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What to do when you receive a Cease & Desist letter?

November 8, 2016

You are a small business owner or the excited director of a new start-up company and the morning mail or email check reveals a Cease and Desist Letter from either a firm of solicitors or someone who you have upset! You don’t understand the legal jargon and it puts you on the back foot! What does it mean and more importantly what do you do?






What is a Cease and Desist Letter?

The explanation is in the name. There are two things the sender wants you to do. Quite plainly stop doing what you are doing and fix the harm you have caused. The Sender believes you are infringing upon their legal rights or ownership and they are upset enough to have a solicitor draft you a letter or sit down and rant away at an email. There may be a threat of legal action, sanctions if you carry on or the threat of suing you for damages. There may be nothing and it is just the sender’s way of calling your bluff with a slap on the wrist where there is no intention at all to pursue this through the Courts.

Immediate Steps

Depending on your personality you will either feel angry or afraid and your response may dictate your immediate steps. Before flying off the handle in a fit of rage read the C&D. Is there any truth in the allegations? Is there anything you can put right? Consult a solicitor for legal advice for your business on understanding the content, allegations and appropriate response.

You received a C&D letter – what are your options?

  1. Ignore it? This is not a legally binding document. It is neither a Court summons nor legally binding contract so you are within your legal rights to ignore it bearing in mind it could lead to the sender pursuing litigation. Ignore at your peril. Money could be saved here by complying now rather than spending down the line for Court costs so have your wits about you!
  2. Comply? Do what the letter asks of you! Cease and desist may be cheaper, less stressful and in the long run better for your business. Even if you disagree with the content if your actions are minor is it worth the threat of legal proceedings looming over you?
  3. Respond? Calm down and respond calmly! A measured response dealing with each aspect of the C&D. Addressing the allegations, giving explanations, negotiating a way to keep you both happy. If you are so inclined fire back with a C&D of your own but be prepared for a battle.
  4. Negotiate? It helps to talk and figure out a solution. If you’ve infringed an intellectual property right could you suggest a licence to use their right?

Don’t panic, stay calm and consider all options with the help of your solicitor. Your actions now could save you money, time and stress in the future which is all too important for your business.

Hannah Newell – LawBite LawBrief. For further legal advice, you can contact Hannah via our online legal advice portal.