Handling Cease and Desist Letters
One day you open your mail, and there it is: a cease and desist letter. But what is a cease and desist letter? Do you have to follow what it requests? And will you owe money?
What is a Cease and Desist Letter?
At its core, a cease and desist letter is exactly what it says: it is asking you to stop some kind of offending behavior, or behavior that the writer believes is affecting its legal rights.
Cease and desist letters are commonly used to stop people from infringing on intellectual property but they can also be used to stop people from disseminating trade secrets, violating noncompete agreements, for defaming someone, or from doing anything that the writer believes is illegal behavior.
By its nature, a cease and desist letter is asking you to stop continuing ongoing (mis)conduct; that is, something you are still doing.
However, many letters contain not just a request to stop behavior, but many may include a request that you pay damages, and some may be a hybrid, asking that you stop the behavior by a certain point, and if you do not, the other side will sue for monetary damages.
What Should You Do?
Although scary, a cease and desist letter does not come from a judge; it is nothing more than the other sides’ attorneys’ opinion. That opinion is obviously slanted towards their side, and may not be true or accurate. You have every right to challenge the cease and desist letter.
This is often done through a letter to the other side, explaining why the cease and desist is inaccurate or incorrect.
Whether or not you want to actually stop the behavior that the letter asks, is an individual decision. If the alleged infringement is minor and it doesn’t hurt your business, you may want to just stop the alleged infringing behavior, and let both parties move on with their lives.
In other cases, the actions the other side wants you to stop, may be profitable, legal, and may be a vital part of your business operations, in which case just stopping may not be feasible or fair.
Do You Disagree?
What you do not want to do is completely ignore the letter. Often ignoring the letter can lead to lawsuits and litigation that may have been avoided had you responded to the letter—even if you disagree with its allegations and contents.
If you completely disagree with the letter, and it is worth it to you, you can provide your position, and wait for the other side; they may take legal action or they may not. You also may be able to work out an agreement with them.
This is easier in certain situations—for example, with intellectual property, some licensing or royalty agreement can be arranged going forward. But with an alleged violation of something like a noncompete agreement, a “middle ground” settlement may be harder to find.
Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig today for help with your intellectual property or business law questions.