A Cease and Desist Letter can help you request that another person or business stop an activity that is harassing or infringing. It states that they will be given a certain amount of time to voluntarily stop or you will take legal action. A cease and desist letter is a document sent to an individual or business to stop purportedly illegal activity (“cease”) and not to restart it (“desist”). The letter may warn that if the recipient does not discontinue specified conduct, or take certain actions, by deadlines set in the letter, that party may be sued. When issued by a public authority, a cease and desist letter, being “a warning of impending judicial enforcement”, is most appropriately called a “cease and desist order”.
Although cease and desist letters are not exclusively used in the area of intellectual property, such letters “are frequently utilized in disputes concerning intellectual property and represent an important feature of the intellectual property law landscape”.The holder of an intellectual property right such as a copyrighted work, a trademark, or a patent, may send the cease and desist letter to inform a third party “of the right holders’ rights, identity, and intentions to enforce the rights”. The letter may merely contain a licensing offeror may be an explicit threat of a lawsuit. A cease and desist letter often triggers licensing negotiations and is a frequent first step towards litigation.
Receiving numerous cease and desist letters may be very costly for the recipient. Each claim in the letters must be evaluated, and it should be decided whether to respond to the letters, “whether or not to obtain an attorney’s opinion letter, prepare for a lawsuit, and perhaps initiate [in case of letters regarding a potential patent infringement] a search for alternatives and the development of design-around technologies”.
Cease and desist letters are sometimes used to intimidate recipients and can be “an effective tool used by corporations to chill the critical speech of gripe sites operators”. A company owning a trademark may send such letter to a gripe site operator alleging a trademark infringement, although the actual use of the trademark by the gripe site operator may fall under a fair use exception (in compliance with, in the U.S., the protection of free speech under the First Amendment).
Use a Cease and Desist Letter if:
- You want to formally tell someone to stop harassing you.
- You’re a victim of copyright or trademark infringement.
- You are a victim of patent infringement.
- A debt collector is harassing you.
- You want to stop a breach of contract.
- Someone is plagiarizing your work.
- You need to stop property or boundary disputes.
Cease and Desist Letters only require a bit of information to make using Rocket Lawyer. The burden of the work is on you do prove that a violation has occurred or that you are being harassed. Gather as much documentation as you can to support your claims to help prove your case should you end up going to court.
Other names for a Cease and Desist Letter:
Cease and Desist Form, Cease and Desist Notice, Stop Harassment Letter
What is a Cease and Desist Letter?
A Cease and Desist Letter is used to attempt to stop an activity before legal action is taken. The activity may be harassment of you or your business, use of your copyrighted or trademarked work, or excessive actions of a debt collector. The letter explains the offensive activity and asks them to voluntary stop. It gives them a time frame for responding and relates that further legal action will be taken if they do not desist.
Reasons to send a Cease and Desist Letter
There are four common reasons that Cease and Desist Letters are used including harassment, copyright infringement, trademark infringement and collection agency harassment. If you’re unsure about whether a Cease and Desist Letter is right for your situation, ask a lawyer.
Harassing behavior may include character assassination, slander, libel and defamation. Harassing behavior may include repeated phone calls, uninvited visits or negative comments to other people. Harassment may be personal or directed towards your business. Before sending a Cease and Desist Letter, you should document what you have done so far to stop the harassment. Also, document instances of harassment should you need the information later.
Some examples of work that may be protected by copyright include art such as music, graphics, sculpture, video or audio productions and literary writing. To be protected, the art must be original. Software and apps are also usually protected as well as original web content. If someone is using your work without permission, you’ll first want to ask them to stop using a trackable method such as an email. If they continue to use your work or do not respond, then you may choose to send a Cease and Desist Letter. Include, with the letter, documentation that proves you own the copyright or created the original work.
Trademark or Patent Infringement
Trademark and patent infringements are often more easily enforceable and to prove. If you end up in court, you’ll need to prove you own the mark and that the good or service offered by the offender could possibly be confused with your trademarked or patented product or service by consumers. Or, that the offender’s product or service is diluting your trademark or patent by distorting the distinctiveness of your product. In this type of situation, you’ll want to carefully document any communications you have with the offender and start building your case to prove that their actions hurt your business. Since a lot may be at risk, you should have a lawyer review the letter before you send it.
