What Business Owners Should Know about Cease and Desist Letters

In the course of operating a business in California, situations may arise in which another party tries to use your protected materials without permission. This is not uncommon, especially here in California where so many businesses thrive based on inventions, creations and other highly protected products and services.

When this situation arises, it is important for a business owner to take deliberate, effective actions to protect the business and the work in question. In many cases, this can include sending a cease and desist letter. However, before you send anything, you should consider a few things:

  1. What do you want your letter to do? A cease and desist letter formally informs someone to stop certain behaviors, like using trademarked or copyrighted materials. It isn't the same thing as a lawsuit, and it may not necessarily change behaviors of someone who ignores the demand or believes you are not in a position to back-up your demand with legal action.
  2. Write your letter as if a judge will read it. As this article on policing trademarks discusses, we live in a world run by social media and this allows consumers and clients to reach a massive audience with the click of a button. They could easily share your letter online, so it is important that you think carefully about not just what you are saying, but also how you say it.
  3. Make sure you own the rights which are the subject of your letter. Is it possible that you could actually be infringing on someone else's ownership of the material? Is the work in question actually being misused or does it fall under a category like "legitimate fair use?"

These are just a few critical things to consider before you send any cease and desist letter. It is, of course, important for business owners to enforce their ownership of intellectual property and other materials, but it is also necessary to consider your ownership rights, leverage, and delivery of the message.

Talking to an attorney about cease and desist letters and other tools to avoid or address possible conflicts can be a wise decision. With legal guidance, you can work to protect your company, your clients and your reputation, while minimizing the potential of anything backfiring. 

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