyright law. Copyright was designed to regulate a physical book publishing industry. By extending its application to myriad objects, the design has gone through           significant changes.  Also, conduct expert interviews in the field to understand the practice and gather qualitative data.

    1 See Lava aims for 100 mobile apps, available at http://spicyip.com/2013/01/guest-post-lava-aims-for-100-mobile-app.html

    2 Out of 267 respondents, 93 responded in full and 164 responded partially

    3See Question 1.2 of this document

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