What to do when you get a cease and desist letter?

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Fear or Anger

These are the two emotions usually felt when you receive a letter that is addressed to you by a lawyer you’ve never heard of. A “Cease and Desist Letter” can be terrifying, but before you have a heart attack just remember "DO NOT PANIC."

Business attorney for start-ups and small businesses.

Devin Miller

Electrical Engineer


Small business owner

What is a Cease and Desist Letter?

A Cease and Desist letter is usually the first step before filing a lawsuit. People or business often send Cease and Desist letters as a way to put you on notice of a legal issue that needs to be addressed. Cease and Desist letter can be used to get your attention to try and work out the legal issue prior to going through expensive litigation proceedings.

Cease and desist letter

If it isn't given away by its name, a Cease and Desist letter is written communication that demands the recipient ‘cease and desist’ actions that violate the sender’s legal rights or ownership. It is not a legally binding document and does not mean that you are getting sued, at least not yet. The letters typically are demands sent by a lawyer that threatens legal action if the violation does not stop. 

Don't panic when you get a cease and desist letter.

Don’t panic

Do not launch an attack straight away against the person who sent the letter, especially not on social media. While it is natural to want to defend yourself, think before you act. Anything you say or write may be used against you if a lawsuit is filed in the future.

Do your homework

Read the letter and try to figure out what the complaint is actually about. Is the issue a patent issue? A trademark issue? A contract obligations?

Collect as much information as you can to support your case. Gather comprehensive and dated evidence and succinctly state the important facts. Save everything and don't try and destroy anything.

Do your homework when you get a cease and desist letter.
Speak with an attorney when you get a cease and desist letter.

Speak to a lawyer 

It is almost always best to seek some legal advice for Cease and Desist letters. Often Cease and Desist Letters are used to bully or scare you. Lawyers can help to decipher the legal jargon in the letter and assist you in determining the correct response. Finding a good lawyer can save you time and expenses by addressing the issue early on.

Ignore it

Although not recommended whatsoever, you are not legally obligated to do anything about it.

Don't ignore cease and desist letters
Comply with the cease and desist letter.

Comply with it

Depending on what they want you to do, sometimes the easiest way to deal with the letter is to give in. Even if you do not agree with what they are alleging, if the requested remedy does not disrupt you or your business, then compliance may be the best option.

Go on the Offensive

Get with your lawyer and determine what your best option is. You could deny the allegations or begin the settlement process. If court is inevitable, you might want to file a lawsuit before they do to control the situation.

Go on the offensive when you get a cease and desist letter.

Make sure to consult with your business partners or business advisors before taking any actions. Remember that your interests and the interests of your business comes first.

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