What is a Cease and Desist Letter?

A Cease and Desist letter is a document sent to an individual or business to request harassing or infringing behaviour to stop (“cease”) and to not continue (“desist”).

The letter usually states that if the offending behaviour continues or specific actions aren’t taken by a specified date, further legal action may/will be taken.

Cease and Desist letters are very common in intellectual property/copyright disputes but they can also be used for:

  • Defamation
  • Personal harassment
  • Infringement of your commercial rights
  • Infringement of your rights in general

Drafting a Cease and Desist Letter Yourself

Cease and Desist letters can be a very effective tool and it is possible to draft one yourself. If this is applicable to you, here are some tips for doing so:

  • Include both of your personal details – yours and the offender’s, and date it.
  • Notify the recipient of the offending activity that you would like them to stop (e.g. breach of contract, copyright infringement, etc.) and applicable legislation
  • Formally request that they stop that behaviour with a deadline to do so
  • Provide a warning that you may proceed with further legal action if they don’t stop their activity
  • Sign it

 

Cease and Desist Letters in the News

It’s common to hear about the use of Cease and Desist Letters when it comes to news reports on legal matters.

 

 

Defamation

In 2023, The Guardian UK published an article on the rise of Cease & Desist letters sent to survivors of sexual assault, having a chilling effect on women who speak out about sexual violence.

In some cases, Cease & Desist letters are the first step to filing a defamation claim in the civil courts.

Defamation cases as a whole, in the UK, experienced a sharp rise in 2022, up from 152 in 2020 to 545 in 2021, according to Ministry of Justice data. In Australia on the other hand, ours is a country described as “the defamation capital of the world.” There have been many instances in the news where #MeToo stories and defamation cases intersect.

There is an increasing trend of women sharing their stories and accusing their alleged abusers online, only to subsequently have to deal with the ramifications of publishing their experiences.

Harriet Wistrich, the founder and director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, was quoted by The Guardian UK as saying: “This is a concerning issue, and perpetrators will use any means to silence [women]. What the threat of legal action means is that often it doesn’t even go to court – the threat and start of defamation procedures ensures that a lot of women will agree to shut up and retract what they have said.”

Women’s rights campaigners are calling for the law to be reformed, and for there to be more financial aid to support women fighting legal battles.

Wistrich said: “There are different things to address, you can reform the law or provide legal aid – so the law can’t be used to stop women and silence women.”

Read more here.

 

Intellectual Property – A Grinch Themed Cease and Desist

Years ago a small town in the States known as Louisville, Kentucky was getting ready to host a Grinch themed display before receiving a “Cease & Desist” letter ordering them to stop. The letter was from lawyers representing the estate for children’s author Dr.Seuss citing copyright infringement. (We wonder if the Grinch himself would have approved of this?)

The town’s Mayor was very upset and was quoted as saying “it appears these lawyers’ hearts are two sizes too small.” Even though it was meant to be an event out of appreciation for the classic Dr.Seuss story, the estate’s lawyers felt otherwise.

Read more on our Christmas IP Stories here.

 

Not Happy Jan

In 2019 Sensis, the parent company of The Yellow Pages, stated they were “Not Happy Jan” about Darrell Lea replicating their iconic ad and sent through a Cease & Desist letter (which the confectionary company agreed to adhere to).

Yellow executive manager James Ciuffetelli was quoted at the time as saying “we are flattered that Darrell Lea has used our iconic Yellow Pages advertising, featuring ‘Not Happy Jan.’ However it has been used without our consultation or approval. It is important for advertisers and agencies to protect their work, creativity and innovation.”

The Darrell Lea advertisement closely followed the original, even using Deborah Kennedy, the same actress who played the disgruntled boss and uttered the now iconic line “not happy Jan!”

Darrell Lea released a statement saying they were disappointed to be issued with the letter and would be sending The Yellow Pages a box of chocolates.

Read more here.

 

Kylie Jenner

Also in 2019, Kylie Jenner ruffled some feathers in the Australian small business community by apparently issuing a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter to a small clothing retailer over their t-shirts with the slogan ‘Rise & Shine.’

Jenner trade marked the term after video of her singing ‘Rise & Shine’ to her daughter went viral. Cased Clothing (owned by a Queensland mother who wished to remain anonymous) had been selling ‘Rise & Shine’ t-shirts for over 12 months, long before the term was trade marked.

As a small business, Cased Clothing were reported to have said “unfortunately, we just don’t have the money to fight something like that, and she has enough cash to take us down. It’s not worth it. The design wasn’t about her, it was just a shirt with a different holiday feel.”

As it turned out, both Kylie Jenner and Cased Clothing confirmed the news was not true. Kylie published a tweet saying:

“There are no lawsuits, no cease and desist letters. Happy Sunday.”

You can read more here.

Jenner has been known to be highly protective of her intellectual property and regularly files trade marks for her various business ventures and products. She was however, unsuccessful in taking on Australia’s Kylie Minogue over the trademark ‘Kylie.’

 

The Benefits of a Commercial Lawyer Drafting a Cease and Desist Letter

corporate-lawyer-albury

It’s always advisable to have a lawyer draft one on your behalf as they will ensure your legal rights are covered as much as possible and all relevant details are applied should the letter ever be needed as evidence in court. A lawyer has detailed knowledge of the law and will also ensure you don’t miss including vital information in regards to legislation. With an official letterhead and stamp from a lawyers office, this can show the offending party you are serious about the breaches taking place and prepared to take further legal action.

If you need a Cease and Desist letter drafted, contact our office here for assistance. We can assess your situation and advise on the best course of action specific to your circumstances.