You Received a Cease and Desist Letter: Now What Do You Do?
Let’s say that you’re going about your business, seemingly, without issue. Nobody seems to have a problem with you, and you don’t think you’re doing anything legally wrong. Then one day, it happens: You get a dreaded cease and desist letter.
Who are these people telling you what you can and cannot do? If you disagree, can you just ignore the letter?
Not Legally Binding
One thing to remember is that a cease and desist letter is just someone’s opinion that they think you are doing something wrong. They may be right and they may be wrong. You don’t have to agree with them, or stop whatever behavior they think you are engaging in.
A cease and desist letter also has no legal meaning—that is, it is not sent from a Court, nor is it part of a lawsuit. It is simply a letter from someone (usually an attorney) saying that if you don’t stop doing something, that they will file a lawsuit—something that they may or may not do, and they don’t ever have to file a lawsuit, and in some cases, they may have no intentions of doing so, despite their threats.
When Are They Sent?
Cease and Desist letters are usually used in connection with infringement of intellectual property, but can also be used to try to stop you from doing things like hiring former employees bound by noncompete agreements, stop you from interfering with a contract or business relationship, or stop you from using or disseminating trade secrets.
Some letters will just ask you to stop “or else,” while others will want you to stop and also pay money.
What Should You Do?
What you choose to do with the letter is up to you (hopefully after consultation with your business lawyer, of course).
If you aren’t doing what the letter says you’re doing, there’s nothing to stop—you aren’t doing anything.
If you are doing what the letter alleges, but you see nothing legally wrong with it, and feel you have a right to do what you are doing, you have a choice.
If the activity is minor, incidental, in the past, or it just wouldn’t hurt you to stop engaging in the behavior alleged in the letter, it may be best financially to just stop, regardless of your agreement or disagreement with the letter.
But if the letter is asking you to stop doing something vital and fundamental to your business, and you disagree you’re doing anything wrong, you may have to stand up, disagree with the letter, and be ready to defend yourself in court, if and when a lawsuit comes.
A strongly worded counter letter, insisting you are in the right, pledging to defend yourself vigorously, and perhaps, warning the other side of counterclaims you will file, can be a strong deterrent to a lawsuit threatened in a cease and desist letter.
Call our Fort Lauderdale business lawyers at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954-440-3993 today for help if you have received a cease and desist letter, or you want to stop someone else from infringing on your legal rights.