In the legal field, cease-and-desist letters are a common thing when it comes to intellectual property. With the rise in digital dependency and a more streamlined experience for everything from social media to retail sales to banking, cease-and-desist letters have become part of the legal equation in most deals.
But while these letters are common, they still come with some pretty avoidable mistakes. It isn’t necessarily as simple as writing a letter and emailing or shipping it out. To avoid these issues, read on and see how cease-and-desist letters can be written more carefully.
When is a Cease and Desist Letter the Right Option?
If someone or some business is harassing an individual or organization or is negatively affecting their business somehow, a letter should at least be kept in the back pocket. Some common reasons that someone might prompt this action include infringement of an intellectual property right, debt collection, slander and libel, or harassment.
Slander and Libel: Rumors may spread and slanderous comments may be circulated on social media against someone, and this can seem like the norm today. But cease and desist slander letters can be sent out in order to stop any more of this kind of activity from happening. Slander and libel can hurt the reputation of individuals or businesses, and can even lead to drastic measures, such as violence. A cease and desist slander letter can make the recipient take back what they’ve said or published, or face legal action.
Infringement: Whether it’s a copyright or patent, ownership over intellectual property gives individuals or companies certain rights. When these copyright or patents are used without consent, they are in breach. Known as infringement, this can be stopped by sending a letter, which should outline the action that caused the letter to be written in the first place.
Debt Collection: If someone is being subjected to endless calls or emails from a debt collection service, a cease and desist letter can act as an effective straightforward way to get them to stop. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which oversees how debt collectors must behave, lays out that if a letter is sent to a collector asking them to stop contacting someone, they legally have to or face penalties.
What Not to Do
While cease and desist letters can be straightforward in getting their point across, there are still some ways in which they can backfire or not be as effective. Here are some things to avoid:
Watch the Tone: Threatening to sue early in the process might be something that is merited, but it shouldn’t necessarily be included right from the jump. A cease and desist letter should be clear enough in its intentions that what the party is doing is offensive and they should stop. A soft-handed approach should be opted for first before any legal action threats are made, such as suing.
Not Having a Clear Reason: A cease and desist letter should not be vague. It helps to be thorough and make sure that this is the best course of action. Cease and desist letters are serious and can lead to major action down the line. In most cases, an email or call for someone to stop what they’re doing is enough. It’s only after that that a letter is the way to go.
Making Empty Threats: In line with the previous note, it’s better to not bite off more than you can chew. If a letter includes language related to dragging someone into a courthouse by a certain time period, the writer should be prepared to do that. If the offenses continue past that timeframe, such as 30 days, and the action isn’t executed, then the recipient may not take the letter or threats seriously moving forward.
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