A cease and desist letter is defined as a letter issued by an individual or an entity to another individual or entity formally notifying them to stop an activity or behavior that infringes the issuing party’s legal rights.
A cease and desist letter is ordinarily the first step taken by the issuing party to warn the at-fault party (offender) before taking legal action if they do not ‘cease and desist from doing the activity or behavior highlighted in the letter. A cease and desist letter is not deemed as a legally binding document as it represents the opinion of the issuing party. Its name is derived from the words cease and desist. Cease basically means “stop,” and desists means “to cease to proceed or act” going forward.
Note: A cease and desist order is also known as a stop harassment letter or a demand letter.
The issuer is expected to give the offender a timeframe of 10-15 days, within which he or she is expected to reply to the letter. Failure to which the issue can take legal action against the offender. It is advised that cease and desist letters be sent with a return receipt so that there would be a signature as proof upon delivery. Additionally, in cases such as trademark infringement, having proof of issuing a cease and desist can facilitate when seeking additional compensation or damages caused.
Depending on the situation, one can choose to use either a cease and desist letter or cease and desist order. These two documents vary in certain ways that might influence the application of each document. The following are the differences between the two types of cease and desist.
|Cease and desist Order||Cease and desist Letter|
|Legally enforceable as it has the legal power to prohibit the offender from continuing the indicated activity||It has no legal power (not legally enforceable) and can therefore not prohibit the offender from continuing the specified action. However, it orders the offender to quit, or they will be sued|
|Typically issued by government agencies or courts||Ordinarily written by an attorney or anyone|
|Succeeds the filing of a lawsuit||Precedes the filing of a lawsuit|
|Forces the offender to stop the specified action||Requests the offender to stop the activity|
|The offender is expected to respond to the government agency or a court||The offender is expected to issue a response to the issuer|
|The consequences of not obeying the order include jail time and fines||The consequences of not obeying the request are potential litigation|
Common Uses of Cease and Desist Letter
In many situations where parties believe their rights are being violated, parties can use a cease and desist letter to urge violating parties to refrain from the infringement. Some of the common reasons why people use a cease and desist letter are as discussed below;
Infringement of an intellectual property right
Trademarks, patents, and copyrights (intellectual property) are highly valued. Since protected intellectual property represents a unique item or way of doing things that often have monetary value, third parties that use it without permission from the owner are considered to be infringing the owner’s rights. Therefore, owners can, in such a situation, issue a cease and desist letter warning of legal action if the offender fails to honor the request.
Debt collection services
In an effort to collect what they are owed, debt collectors will often contact borrowers via phone calls, surprise visits, emails, mails, etc. Such behavior might be considered harassment by most people, which is in violation of how debt collectors are expected to behave under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Therefore, borrowers can urge the debt collectors to cease and desist from such behavior using a cease and desist letter, or else they face statutory penalties.
Note that the letter does not exempt one from the debt obligation and is only applicable to debt collection agencies and lawyers/attorneys and not in-house collection departments.
Slander and libel
Slander and libel is a form of defamation where a party spreads untrue rumors about another person or business. Slander are rumors spread orally, while libel is spread in writing. Defamation can cause harm to a business by reducing sales and to an individual by harming his or her reputation and thus hindering their professional opportunities. A cease and desist letter can be issued to the offender urging them to retract the false statements they had previously made. When opposing slander and libel, the letter should quote the defamatory statement, provide reasons why it is untrue and highlight the damage done it caused – e.g., reputational humiliation, monetary losses, and emotional distress.
A cease and desist letter is also be issued to resolve property disputes such as property boundary encroachment. However, in a situation where the adjacent property owner encroaches on one’s property boundary, other informal means of dispute resolution such as a sit down should be sought after. If the issue persists, the cease-and-desist letter can be used to warn them of potential litigation if they continue encroaching.
