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Cease and Desist Letters: Everything You Need To Know

Updated: March 28, 2023
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What Is a Cease and Desist Letter?

A cease and desist letter requests that the recipient stop engaging in a specific action and avoid repeating it in the future. The letter may also warn of legal action that the sender plans to take if the recipient doesn't abide by the request.

Also known as a cease and desist notice, this type of letter can be sent to an individual or an organization. In most cases, these notices address legal infringements or copyright or other intellectual property (IP) issues.

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Eight Reasons to Send a Cease and Desist Letter

Writing a cease and desist letter can help you exercise your legal rights in a wide range of situations. Consider sending a notice for any of these reasons:

  • Breach of contract: Inform another party that they have violated a valid agreement.
  • Copyright infringement: Demand that an individual or organization stop reproducing your copyrighted material without your permission.
  • Debt collection: Request that a creditor stop attempting to collect a past-due debt, especially over the phone.
  • Defamation or slander: Urge another party to stop making or publishing false statements about you or your organization.
  • Harassment: Entreat another party to cease inappropriate behaviors, such as sexual harassment or personal attacks.
  • IP infringement: Demand that another party stop using your IP without your permission.
  • Nondisclosure agreement (NDA) violation: Inform another party that they have failed to comply with a valid NDA.
  • Trademark or patent infringement: Give notice that another party must stop using a registered trademark or patent that they don't own.

Here is additional information about cease and desist letters.

When Should You Write a Cease and Desist Letter?

You can send a cease and desist letter immediately after obtaining documentation of the infringement or violation. In most cases, it's best to take action quickly so you can prevent the other party from continuing to infringe on your legal rights.

If the other party acknowledges your request and stops the action in question, then you don't have to do anything else to resolve the situation. However, if the other party ignores your request or refuses to stop, you may have to get legal help or pursue litigation.

How To Write a Cease and Desist Letter

There's no required template for a cease and desist letter, but most include some standard information. Use these recommendations to outline your cease and desist letter:

  1. Include all relevant contact information. List your legal name and contact information, including address, phone number, and email address, then list the recipient's legal name and contact information.
  2. Document the offending actions. For example, state the publication date related to the copyright infringement or the circumstances surrounding the NDA violation. You can also include account numbers if you're referring to a debt collection issue or incident dates if you're discussing a harassment issue.
  3. State your request for the other party to stop the action and avoid repeating it in the future.
  4. Inform the other party that you intend to take legal action if they refuse to stop or if they continue.
  5. Indicate the amount of time the other party has to comply. For example, you might give them 10 business days to comply or respond.

Here is an article about writing a cease and desist letter.


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Who Can Send a Cease and Desist Notice?

Anyone has the power to send a cease and desist letter. If another party has violated your legal rights, you can issue a notice personally or on behalf of your organization.

Legally, you don't have to hire an attorney to send a cease and desist letter for you. However, working with an attorney may improve the outcome of your situation. A lawyer can help by:

  • Evaluating your claim and advising whether the other party has violated your rights
  • Writing and sending the letter on your behalf to add more credibility to your request
  • Advising you about legal actions you may be able to pursue due to continued violations

How Do You Send a Cease and Desist Letter?

You can send a cease and desist letter by email for convenience. However, most legal experts recommend sending a physical copy of the letter by mail. Opt for certified mail so you have a record of when you sent the letter and a receipt of when the other party received it.

If the other party resides in your local area, you may be able to use a process server to deliver the letter instead. Courts license process servers to deliver legal documents in person.

Can You Enforce a Cease and Desist Notice?

A cease and desist letter doesn't serve as a legal document. Instead, it's a preliminary warning of future legal actions. If you send this type of notice and the recipient doesn't comply, however, you can move forward with the litigation you outlined in your letter.

What to Do If You Receive a Cease and Desist Letter

If you receive a cease and desist letter, take the time to read and respond to it carefully. Use these steps as a guide:

  1. Refrain from discussing the letter or the underlying issues with anyone except your attorney. Avoid posting or asking for advice about the situation online, as your posts could be used against you.
  2. Keep a copy of the letter and collect evidence that supports your perspective.
  3. If you or your attorney thinks the other party has a strong case, consider complying with the letter.
  4. If you or your attorney thinks you have a stronger case, consider replying with a refusal or requesting further documentation. You might also ask your attorney to file for a summary judgment in your favor.

What Is a Cease and Desist Order?

Also known as an injunction, a cease and desist order is legally binding. Only a judge or a government agency can issue this type of order to demand that the recipient stop the stated action.

This type of order generally follows a cease and desist letter if the recipient fails to comply with the original letter. In most cases, you can request this type of order if you can show that another person or organization has violated a mutual contract, infringed on your trademark, or targeted you for harassment.

How Long Do Cease and Desist Orders Last?

A cease and desist order can be temporary or permanent, and the length varies depending on the situation. These guidelines cover most cases:

  • Temporary cease and desist orders: Often last until the trial ends or until the parties reach a settlement
  • Permanent cease and desist orders: Usually issued after a trial concludes or when the parties reach a settlement

What to Do If You Receive a Cease and Desist Order

Since a cease and desist order is a legal document, it's important to take the order seriously. To respond, follow these steps:

  1. Ask your attorney to review the order.
  2. If your attorney believes the other party has a strong case, comply with the order. Document the steps you've taken.
  3. If your attorney believes you have a strong case, consider taking legal action or pursuing a trial.

Whether you want to protect your legal rights or you need assistance responding to a cease and desist letter, the Contracts Counsel team is at your service. Get a free proposal and take the first step toward drafting a legal document today.

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