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What is a cease and desist?

This legal document is often the last step before a lawsuit.

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Legal documents can be tricky to get your head around, especially if you can’t afford an in-house lawyer or hourly legal fees. We’ve put together a simple how-to for cease and desist letters so you can write a letter to suit your situation.

What is a cease and desist letter?

A cease and desist letter is a formal request, sent to a business or individual that is partaking in unwanted or illegal behavior. It is a simple letter asking them to stop engaging in a certain activity. This can include copyright infringements, harassment or a breach of contract.

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When should I use a cease and desist letter?

It’s time to write a cease and desist letter to stop the following actions:

  • Breach of contract
  • Debt collectors
  • Harassment, stalking or invasion of privacy
  • Intellectual property infringement
  • Nondisclosure (NDA) violation
  • Property boundary encroachment
  • Slander or false accusations
  • Trademark and copyright infringement

Do I need a lawyer to send this document?

While it can be beneficial for a lawyer draw up a cease and desist letter for you, you don’t need a lawyer to send the letter. Anyone can send out a cease and desist letter. Consider asking a lawyer to look at your letter, asking them if your letter has grounds for legal action or if you want to add weight to your letter in court.

What does a cease and desist letter include?

A cease and desist letter should be clear and concise and should include the following:

  • Your name and address
  • The recipient’s name and address
  • A request for the recipient to stop a specific action
  • A time frame for the action to stop
  • Outline the next steps if the recipient does not fulfill the request within the time frame specified

Avoid neutral language, empty threats or threatening language. Remember, this is a legal warning to the recipient, not a letter to threaten harsh action. Be sure not to include any vague language to make your intentions as clear as possible.

How effective is a cease and desist letter?

Although the recipient of a cease and desist letter is not under any legal obligation to comply with requests, most businesses and individuals take these letters seriously. Letters sent by lawyers tend to carry more weight and often are the most effective.

If the recipient has not complied in the time frame given in the letter, the sender can take legal action, including sending another letter, filing a lawsuit or filing a temporary restraining order.

Cease and desist letter vs. demand letter

A cease and desist letter requests that the recipient stop carrying out a certain action, a letter of demand is a formal notice requesting a recovery of debt. This can be in the form of goods, services or payment.

Bottom line

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