Cease and Desist Letter: What to Do if You Receive One

February 6, 2020

No business owner anticipates getting a threatening letter with their daily mail, but receiving a cease and desist letter is a common occurrence for many Virginia businesses. It may look official, embossed with the logo of a major corporation’s law firm, but cease and desist letters aren’t legal documents. Cease and desist letters simply put the receiving party on notice of a potential dispute, typically an intellectual property dispute. Anyone can send a cease and desist letter, but they are normally drafted by an attorney and commonly used when the owner of a trademark, copyright, or patent believes you’re using his or her intellectual property without authority. They are asking you to cease the perceived illegality and desist from engaging in future illegality. You are not legally obligated to respond or take the requested action after receiving a cease desist letter, but there may be consequences if you don’t.

Let McClanahan Powers, PLLC Defend Your Business from Potential I.P. Litigation

Addressing cease and desist letters with the help of an experienced Virginia business and intellectual property lawyer at McClanahan Powers, PLLC can protect your business from costly litigation. Whether the sender’s complaints are founded or misplaced, let McClanahan Powers, PLLC’s experienced business litigation attorneys review any demand letters received and draft your response. Take action now if you received a cease and desist letter by calling (703) 520-1326 or contacting our top-rated business lawyers online for your case review.

Three Steps to Take Immediately After Receiving a Cease and Desist Letter

Relax & Reflect: Cease and desist letters, whether formally served or mailed, do not legally require a response. Even if action is demanded or “required” by the sender, cease and desist letters are not summons and complaints. The sender may threaten to file litigation if a response is not received, but the letter does not mean a lawsuit has been filed. Instead, the letter is a warning of sorts. It may reiterate your legal obligations under a binding court order, warn of impending litigation, or simply request more information about a perceived legal violation. Scan or make a copy of the letter, date the envelope, and don’t respond in haste. These letters are meant to sound threatening and coerce your compliance.

Analyze & Gather Information: Read the letter thoroughly to identify the sender, his or her complaint, the action he or she demands you take, and the threatened consequences of non-action. For example, the letter may come from the law firm for the parent company of a subsidiary you did business with last year. Contact an attorney immediately if the letter comes from local, state, federal, or international officials. Once the sender is identified, consider the nature of the complaint. Are they citing copyright law? International trademark law? A previous court order? If so, gather any information you can about the subject of the complaint and relationship of the sender to your business.

Contact an Attorney: Take or send the cease and desist letter to a business and intellectual property lawyer along with any related documentation. Many attorneys will review and interpret cease and desist letters at little to no cost. This can give you peace of mind and help you prepare for the next step. Sending a response from a law firm is often enough to deter overzealous corporate attorneys or open a mutually beneficial dialog between the parties. It’s not recommended you take action or respond to a cease and desist letter without the assistance of an experienced Virginia business and I.P. litigation attorney.

Cease and desist letters take different forms depending on the sender and content. Some are more formal while some are overtly threatening, and not every demand letter comes from a lawyer. An experienced Virginia business defense attorney can review and respond appropriately to any cease and desist directed at you or your business or threatening your intellectual property.

Common Types of Cease and Desist Letters

Cease and desist letters aren’t a legal prerequisite to litigation. However, businesses commonly receive cease and desist letters in the following situations:

  • The subject matter involves the alleged unauthorized use of a copyright, trademark, or patent (infringement) – intellectual property owners are required to actively monitor and send these letters to protect their interest in the intellectual property. Even if there are no damages from the alleged illegal use, they must send these letters to protect their legal interests. Responding to such letters may involve modifying a logo or entering into a licensing agreement.
  • The complainant wishes to avoid expensive litigation – cease and desist letters are often the opposing party’s way of saying they don’t want to file litigation. Instead, they may be looking to open a dialogue about possible resolutions to the perceived infringement.
  • There is a binding court order – Cease and desist letters may be sent if it appears the receiving party has violated a standing court order. If the letter is related to a current or previous legal dispute, contact an attorney immediately.

An experienced Virginia intellectual property lawyer may draft a response, recommend stopping all use of the subject matter at issue, or facilitate a licensing or related agreement with the sender. If necessary, he or she may initiate litigation to invalidate the sender’s intellectual property rights and establish your entitlement to use in Virginia through the common law.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Consultation with a Virginia Business Lawyer

Intellectual property law and its private enforcement obligations are complex, and the experienced federal patent, trademark, and copyright lawyers at McClanahan Powers, PLLC, can help small businesses address intimating cease and desist letters. Located in proximity to the United States Patent and Trademark and United States Copyright offices, McClanahan Powers, PLLC’s Virginia, and D.C. intellectual property lawyers are available to review and address the most common types of cease and desist letters. Call our office today at (703) 520-1326 or contact us online to schedule your intellectual property case review and defense.