If a company or person has violated your intellectual property (IP) rights, your first step doesn’t have to be taking legal action. Issuing a “cease and desist” letter can be a powerful first step forward.
This is a letter in which you’ll inform a party that their actions are illegal and/or harmful to your business and tell them to “cease and desist” the use of your IP. Typically, the letter gives the offending party a date by which they must respond, and notifies them that if they don’t “cease and desist,” legal action (or some other consequence) will follow.
Although a cease and desist letter itself carries no legal weight, it can be enough to make the other party stop using your IP. If, by chance, they didn’t realize they were infringing on someone else’s IP, you’ve given them that notification. And, if you eventually need to take them to court, proving that you gave them notice and opportunity to right this wrong is going to be important for your case.
A cease and desist letter shouldn’t be confused with a cease and desist order. An order may be the next step after the letter, which is a legal document that needs to come from an administrative entity like a court or government agency. An order is enforceable, whereas a letter is the precursor to such action.
Are cease and desist letters worthwhile?
Issuing a cease and desist letter may be worth your time. As noted, digesting the news contained in such a letter may be the first time a party is even aware that they’re using someone else’s IP. Even if they were aware of it, they may have decided to try to get away with it for as long as they could. A cease and desist letter can motivate them to stop before they’re in danger of being penalized.
If the offender is a relatively well-known company, it may not want the bad publicity of being taken to court by a smaller entity and losing. This can give the impression (perhaps rightly so) that it was taking advantage of a smaller business or even an individual.
While you can write a cease and desist letter yourself, it’s best if it comes from a legal professional. First, this will help ensure that it’s as strong and clear as possible. Second, it will put the receiving party on notice that you already have legal representation, which means that you’re obviously taking the issue seriously.
Wherever you are in the process of stopping another party from using your IP without permission, it’s wise to get experienced legal guidance. The sooner you do this, the better your chances are of securing a favorable outcome.