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What Is a Cease-and-Desist Order?
A cease-and-desist order is a temporary injunction by an administrative agency that requires a specific party to stop certain specified practices. Cease-and-desist orders are used in many areas of the law. Usually, an administrative judge has the discretion to issue this type of order.
There are two different kinds of cease-and-desist orders:
- Summary cease and desist: This is an order issued before a hearing or without any type of judicial proceedings.
- Final cease and desist: This is when the order becomes final. The person who the cease-and-desist order has been placed against must request a hearing within a certain amount of time after the temporary injunction is in place or the order becomes final.
What Is a Cease-and-Desist Letter?
A cease-and-desist letter is a formally written document that communicates to an individual or organization the request to stop a specific action and to also refrain from taking that action in the future. The letter also includes specific demands, such as the action that you want the individual to take and by what date. If the recipient fails to comply with the request in the letter by the specified date, it usually carries a threat of legal repercussions.
Reasons Why You May Want to Send a Cease-and-Desist Letter
There are a number of common scenarios in which someone might want to send a cease-and-desist letter. These include:
- Harassment: You could send a letter demanding that someone stop harassing behaviors. The letter should include specific dates that the harassment occurred, a detailed description of the harassing behavior, and the date at which you will take further legal action if the behavior doesn't stop.
- Trademark infringement: A copyright automatically applies to any work that is written. However, a trademark must be registered in order for it to be legally enforceable. When sending a cease-and-desist letter over trademark infringement, you should include a description of the design that's been infringed upon, the date that you saw the image was used, and the actions that the recipient should take to comply with the letter.
- Copyright infringement: If you believe someone is using your copyrighted work without permission, sending a cease-and-desist letter is the first step you should take to protect yourself. Your letter should include details about the work that was copyrighted, proof that you own the content, and an explanation of how the copyright was infringed upon.
- Debt collections: If you're receiving harassing phone calls from debt collectors, you may want to send a cease-and-desist letter to stop the harassment. Your letter should contain the amount of debt that collectors are pursuing, the account number associated with the debt, and any other documentation to stop the harassment.
What to Include in a Cease-and-Desist Letter
Here is a look at the type of information you should include in a cease-and-desist letter based upon the kind of letter you're sending:
If you're sending a cease-and-desist letter to a debt collection agency that won't stop you, it should include language from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits the collection agency from contacting you by phone. If you're sending a cease-and-desist letter to an individual who's stalking or harassing you, then your letter should tell them that their behavior is uncomfortable, offensive, and threatening. Both types of letters should include the following:
- Unlawful behavior: A description of the type of behavior that the individual or company is engaging in that's unlawful.
- Dates: Specific dates when the harassing behavior took place.
- Location: Where the harassment occurred, or if it took place over the phone.
It's important to always register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), or your cease-and-desist letter may be powerless to stop the other business or party from using it. If your trademark is registered, then your rights are documented. Your letter should include:
- Dates used: Specify the date when the other party first used your trademark.
- Registration number: When you registered your trademark with the USPTO, your trademark was given a registration number that you should include with the letter.
- Registration date: Include the date you registered your trademark.
- Geographic areas: If applicable, include the geographic location where the trademark was used.
If someone is using your work without permission, you can send a cease-and-desist letter demanding they take the content down or stop using it without proper attribution. Unlike trademarks, copyright applies as soon as your idea is written down. Your letter should include:
- The name or description of the work and/or a description of its similarities to what the other party is using
- The date at which the content was first published
- The registration number if you have registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office
- The length of time they have to stop using the content and meet other specified demands
If someone is making false statements, whether they are spoken or published in writing, that have harmed your reputation, character, or business, you can send them a cease-and-desist letter demanding that they stop making those claims. There are two different types of defamation that the law recognizes:
- Libel: False statements that are written.
- Slander: False statements that are spoken.
If you're sending a cease-and-desist letter for defamation, your letter should include:
- The statement that was made by the other party.
- Whether the statement was spoken or published.
- A description of how the statement was misleading.
- A description of the harm you suffered as a result of the defamatory statement.
- Your demands, including the number of days that the other party has to take action and the specific action you want them to take, such as publishing a retraction of their statement or removing all of the content from a website.
Cease-and-Desist Letter Templates
Here are some templates you can use to create your own cease-and-desist letter:
Benefits of Having a Lawyer Send a Cease and Desist
While you can send a cease-and-desist letter on your own using one of the templates above, civil claims can be complex. Even if the verdict is in your favor, the other party could appeal the decision, drawing out the legal process even further. However, if you work with a lawyer and have them send the cease-and-desist letter on your behalf, they can:
- Explain whether your rights have, indeed, been violated, and what options you have for taking legal action.
- Tell you whether a cease-and-desist letter is the most effective and appropriate course of action.
- Write and send the letter on your behalf, making sure everything is properly documented.
In many cases, simply having a lawyer send the letter can cause the other party to take you more seriously. This, alone, could result in a more swift response and an end to the unlawful behavior. If you need help sending a cease-and-desist letter, the team at Contracts Counsel can help. We have a large team of fully vetted lawyers who work in over 30 different industries who can help you craft an effective cease-and-desist letter. Contact us today to get started.
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