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What’s the purpose of a cease and desist letter?

No business owner wants to take time and money away from their company to go to court. When a competitor or other business acts in a way that violates the law and is harmful to your business, however, you can’t let it stand. 

Fortunately, there are typically steps you can take to let another business or individual know that what they’re doing is wrong, you’ve noticed it and you’re notifying them that if they don’t stop (generally by a specific date), you will be forced to take legal action. That’s essentially the purpose of a cease and desist letter.

Whether you’re telling a competitor to stop saying untrue things about you in their advertising or a neighboring business to stop encroaching on your property, a cease and desist letter can be a powerful first (and, if successful, last) step in resolving the problem. 

Cease and desist letters vs. orders

A cease and desist letter isn’t a legal document. It’s simply a notification to another party that they’re doing something wrong. By sending it (and confirming the other party’s receipt of it), you’re ensuring that they’re aware of that wrongdoing and giving them a chance to “cease and desist.”

If there’s no response or the other party doesn’t comply, the next step is usually a cease and desist order. This order is a legal document. You need to inform either a court or a government agency of the situation and ask them to send it.

If you’re dealing with a situation that you believe warrants a cease and desist letter, it’s wise to get legal guidance. While such a letter may seem straightforward, you want it to have maximum impact. You also want to be sure that it’s clear and concise. A letter coming from a legal professional will naturally carry more weight than one you send yourself. A well-crafted cease and desist letter can also help you resolve the issue without spending further time or money on it.