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.
It is ordinarily the first step taken by the issuing party to warn the offender before taking legal action if they do not stop doing the activity or behavior highlighted in the letter.
A cease and desist letter is not deemed 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 desist 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.
When issuing this letter, it is common practice to provide the recipient with a timeframe of 10-15 days within which to reply to the letter. If the recipient fails to respond within this timeframe, the issuer may take legal action against the offender. It is advisable to send the letter with a return receipt so that a signature upon delivery can serve as proof of receipt.
Cease and Desist Templates
Following are the free cease and desist templates that you can download:
Differences between Cease and Desist Order
Depending on the situation, one can choose to use either a cease and desist letter or order. These two documents vary in certain ways that might influence the application of each.
The following are the differences between the two:
|Cease and desist order||Cease and desist Letter|
|Is legally enforceable as it has the legal power to prohibit the offender from continuing the indicated activity||It has no legal power (is not legally enforceable) and therefore cannot 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 Letters
Some of the common reasons why people use a cease and desist letter are as discussed below:
Infringement of intellectual property right
Trademarks, patents, and copyrights for intellectual property are highly valued. When third parties use intellectual property without permission, it is considered an infringement of the owner’s rights because it frequently represents an original product or technique with monetary value. Therefore, owners can, in such a situation, issue a 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, mail, etc. Such behavior might be considered harassment by most people, which is a 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 attorneys and not in-house collection departments.
Slander and libel
Slander and libel are forms of defamation where a party spreads rumors about another person or business. Libel is a type of rumor that is spread in writing, whereas slander is spread orally. 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 it caused, e.g., reputational humiliation, monetary losses, and emotional distress.
A cease and desist letter is also issued to resolve property disputes such as boundary encroachment. However, if the adjacent property owner encroaches on one’s property, other informal dispute resolution methods should be sought. If the issue persists, the letter can be used to warn them of potential litigation.
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 uses good judgment before using such a 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 or using vulgar language while being insulting and offensive. One can use this 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 stop 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 on. One can also use a cease and desist letter to warn an individual or company intending to obtain money through fraudulent means such as deception or false identity.
How to Write Cease and Desist Letter?
As previously stated, anyone can write a 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., the 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 from taking—and the purpose of writing the letter. Then include specific details that prove there has been an infringement of rights.
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 action 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 if 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 the date when the letter was issued.
Sending the Cease and Desist Letter
There are various methods of delivering a cease and desist letter to ensure that the recipient receives it and to avoid situations where they claim they did not receive it.
These methods of delivery include:
- In-person delivery: The issuer delivers the letter personally to the recipient and obtains an Affidavit of Service as proof of delivery.
- Registered mail service: The letter is sent via registered mail with a request for a return receipt upon delivery. This provides a tracking number and requires a signature upon receipt, serving as evidence of delivery.
- Process server: A professional process server is hired to deliver the letter to the recipient, and an Affidavit of Service or its equivalent is obtained as proof of delivery.
It is also important to keep a copy of the letter for your records and provide a copy to your attorney (if one is used). Documenting the time, date, and place of the letter’s delivery can also be helpful in the event of any disputes or legal proceedings in the future.
6 Samples of Cease and Desist Letters
Here are free samples and templates that can be customized as needed:
Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Trademark or Copyright Infringement
You are currently using __________ (a 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
This letter has been served as a 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
(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 reputations.
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
This letter is in response to your recent encroachments on a 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 a 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
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).
I dispute the validity and accuracy of this debt and demand that you cease and desist from all communication and collection activities related to this debt, as well as any other debts that you claim I owe. I am asserting my rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and other applicable laws.
This letter has been sent by certified U.S. mail with a return receipt and will be presented at court if said contact does continue.
Sample Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Breach of Contract
This letter is served upon your breach of the __________(agreement) that was signed on _________(date).
You signed into a valid contract that 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 violations of our agreement, a lawsuit may be commenced.
Tips for Writing and Effective Cease and Desist Letter
The following tips should be kept in mind before issuing a letter of cease and desist.
- Accurate and Clear Information: A cease and desist letter should contain accurate and clear information, including the details of the alleged infringement or wrongful conduct, the specific actions that the recipient is being asked to cease and desist from, and any relevant legal grounds or statutes supporting the claim.
- Proper Sender and Recipient: The letter should be sent by the appropriate party, such as an attorney or a representative of the aggrieved party, to the correct recipient, usually the person or entity engaging in the alleged wrongful conduct.
- Legal Basis: The letter should identify the legal basis for the claim, such as a specific law, regulation, or legal principle that supports the demand to cease and desist. This may include copyright or trademark infringement, defamation, harassment, or other legal grounds, depending on the nature of the alleged conduct.
- Tone and Language: The tone and language of the letter should be professional, factual, and non-threatening. The letter should avoid using derogatory or inflammatory language that could potentially escalate the situation or undermine the credibility of the claim.
- Supporting Evidence: If available, the letter should include any relevant supporting evidence, such as copies of copyrighted materials, screenshots of infringing websites, or other documentation that supports the claim being made.
- Deadline for Compliance: The letter should specify a reasonable deadline by which the recipient is required to comply with the cease and desist demand. This allows the recipient adequate time to respond and take appropriate action.
- Consequences of Non-Compliance: The letter may also include a statement indicating the potential consequences of non-compliance, such as further legal action, including litigation, if the alleged wrongful conduct continues after the deadline for compliance.
- Seek Legal Advice: It is important to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney to ensure that the cease and desist letter is drafted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and that it effectively communicates the intent and demands of the sender.
- Follow-Up: It may be necessary to follow up on the cease and desist letter to ensure compliance or to take further legal action if necessary, depending on the response or actions of the recipient.
What to Expect After Sending the Letter
Once the letter has been sent, one should wait for the offender to respond before evaluating their next steps. Issuing a cease and desist letter is sometimes not the final step in resolving the issue at hand.
Issuers of this letter should plan for two outcomes, one where they can compromise and one where they cannot. If the offender contacts you and affirms that 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 taken. 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 providing necessary legal advice related to the issue at hand.
No, you do not need a lawyer to 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 the recipient. However, there are reasons why you might want to consult with a lawyer prior to sending one. For example, civil claims can be incredibly complicated, expensive, and painful. By advising you on your rights and determining whether a cease and desist letter is actually your best option, an attorney can help you avoid a particularly arduous legal battle. They can even write the letter for you, which is a real advantage because letters sent from attorneys are taken more seriously than letters sent from individuals.
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 whether the recipient received the letter. In order to ensure that you have proof that the letter was sent, you should always send such a letter using FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, as well as delivery confirmation or certified mail with a return receipt requested.
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 a future legal response. The legal issues themselves can ultimately only be settled in court.