If another company or an individual has violated your intellectual property (IP) rights, you may not need to go directly to a legal action. In fact, you may be able to avoid going to court at all. A good initial step is sending what’s called a “cease and desist” letter.
This is a letter, typically signed by attorney, informing another party that their actions are illegal and/or harmful and telling them to stop. It doesn’t carry any legal weight itself — unlike a cease and desist order, which needs to be obtained from a court or government entity. However, it puts the other party on notice, just in case they weren’t already aware, that the name, image or words they’re using are protected and require your permission to use them.
Further, it tells them that if they don’t “cease and desist” from using your IP, you will take legal action. In it, the other party is directed to respond by a specified date. If you need to go to court, it’s your evidence that you made the other party aware of the issue.
Do cease and desist letters work?
Often, they do. As noted, someone may not be aware of the law or of the fact that something they’re using is copyrighted or trademarked. They may have known but thought they could get away with it.
A cease and desist letter can be enough in many cases to get someone to stop using your material. They likely don’t want to risk going to court and losing and possibly being publicly embarrassed.
While anyone can write a cease and desist letter, it carries far more weight if it comes from an attorney. Having legal guidance also helps ensure that the letter is worded, sent and followed up on in a way that is most likely to get results while still complying with the law.
If the letter doesn’t have the intended outcome and the other party continues to violate your IP rights or argues that they aren’t, you’ll benefit from having had legal guidance from the very beginning.