A cease and desist letter is a warning to the reciepent.

The phrase “cease and desist” is intimidating. These words demand a response and action from the recipient. There are a few ways to react if you receive a letter with those ominous words. Scroll through the page to learn what to do if you receive a cease and desist letter.

What is A Cease and Desist Letter?

This letter is sent to an individual or business to cease (stop) and desist (not to restart) an alleged illegal activity. The letter Is a warning to the recipient that he/she must take specific actions or discontinue certain actions by a specific date. The letter often states that the sender intends to sue the recipient if a required action is not taken. Typically a lawyer writes this type of letter. This letter is also called a cease and desist notice, demand letter or a stop harassment letter.

What Is It Not?

A cease and desist letter has no legal significance. It is not an actual lawsuit. It is a warning to the recipient to discontinue the wrongful activity the sender believes he/she is doing. A cease and desist letter is often a lawyer’s opinion of how the law applies to the sender’s facts.

Reasons to Receive a Cease and Desist

The letter wants the receiver to stop certain activities including: using another’s intellectual property as your own, copyright infringement, harassment, breach of contract, libel, or plagiarizing.

If You Receive A Cease and Desist Letter

Receiving a cease and desist letter is a shocking jolt. Before you react in any way, take a deep breath and make sure you understand everything written in the letter. Then, take these immediate steps:

  • Do not post anything on social media about the letter. Anything you do or say online can be used in court. 
  • Preserve evidence. Do not delete files or emails. Print out important documents and start a file. Save the cease and desist letter in a safe place. A lawyer needs this information.
  • Contact an attorney. Most times, a cease and desist letter relates to a dispute over a business or intellectual property. An attorney will guide you through the next steps.
Contact an attorney immediately if you receive a cease and desist letter

Consider Your Business

There may be negative implications for your business if you comply with the letter’s demands. Think about the situation from a business perspective. Ask yourself the following questions: Will my business go bankrupt if I comply with the letter? Will I need to shut down my business? Do I have the resources to fight this?

How to Respond

There are a number of ways to respond to a cease and desist letter. 

  • Have your lawyer write a response to try negotiating with the letter’s sender. 
  • Ask for more information about the activity you are accused of doing.
  • Comply with the letter’s demands.
  • Deny any accusations against you. 
  • File a declaratory of judgment so the court decides which party is in the right.

Situations You Need to Write One

There are situations when a cease and desist letter needs to be sent. It’s typically because an individual is doing actions that negatively impact you or your business. These are the most common situations why a cease and desist letter is sent:

  • Consistent harassment from debt collectors.
  • When your content is plagiarized.
  • When your business’s trademark is infringed upon or copied.
  • If you find out about libel, slander or character assignation against you.

Use clear language in your letter so the recipient understands exactly your demands.

Details Your Letter Needs

  • Clarify the action you want the receiver to stop.
  • Include the dates and times the receiver allegedly committed the illegal act.
  • List the steps the receiver of the letter must take to rectify the situation. 

Next Steps

If the situation you’re in worsens, you may need to take legal action. Contact an attorney. He/she will help you serve a cease and desist order. The order is a legal action from a court. It prohibits the recipient from doing the activity the order is a

A cease and desist order is a court order.

Time to Send One

Pretend you own a casual, family dining restaurant. Another restaurant owner spreads rumors that you pay employees low wages, serve rotten food and do not properly clean your restaurant. Customers stop coming to your restaurant and eat at the competitors. In this case, it is appropriate to send a cease and desist letter. The rumors are causing you and your restaurant’s reputation to go downhill. The rumors caused damage to your business and you are losing money. Your cease and desist letter must outline the false claims the other owner made and that a retraction should be made. The letter must also state that the rumors must stop or else you will take legal action.


A cease and desist letter is a warning to the recipient he/she needs to stop alleged illegal activity such as libel, copyright infringement, harassment, plagiarism, breach of contract, or instances of stolen intellectual property. Contact a lawyer and collect evidence if you are the recipient of the letter. You could receive a cease and desist order if you ignore the letter. Take immediate action if you receive a letter. The situation will not disappear if you do not take action.

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