A cease and desist letter – sometimes referred to as an “infringement letter” or a “demand letter” – is a written document asserting that an individual or business must stop unlawful activity and not take it up again. The letter may set specific deadlines or conditions to define ceasing and desisting, and outline consequences if the expectations for the cease and desist are not met. Cease and desist letters state that the first party has been or is being harmed by actions on the part of the second party, which is why the actions must cease and desist.
Most often, cease and desist letters are used to assert intellectual property rights, and stop harassment or stalking. In the first case, the letter asserts claim over an idea or creation, and states that if the second party does not stop using the idea, then the first party will sue for financial damages. In the second case, the victim of harassment or stalking states firmly, on written record, that he or she does not wish the advances of the second party and outlines potential criminal charges if the harassment does not stop.
How it’s Applies:
- Formal statement requesting that someone stop their activities because it harms you
- A statement declaring that harassment must stop, whether it is bullying, sexual harassment, or online predatory behavior
- You are the victim of copyright infringement
- You own a business that has been harmed by another business’s activities
Types of Cease and Desist Letters:
Cease and desist letters can apply when an individual or business violates laws involving:
- Intellectual property
- Copyright infringement
- Patent infringement
- Trade secrets laws
- Confidentiality agreements
- Privacy concerns
- Harassment or predatory behavior
How is it Used?
Cease and desist letters are used as a statement of intent, and are not legally binding. If you have received a cease and desist letter, you are not required to go through a court as part of a lawsuit or criminal proceeding. However, if you break the law, the cease and desist letter will let you know.
The person harmed may send multiple cease and desist letters to provoke a response. Whether they hear from you or not, they may choose to pursue a lawsuit or criminal charges, or not. Regardless of the criminal or civil repercussions, the “victim” may send a restraining order against you, which is a legally binding document, or perhaps nothing will happen. Cease and desist orders can sometimes be misused as a threat without legal standing.
If you feel you have been harmed – for example, a patent you created has been used without properly crediting you – then you may have legal footing for a cease and desist letter. If you have questions about how best to proceed with a cease and desist letter, you should contact an attorney, but in the meantime, you can get started with the blank document we offer. This document can help you better understand what a cease and desist letter is, if and how you should use one, and how legally binding the document will be.