The Skinny on Cease & Desist Letters
Two words that can mean everything . . . or nothing at all
Cease & Desist!
Two words that can mean everything . . . or nothing at all.
So you got a cease and desist letter from someone claiming that you infringed their trademark. Or you’ve just been tipped off that someone is infringing your trademark, and you’re considering sending a cease and desist of your own.
These little letters (or sometimes very long letters) have a lot of nuance. Read on for the lowdown on C&Ds.
What is It?
A C&D is a notice that (1) informs another party that they are infringing a right, (2) asks them to stop, and (3) usually threatens to sue if they don’t.
Everything or Nothing at All
If you have ever been on the receiving end of a C&D, it may have sent a chill down your spine. What many business owners do not know is that a C&D, by itself, does not have any legal power.
You heard me right. A cease and desist letter is just that - a letter. What is more important than the letter itself is the intention of the person who sent it. Some people who send C&Ds are straight-up bluffing and have no intention of taking action. Others already have the lawsuit drawn-up and are ready to file if the supposed infringer doesn’t respond. Without knowing more, it’s hard to know which one you are dealing with. It could be nothing (just a bluff), or it could be the beginning of very expensive litigation.
Although the letter itself may not reveal the true determination of the sender, these letters do have some key information. First, they inform the supposed infringer of what they are being accused of. This is helpful because these letters usually go to the CEO, and CEOs are not intimately involved in the day-to-day details of the company. Thus, the letter gives the CEO an opportunity to investigate and determine whether the accusation is in fact true.
Second, a trademark owner will usually include their USPTO Registration Number in the C&D. This provides the accused with an opportunity to look up the registration, view its status, and have a lawyer assess whether the claim is credible or whether the other party is overreacting.
Third, C&Ds usually have deadlines by which to respond or take certain actions. While these deadlines likely don’t have any legal force, a serious opponent will honor them. So if the letter says “respond by April 12th or we will sue”, a serious opponent will follow-through on that threat.
A cease and desist letter can mean everything or nothing at all. While the letter itself does not have the force of law, it contains valuable information that an accused company can use to assess the claim. While some companies do use C&Ds as a bluffing technique, this strategy can backfire over time. After all, no one wants to be known as the trademark equivalent of the Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Thanks for reading the Bevel Law Blog! While this information is hopefully helpful to you, nothing in this blog is intended to be legal advice. Always consult a lawyer before making any legal decisions based on topics in this blog.
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