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What is a Cease and Desist Letter?

A cease and desist letter is a warning letter sent to an individual or business to stop (“cease”) and not to restart (“desist”) a breach or any illegal activity that violates your rights.

The letter typically warns that if the recipient does not cease the specified breach or illegal activity – or take specific actions by the deadlines set in the letter – legal action may be taken against them.

What Does Cease and Desist Mean?

“Cease and desist” is a legal term that demands that an individual or entity stop engaging in a specific action or behaviour and refrain from restarting it. “Cease” means to halt the action immediately, while “desist” warns against resuming the activity in the future.

This terminology is commonly used in legal contexts where a party’s actions are causing harm or infringing upon the rights of another, and a formal request is necessary to assert these rights and seek compliance. 

Cease and desist directives can be communicated through formal letters or enforced through legal orders, depending on the severity and circumstances of the infringement.

When do you use a Cease and Desist Letter?

A cease and desist letter is used when your rights have been violated or denied. It serves as a clear warning to the offending party to stop their unlawful activity or face legal consequences.

Common situations include trademark, copyright, or patent infringement; breach of contract; harassment; excessive debt collection practices; and defamation.

If confidentiality is a concern related to these issues, especially when negotiating a resolution, you might consider using a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) from Zegal to ensure that sensitive information remains protected during and after your discussions.

For issues related to intellectual property, such as trademarks, consider a Trademark Licence Agreement from Zegal for licensing your trademarks legally.

How does a Cease and Desist Letter work?

The cease and desist letter acts as an effective tool by:

  • Identifying the illegal activity and the individual or entity responsible.
  • Demanding an immediate cessation of the activity.
  • Warning of legal action if the activity does not cease.

What does violation of rights mean?

A violation of rights occurs when an action infringes on legal rights, such as non-payment for services or unauthorised use of copyrighted content. This includes any scenario where you are denied something rightfully yours or when your property is used without your permission.

If the issue involves intellectual property, consider using Zegal’s Assignment of Intellectual Property Rights template.

To whom can I send a cease and desist letter?

You can send a cease and desist letter to any individual or entity committing a breach or violation against you. Ensuring that the correct name and address are on the letter is crucial.

How to serve a cease and desist letter?

A cease and desist letter is usually sent by registered or certified mail to obtain a delivery receipt, which serves as proof of receipt. Alternatively, it can be served via email, fax, or through an attorney.

Each method provides a trail of delivery, confirming that the recipient has received the letter.

Do I need to hire an attorney to serve this letter?

No, you do not need to hire an attorney to serve a cease and desist letter. You can use a legally binding template from Zegal to ensure the contents are accurate and effective.

However, having an attorney review the contents can still be beneficial to confirm that the activities you claim are illegal are indeed so and that your rights have been adequately identified and asserted.

What happens after you serve this letter?

After a cease and desist letter is served, the recipient usually stops the illegal activity. If they do not comply within the specified timeframe, you may proceed with legal action, including demands for damages and injunctive relief.

What Happens If a Cease and Desist Letter Is Ignored?

If a cease and desist letter is ignored, the next step is often to file a lawsuit against the offender. The letter then serves as evidence in court, demonstrating that the recipient was aware of the violation and chose to ignore the warning.

What do I need to put into my cease and desist letter?

A cease and desist letter should include:

  • The name and address of the recipient.
  • A description of the violated rights.
  • The specific illegal acts of the recipient.
  • Any damages caused by the violation.
  • A deadline for the recipient to stop the activity.
  • The consequences if the activity does not cease.
  • The date of the notice.

While a cease and desist letter is not a legal notice and is not legally enforceable, it is a practical preliminary step to protect your rights and inform the other party that legal action may follow if the breach or activity does not stop.

Is a Cease and Desist Letter the same as a Cease and Desist Order?

No, a cease and desist letter is not the same as a cease and desist order, a legally binding document issued by a court or government agency requiring someone to stop a specific activity.

Use a Zegal Cease and Desist Letter Template

For those looking to issue a cease and desist letter without the immediate expense of legal counsel, Zegal offers a practical solution with its legally binding templates.

Zegal templates are designed to be straightforward and easy to use, ensuring that you can draft a professional and effective letter.

Stay compliant with the Zegal template library

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