The Do’s and Don’ts of a Cease and Desist Letter

Posted on: November 7, 2019 by Huntersure

Cease and desist letters, or notices, are used to notify an individual or organization of some kind that they are harassing or infringing on properties or ideas. These activities can include many different things like stalking, libel, slander, or any kind of copyright infringement.

These letters serve as a warning to the party in question, allowing them a certain amount of time to end what they’re doing before any kind of legal action is taken. For those who feel that it’s time they draft a cease and desist letter, whether for personal reasons or business reasons, it should not be taken lightly.

Here are some tips on the dos and don’ts of how to go about writing a cease and desist letter.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

What Should a Letter Include?

Generally, cease and desist letters should include a number of criteria in order to be effective and stop whatever action has been taking place. First, the sender should map out a clear and concise description of the infringing or harassing behavior or action as well as the amount of time the recipient has in order to remedy the issue.

Next, the letter should include the goal of the action to write and send a letter, which is to get the offending party to stop what they’ve been doing. If the issue continues or escalates in some fashion, prompting legal action, an attorney should be brought in to help serve a cease and desist order, which is a legal action issued by a court.

Finally, although there is no specific outline of how long someone needs to give an offending party to stop their actions, a timeframe should still be included.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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