A cease and desist letter is normally used to warn individuals or entities to stop the harassment. Harassments are usually not straightforward issues, and it is therefore advised that one understands state harassment laws and good judgment before using a cease and desist letter against harassment. Harassment can take place in different forms such as;
- Threatening behavior – Threatening behavior such as stalking can be warned against through a cease and desist letter.
- Aggressive or excessive communication – Some people communicate too aggressively, such as by yelling, using vulgar language while being insulting and offensive. One can use a cease and desist letter to urge them to refrain from continuing that type of behavior.
- Cyberbullying or defamation – Cyberbullying is a common practice nowadays and can lead to people’s names and reputations being tarnished. Issuing a cease and desist letter will sometimes be enough to warn the offender.
Contract violation or fraud
Parties in breach of a contract can also be issued a cease and desist letter urging them to quit violating the other party’s contractual rights. For example, employees who sign a non-compete agreement can be issued a cease and desist letter should they breach this agreement later in the future. One can also use a cease and desist letter to warn an individual or company intending to obtain money through fraudulent ways such as deception or false identity.
It is advised that a cease and desist letter should not be issued until one is certain that they have legal leverage or can lawfully support their claim. Even though it does not have to be sent by a lawyer, having him or her draft and certify the letter can prove important and put more pressure on the offender. Attorneys are duty-bound by a code of conduct known as the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct that prohibits them from presenting, participating in the presentation, or threatening to present a criminal charge merely to gain an advantage in a criminal matter. Therefore, the letter has to have satisfied certain criteria for it to carry significant weight and be taken seriously. Attorneys ensure the letter meets these legal considerations applicable by law in its jurisdiction and the attorneys’ code of conduct. They include;
- A charge must be related to the civil matter at hand: Any claims made in the letter must be linked to the activity or behaviour the offender is doing. Including false claims to coerce the offender to cease and desist is treated as misconduct and can be severely penalized.
- The attorney must believe the civil claim: Unsubstantiated claims should be avoided. Before issuing a notice, one must prove the claims are founded on legal merit to avoid a situation where the accused party launches a viable counterclaim against the allegations. Also, the letter should not be based on evidence that infringes the offender’s rights, such as privacy, or obtained in unscrupulous ways, for this would make the attorney be in violation of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
- The attorney must not attempt to exert or improperly influence the criminal: An attorney sending a cease-and-desist letter should not attempt to influence the legal outcome of the letter being issued, whether through duress, fraud, bribe, or bias. For example, in a situation where the lawyer contacts the accused party, notifying them that honouring the cease-and-desist letter is their best course of action. An attorney that carries out such actions is considered to be interfering with the legal process.
How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter?
As earlier stated, anyone can write their cease and desist letter. However, for it to serve its intended purpose, it should be properly and professionally written. The following steps can be used as a guide to creating an effective cease and desist letter that contains all the key provisions needed.
Step 1: Provide the names and contact information of the involved parties (i.e., issuer and recipient). Details such as mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses should be provided for effective communication/responses between the parties.
Step 2: Provide a subject line that clearly states the infringement(s) or violation(s) – the action the offender should cease and desist – the purpose of writing the letter. Then include specific details that prove there has been an infringement of rights. Also, one can state their legal rights being violated.
Step 3: Outline the steps the at-fault party needs to take to remedy the situation. Then state the timeframe awarded for them to take corrective actions before legal action is taken.
Step 4: Notify them of a potential lawsuit if they do not cease and desist from the specified activity or behavior or corrective measures are not taken in the given time frame.
Step 5: Attach any physical proof that is available to support the claim. Evidence can be attached to the letter in the form of pictures, documents, etc.
Step 6: Provide a signature and date when the letter was issued.
Sending the Cease and Desist Letter
A cease and desist letter can be delivered in different ways to ascertain the recipient received it and avoid a situation where they claim they did not receive the letter. These methods of delivery include;
- In-person delivery where the issuer delivers the letter themselves and obtains an affidavit of Service
- Use of registered mail service and request a return receipt upon delivery
- Use the services of a process server to deliver the letter and asking for an Affidavit of Service or its equivalent once the letter has been delivered
Additionally, one should ensure they keep a copy of the letter with them and another with their attorney (if one was used). Also, document the time, date, and place of the letter’s delivery.
