What should I know about a cease and desist letter?

If you own a business and you find out that another company or party is using your intellectual property (IP) without your permission, whether domestically or internationally, you probably want to take action to secure your rights. If so, you will likely need to understand what a cease and desist letter is. Many IP cases start by sending one of these documents to an infringing party to alert them of their infringement and to stop.

QuickBooks explains that a cease and desist letter should consist of several important parts. You need to address the letter to a particular person or a position within the infringing company and explain the instance where and when you saw your IP being used without your permission. The letter should specify a clear action for the other party to take. For example, you may want the other party to stop using your company logo on the party's website. The action should come with an ultimatum that is reasonable. You should make it clear that you may pursue further action if the party does not comply.

It is also important to keep your emotions in check as you write the letter. Some businesses may have no idea that they are using your intellectual property, so writing an angry letter might be counterproductive. Instead, you should strike an authoritative but calm tone. Your aim is to have the other party agree to stop using your IP. If the other party is not intentionally malicious, a well worded and calm letter may help them understand your position and to stop infringing on your rights.

If you feel you cannot compose a cease and desist letter on your own, consider asking an IP attorney for assistance. An IP attorney can alert you to particular areas of intellectual property law that the other party may have violated. If the attorney advises it, you can point out these violations in your cease and desist letter.

However, there may be cases where the nature of the infringement is not clear. The Fair Use doctrine, for instance, allows people to use portions of IP for specific purposes such as satire or commentary. The other party may claim that their use is justified under this doctrine. You may have to decide, perhaps with the help of your attorney, whether to pursue the matter further.

Keep in mind that IP violations can take many forms. Because of this, do not consider this article as legal advice. Read it only for informative purposes.

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