Collections Agency Harassment
Even if you owe the debt, you still are protected from harassment. Protection from harassment is outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Examples of harassment from collection agencies include phone calls that abuse or harass any person answering the phone, profane language, threats, publishing non-payment information and calling without identifying themselves. They should not call before 8 am or after 9 pm and cannot visit your workplace. The disadvantage to sending a Cease and Desist Letter is that they may decide to pursue other legal options. However, it may be to your advantage to send the letter if the statute of limitations has expired or the debt is not yours.
What information is needed to write the letter?
Making a Cease and Desist letter using Rocket Lawyer is simple. You just need to submit the following information:
- Names and address of both parties, phone number if available
- Description of activity that prompted the letter
- Days they will have to respond to the letter
- Documents or proof, which can be an image or document
With this information, the letter is automatically generated. Once the letter is created you can edit and share it online. You can also choose to print it or download it. You should keep a copy for your records.
Do I need a lawyer to send a Cease and Desist Letter?
You can create this letter yourself using Rocket Lawyer. However, if you need a Cease and Desist Order, you need to file a lawsuit or other court action to request the court to order the individual or business to stop the action. Often this step is taken if you’ve received no response resulting from the Cease and Desist Letter.
How should I send a Cease and Desist Letter?
You’ll want to send the letter in a traceable manner. You could pay a process server to deliver the letter in person and require a signature, or you could send it by certified mail with a signature required. Or, you can send by certified mail with a return receipt. This shows that the letter was delivered, or delivery was attempted. This type of delivery is suitable if you think the recipient will refuse to sign. You can also send it by email, fax or standard mail to show your due diligence. You should save copies for yourself and your lawyer.
The following is an example cease and desist letter for harassment. This cease and desist template should not be used without first consulting with an experienced attorney.
Free Download of Cease and Desist Letter for Harassment
RE: Cease and desist from [stalking/harassing/etc.]
This CEASE AND DESIST ORDER is to inform you that your persistent actions including but not limited to [insert actions here (example: calling me in the middle of the night and hanging up, waiting outside my house, etc)] have become unbearable. You are ORDERED TO STOP such activities immediately as they are being done in violation of the law.
I have the right to remain free from these activities as they constitute [harassment/stalking/etc.], and I will pursue any legal remedies available to me against you if these activities continue. These remedies include but are not limited to: contacting law enforcement to obtain criminal sanctions against you, and suing you civilly for damages I have incurred as a result of your actions.
Again, you must IMMEDIATELY STOP [unwanted activities] and send me written confirmation that you will stop such activities. You risk incurring some very severe legal consequences if you fail to comply with this demand.
This letter acts as your final warning to discontinue this unwanted conduct before I pursue legal actions against you. At this time, I am not contacting the authorities or filing civil suit against you, as I hope we can resolve this matter without authoritative involvement. I am not under any circumstances, however, waiving any legal rights I have presently, or future legal remedies against you by sending you this letter. This order acts as ONE FINAL CHANCE for you to cease your illegal activities before I exercise my rights.
To ensure compliance with this letter, and to halt any legal action I may take against you, I require you to fill in and sign the attached form and mail it back to me within 10 days of your receipt of this letter. Failure to do so will act as evidence of your infringement upon my legal rights, and I will immediately seek legal avenues to remedy the situation.
[your printed name]
CEASE AND DESIST COMPLIANCE AGREEMENT
I, [insert perpetrator’s name here] do hereby agree to stop [insert unwanted activities here] which are in violation of [your full name]’s rights. I understand that this is my final chance to cease these activities. I understand that [your full name] potentially has the right to pursue legal action against me relating to my engagement in these activities, but [he/she] will not pursue those rights in contemplation of my compliance with this written demand. I further understand that [your full name] has not waived [his/her] rights and may pursue legal remedies against me if I fail to abide by this agreement. I understand that this agreement is not specifically limited to the activities named herein. I will not engage in any activity now or in the future done for the purpose of [stalking/harassing] [your full name]. I furthermore agree not to engage in any activity, regardless of its official title, that is done in violation of [your full name]’s legal rights. If I fail to cease performing these activities, [your full name] may pursue legal action against me in accordance [his/her] legal rights. This agreement acts as a contract between [perpetrator’s name] and [your full name]. Forbearing enforcement of legally enforceable remedies is sufficient consideration to support this agreement. This agreement represents the entire agreement between the parties. Any statements made orally, written, or otherwise which are not contained herein shall have no impact on either parties’ rights or obligations elaborated in this agreement.
[perpetrator’s printed name]