6 Samples of Cease and Desist Letters
Here are free samples and templates that can be customized as per need:
Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Trademark or Copyright Infringement
If someone is infringing on a trademark or copyright that belongs to you, you can use a cease and desist letter in order to formally demand that they stop infringing. The letter indicates that you are prepared to pursue legal action if they continue their infringement.
You are currently using __________ (piece of copyrighted/trademarked work) without our authorization which is copyrighted in accordance with Title 17 of the U.S. Code, United States Copyright Law.
We have found this unauthorized use of our work currently being used at __________(where/how work is being used).
If we have not received a response from you by _____ (date) agreeing that you have ceased using our work and will desist from further use in the future, I shall consider taking legal action to rectify this situation.
___________ (name, signature).
Sample Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Harassment or Other Invasions of Privacy
Incidents of harassment and stalking can be addressed with a cease and desist letter. Sending a cease and desist letter shows that you take the unwelcome attention seriously and are prepared to deal with it seriously. Often, people will figure that it’s not worth the potential legal fees and just cease the behavior.
This letter has been served as notice of your recent acts of unwarranted harassment. You are required to cease and desist all acts of harassment including but not limited to:
The listed actions are unwanted and unwarranted. This cease and desist letter shall serve as a pre-suit letter requesting that you provide written assurance within _____ (days) that you will discontinue further actions.
Sample Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Libel or Slander
A cease and desist letter is the perfect tool for stopping someone from making false or damaging statements about you to the public. In the letter, you can explain what damage they caused you and request that they stop.
(name) is a respected professional in this community. We have been informed that you have been spreading inaccurate and malicious information to damage their personal and professional reputation.
Under the laws of ________ (State), it is unlawful for an individual to make deliberate, unfounded statements with the intent of harming an individual’s reputation.
These defamatory statements include, but are not limited to: __________________________________________________(statements).
This serves as a pre-suit letter requesting that you provide us written assurance within ______ (days) that you will cease and desist from issuing further inaccurate statements.
Sample Cease and Desist Letter to Prevent Property Boundary Violation
If a neighbor keeps encroaching onto your property, you can use a cease and desist letter to request them to stop at once or suffer the legal consequences. However, in most cases, you should probably try to talk to your neighbor first and politely ask them to stay on their own side of the property line.
This letter is in response to your recent encroachments of property boundary on ______(dates).
Under the laws of ________ (State), it is unlawful for an individual to encroach on the property boundary belonging to another individual without express permission.
These acts of property boundary violation include, but are not limited to:
This serves as pre-suit letter requiring that you provide written assurance within _____ (days) that you will cease and desist from further acts of trespassing or a lawsuit may be commenced.
Sample Cease and Desist Letter to Prevent Debt Collectors
Maybe you’re having some trouble with debt collectors. In any situation, dealing with debt collectors can be tough. A cease and desist letter can force aggressive debt collectors to stop harassing you with constant communication or surprise visits. If you write and send a cease and desist letter, the debt collectors have no choice but to only contact you once more time and then cease communication.
Re: Stop ALL Debt Collection _______ (Calls/Visits)
This letter is in response to the _________(form of contact) I have received from you at the following ____________(telephone number or address).
This letter has been sent with certified U.S. mail with return receipt and will be presented at court if said contact is do continue.
Sample Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Breach of Contract
Cease and desist letters can be used to prevent someone from interfering with your own contractual rights. For example, if you have an employment agreement with someone but a competing business hires that someone in order to hurt your business, you might want to send a cease and desist letter.
This letter is served upon your breach of the __________(agreement) that was signed on _________(date).
You signed into a valid contract which was breached or violated by __________________________________(breach of contract).
You will not receive another warning. If you do not confirm in writing by ______ (date) that you will cease and desist violation of our Agreement, a lawsuit may be commenced.
