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Understanding Cease and Desist Letters

Many people picture legal disputes being settled in court, a judge or jury rendering a decision in the case after an extended trial. However, most cases never make it that far. It is much more common for cases to be settled by the litigants in advance of the trial, and even those that do make it to the end involve a great deal of communication between the parties outside of the courtroom. One important form that that communication can take is a cease and desist letter, a letter from one party to another instructing them that they should stop performing some action lest they suffer legal consequences.

What Cease and Desist Letters Are

Cease and desist letters are usually the opening salvo in a legal dispute, and they are sent from one party, or one party’s attorney, directly to the other. Ordinarily, they are used when one party has identified some right of theirs that they believe that the other is violating. For instance, a cease and desist letter may follow a company’s discovering that someone else is using a logo that they believe is violating their trademark. The letter will likely identify the conduct that the putative plaintiff thinks is violating their rights, and will ask the person to stop. It will also likely threaten more serious legal action should the person continue with the conduct.

It is also important for people who receive a cease and desist letter to understand what those letters are not. The letter is not a binding legal document, and it is not a ruling by a court. Cease and desist letters, on their own, have no power. They are merely a legal argument or threat of legal action being made by one side in a case.

Using Cease and Desist Letters

Despite the fact that cease and desist letters carry no legal authority on their own, they can still be useful early on in a case. While a cease and desist letter cannot misstate the law, it can take an aggressive or intimidating position. In some cases, the threat on its own can be enough to get a person to stop engaging in the activity. Even if it does not, it can help put them on the defensive moving into future litigation.

Responding to Cease and Desist Letters

Many people who receive cease and desist letters wonder about the best way to respond to them. The short answer is to talk to a lawyer after gathering the facts of the situation. The important thing to realize is that ignoring the letter is likely to be a mistake. A cease and desist letter left to fester may result in a lawsuit, and it can also increase the potential damages someone who loses the lawsuit is left to pay. Many laws either explicitly or implicitly contain increased penalties for someone who violates them intentionally or knowingly. If the party who sends a cease and desist letter prevails, the letter can often be used in court to demonstrate that a person continued to violate the law despite knowing that they were doing so.

If you have recently received a cease and desist letter and want more information on the best way to respond, contact a Florida business litigation attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today.

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