What Is a Cease-and-Desist Letter?
Also known as a demand letter, a cease-and-desist letter is a warning to businesses or individuals engaging in behavior that is deemed to be unlawful or infringing on the rights of another person. The letter serves as a warning that the recipient must stop their behavior immediately or face legal action.
Cease and desist letters are often used in cases involving violation of a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement, copyright infringement, trademark infringement, defamation, breach of contract, and other types of legal disputes. They are usually sent by lawyers or other legal representatives on behalf of their clients.
A cease-and-desist letter typically includes the following:
- A description of the misconduct or violation
- How the misconduct violates the letter writer’s rights
- A demand that the recipient stop the alleged misconduct
- A warning that the letter writer may proceed with legal action if the misconduct is not halted
On This Page
- Is a Cease-and-Desist Letter the Same as a Court Order?
- Does a Cease-and-Desist Letter Have to Be Drafted by an Attorney?
- Can You Enforce a Cease-and-Desist Letter?
- When Should You Consider Sending a Cease-and-Desist Letter?
- What Happens if my Cease-and-Desist Letter Is Ignored?
- What Should You Do If You Receive a Cease-and-Desist Letter?
No, a cease-and-desist letter is not the same thing as a court order. Instead, the letter acts as a warning to an individual or business to stop certain actions. It is typically seen as a first step before taking legal action.
A court order or injunction, on the other hand, is a court action levied against a party to compel them to stop performing some harmful activity. Unlike a cease-and-desist letter, a court order is legally enforceable.
To obtain a court order, a lawsuit must be pending in court over the property or action in question, and the party seeking the ordered injunction must request a hearing before a judge. At that hearing, the judge may or may not issue the court-ordered injunction.
In Texas, some injunctions are issued by the court on an emergency basis – called a Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO, which lasts 14 days. Each jurisdiction may have its own local rules governing injunctive relief; however, in general, the defendant does not have to present at this hearing. During these 14 days, the party seeking a stop the damaging behavior may request a Temporary Injunction (TI) hearing to prevent further harm and preserve the status quo for the duration of the litigation.
Learn more about the injunctive relief processin Texas.
In Texas, notice of court orders are delivered via personal service or service by registered or certified mail, with return receipt requested. Court orders are issued by a court of law; not by the opposing party’s attorney.
Anyone may send a cease-and-desist letter. However, civil matters are complicated, and a cease-and-desist letter is considered a warning shot before entering litigation. It is advisable that you consult a business or civil litigation attorney before acting.
An attorney can review any underlying agreements or applicable law, advise you if your rights have been violated or law(s) broken, and the legal remedies available to you. If you and your attorney do decide to send a cease-and-desist letter, include the legal foundations for your demand in the letter to put you in a stronger position and lessen the likelihood that your demand is treated like an empty threat.
The benefits of working with an attorney before sending your cease-and-desist letter include:
- Guidance on the current legal situation, including exploring all your legal rights and options
- Help with drafting, reviewing, and serving a legally sound cease-and-desist letter
- Engaging an experienced attorney to send the letter shows you are serious and ready to take action to defend your rights
- Representation when negotiating with the other party
- Representation with future related legal matters, including requesting a restraining order or filing a lawsuit
No, a cease-and-desist letter is not legally enforceable. If you send an individual or business a cease-and-desist letter and they ignore it, the next available action is to either let the matter drop or file a lawsuit and request a court order demanding the injurious behavior stop.
Depending on the issue, a cease-and-desist letter can be a good option to resolve a dispute quickly and peacefully. It can lead to negotiations that settle the matter without involving the courts.
A demand letter also demonstrates that you gave the other party notice of your grievances. If they ignore you, it is proof that the other party knowingly and willfully continued the disputed behavior. They can no longer claim that they were unaware of the alleged violation.
Common issues in which sending a cease-and-desist letter may be appropriate:
- Copyright or trademark infringement
- Violations of a non-compete agreement
- Violations of a non-solicitation agreement
- Breached business contracts
- Slander, libel, and/or defamation
However, before sending a cease-and-desist letter, consult with your attorney to be sure that you understand the legal ramifications of doing so.
If your letter is ignored, the next step is to file a lawsuit and ask the courts for a temporary restraining order to stop the prohibited activity immediately and prevent further damage to your business and reputation. You can also pursue financial damages or other remedies to repair the damage done to your business by the defendant.
Your attorney will also counsel you to avoid retaliating after receiving a demand letter, such as taking your grievances to social media. Any response can be “discoverable”, meaning it can used as evidence against you should the matter end up in litigation.
At Hendershot Cowart P.C., we have extensive experience helping businesses and corporations deal with issuing and responding to cease-and-desist letters. Our legal team has the skill, knowledge, and resources to handle any issue, big or small. We work directly with our clients to help them determine all their legal options and to devise a strategy that puts their and their business’ best interests first.
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