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Published April 15, 2023

Catherine Cavella, ESQ.

Part of powering your ideas is protecting them. As you grow and create and innovate, others will keep a close eye on what you are building and may see what they can get out of your hard work – even when they have no right to do so.


Patenting your invention gives you the right to control the use of your innovation. Registering your trademarks and copyrights gives you more legal authority to control the use or reproduction of your work or mark. Failing to actively protect and enforce your IP can cost you that protection, however. This is where cease and desist letters come in handy. Understanding how they work to protect your property can be a key aspect of powering your ideas for years to come.


Cease and Desist Letters Do Not Hold Legal Power on Their Own


Cease and desist letters are used to stop someone who is violating someone else’s trademark, copyright, or patent rights. While they do play a role in enforcing protection, the letters themselves do not hold any legal power or authority.


The details of these letters are not legally binding in and of themselves, but they are often a precursor to legal action if ignored. Cease and desist letters warn the infringer (defendant) that the continued use and abuse of your IP will lead to litigation that could cost the defendant a significant amount of money.


The Letter is Only as Strong as the Registrations It Claims to Protect


You will get a lot less out of a cease and desist letter if your intellectual property is not properly and strategically protected. For instance, if you have failed to actually register the work you are claiming ownership of or you attempted to fit numerous protectable elements into one registration, your claim of infringement may not hold up in court.


An effective intellectual property portfolio includes a variety of registrations covering individual elements instead of a few registrations that claim to cover a wide range of marks or works. Part of issuing a cease and desist letter is ensuring you actually have the legal authority you are claiming in the first place.


These Letters Can Save You Money and Time


Courts look upon cease and desist letters favorably. They recognize them as an effort to resolve an intellectual property dispute outside of the courtroom and establish the groundwork for litigation should they be ignored.


If the recipient of the letter decides to end their use of your IP then you may not have anything further to be concerned about. However, this does not excuse the infringement already committed and you can still pursue litigation for the violation(s) that already took place.


Cease and Desist Letters Are Different From Cease and Desist Orders


It’s important not to confuse a letter with an order. You (or your attorney) have the ability to issue a cease and desist letter on your own without court approval. However, a cease and desist order holds actual legal power that only the courts or government may issue.


While a cease and desist letter is a warning about potential legal action, a cease and desist order is the legal action itself. Orders require the recipient to stop the use of the IP immediately and respond to the court.


Have Your Attorney Draft a Cease and Desist Letter


An experienced intellectual property attorney has likely drafted and submitted many cease and desist letters on behalf of their clients already. Such letters are a relatively routine part of protecting innovation, trademarks, and copyrighted works.


The team at IP Works Law can help you draft a letter according to the letter of the law and make sure your ideas are protected as you work to grow your business. Contact our team today and Power Your Ideas.

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Since 1992, Catherine Cavella, Esq. Her focus on Trademark Law and Copyright Law for the last few decades gives her deep insights into the fundamental principles behind the rules. Catherine regularly writes about new developments in trademark law, copyright law, and internet law.