Free Cease and Desist Templates
Do you need a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter?
No, you do not need a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter. Anyone can send a cease and desist letter. All you need to do to send a cease and desist letter is to write it and mail it to a recipient. However, there are reasons that you might want to consult with a lawyer prior to sending a cease and desist letter. For example, civil claims can be incredibly complicated, expensive, and painful. An attorney can help you avoid an especially painstaking lawsuit by advising you about your rights and advising you if a cease and desist letter is really your best course of option. They can even write the letter for you, which is a real advantage because letters sent from attorneys always are taken more seriously than letters sent from individuals.
You should always send a cease and desist letter via the US Postal Service Priority Mail or FedEx and utilize delivery confirmation or certified mail with a return receipt requested in order to make sure that you have evidence that the letter was sent.
Cease and desist letters are incredibly useful. Whether you feel confident that you can write and send that letter on your own or if you feel like you need professional advice, don’t be afraid to use a cease and desist letter to defend your legal rights.
Tips for Writing a Cease & Desist Letter
- When you want to write this letter you should consider some good tips. You should not include a phone number in the letter if the letter was sending a warning to somebody to stop collecting phone numbers.
- You should also make sure the guidelines are legit. Do not fake information. Legit information should contain an official stamp and signature or an original document from the authorizing organization.
- During the sending day, you should go to the post office to send the document. However, if you decide to use email, you should ensure it is certified, and you should send it to the return receipt. The system will mail back the recipient to you to confirm it has gone to the right person.
- You should retain a copy of the sent letter. A retained copy provides evidence of the previous communication on a certain misguide. Some individuals may pretend to have failed to get the communication. However, when you have a copy it is easy and a piece of evidence if the person is taken to a law firm for prosecution.
Writing this letter is critical because it prevents extreme violations of the law. It also shows the authority of the administration and the significance of obedience to the law. This type of letter can also be used to rectify any misguiding behavior in society. It is good to make sure that people in society live in harmony.
Next Steps After Sending Letter
Once the letter has been sent, as one waits for the offender to respond, it is advised that one be evaluating their next steps. Issuing a cease and desist letter is sometimes not the final step in resolving the issue at hand.
Issuers of a cease and desist letter should plan for two outcomes, a situation where one is able to compromise and one where they cannot. If the offender reaches out and affirms, they are not legally required to cease the specified action or are not infringing the said rights, negotiations can be held to resolve the issue. However, if one cannot compromise or the offender fails to respond to the letter, legal action would be legal action. Legal action can result in compensation for damages and/or a court-issued cease and desist order directing the offender to stop the specified activity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Anyone who believes their legal rights are being infringed can send a cease and desist letter without involving an attorney. However, an attorney can be helpful in writing a legally accurate and persuasive letter and provide necessary legal advice related to the issue at hand.
Cease and desist orders can be effective on a temporary or permanent basis. Temporary orders are issued before the issue is resolved by trial or a settlement is reached. On the other hand, depending on the court’s findings, a cease and desist order can be made permanent after the trial is concluded, as seen in the case of copyright cases.
Yes. Cease and desist letters can be sent via any preferred method of delivery. However, it is recommended that the method be easy to track to ascertain the recipient received the letter.
There are many situations in which writing a cease and desist letter is an appropriate course of action. A few of the more common uses for the cease and desist letter include stopping trademark or copyright infringement, stopping the harassment or any other invasion of privacy, stopping libel or public slander, preventing a property boundary violation, or preventing debt collectors.
Unfortunately, a cease and desist letter is not necessarily enforceable, but it does serve as a useful weapon if the issue does go to court. The letter is not a legally binding document. It does not mean that the recipient is being sued (yet). The recipient of a cease and desist letter is not legally obligated to do anything. In many cases, these letters function as formal requests to stop engaging in offensive behavior or as warnings of future legal response. The legal issues themselves ultimately can only be settled in court.