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What every Shopify theme developer and expert needs to know about theme registration

What every Shopify theme developer and expert needs to know about theme registration

In the Shopify world, there are thousands of talented designers and developers who help merchants get their stores up and running or make customizations.

If you’re one of these developers, designers, agencies or experts, then you already know the key role you play in the Shopify ecosystem.

However, what you might not be aware of is how licensing and registration works with Shopify themes — so here’s a quick starter on the basics.

One store per purchase, please

  • Keep in mind that, per both Shopify’s terms and conditions and most theme developers’ (including Out of the Sandbox’s terms), a single Shopify theme license can be used on only a single store.
  • This means if you purchase a theme for a client’s store, you can use it on that store — but only that store.
  • Using that same theme purchase on another store, even if you’ve made modifications to the theme, is against the terms and conditions. It could also result in serious legal issues down the road for both you and your client.
  • This includes cases where you’re creating stores for clients that may run multiple stores under the same brand name, such as specific stores meant for different countries, languages or currencies.
  • Clients that have more than one store name will always need separate licenses.
  • Basically, if the two stores have different text before “” in the URL of the admin, you’ll need to purchase a second license — even if it’s the same company or store name.

Shopify theme registration

Bringing value to developers

That said, most agencies and developers bring incredible value to the Shopify community, so there are a few ways to make it easier to purchase valid licenses to our themes while still improving your bottom line as a small business.

  • Consider joining our Shopify theme affiliate program. For each properly recorded theme purchase, you’ll receive a commission of 15 percent of the total purchase price. For best results with tracking and registration, we recommend purchasing the theme under the client’s email address.
  • Repeat customers are also eligible for special offers, which are typically included in purchase receipts. Look for those to save some additional money.
  • Developers are also welcome to take advantage of any special offers Out of the Sandbox uses throughout the year, including in conjunction with the affiliate program (though keep in mind this will slightly reduce your commission).
  • Another way to run a successful Shopify customization or design business is to simply purchase the theme on behalf of your customer and then include the purchase price as part of your service cost. Here again, we recommend using the clients’ email address, but this can be a great way to improve your margins even more.

Addressing licensing issues

If you’re a developer and aren’t sure if your client themes are properly licensed, we recommend that you work to resolve the issue as quickly as possible:

  • Search your email and other records for receipts for all purchases you’ve made for Out of the Sandbox.
  • Match each receipt to each client you’ve worked with over the years.
  • If you still have access to you client’s store backend, you may want to consider installing our Shopify theme updater app and registering the theme with the email address you used to place the order.
  • Otherwise, if you can’t make this update yourself, you may want to reach out to the client and let them know what email address to use and encourage them to register. 
  • Registering client themes is now an important pre-emptive way to ensure their license is not “stolen” and that the app’s theme update feature can be accessed in the future.

It’s worth noting that, despite its name and main function, the theme updater app does not require you or your client to update their theme. It also doesn’t touch any code or affect the store unless you or the client click the registration or update button.

In some cases, you, as a Shopify professional, may want to advise your client against updating their theme without your assistance. But even if a client accidentally attempts to update the theme, not to worry, because the app will add the updated version as an unpublished theme without affecting the live site.

Working with clients on theme updates, including ones initiated by the app, is a great way to continue your business relationship, provide ongoing touchpoints and generate additional service revenue as well.

We always recommend making a backup of client themes periodically so they can be restored in case of an accidental update or other issue.

If you find you’ve only made one theme purchase — or can’t find a few — then most likely at least some of your clients may be using unlicensed themes. This can prove problematic for a variety of reasons:

  • First, your client is using intellectual property that doesn’t belong to them — possibly without even knowing it. They put their trust in you as a Shopify expert and trusted that their store is on the up and up.
  • If the client contacts Out of the Sandbox by themselves and a theme license is found to be invalid or a copy of another one in use elsewhere, they may need to purchase the theme again. They then be advised to contact you requesting a refund for the purchase price and you could be liable for that cost.
  • Stores that are found to be using unlicensed themes may received notices or even be shut down by Shopify — and a client who trusted that their developer provided a properly licensed theme likely won’t be happy and will contact you about the issue.

Shopify theme registration

If you realize that one or more of your clients’ stores are using invalid licenses, we suggest taking the following steps to resolve it as soon as possible:

  • First verify that the client has not already registered their theme or purchased a second license.
  • Then purchase a valid license for each store that does not have have one. For best results, this purchase should be made using your client’s primary email address and not yours. You are welcome to use special offers or affiliate links to make these purchases.
  • Once a valid license is purchased, protect that purchase by registering the theme for your client if you have access to their Shopify backend.
  • If not, reach out to each client and advise them of the advantages of registering their theme and let them know what email address to use.

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