Cease And Desist

Updated on March 27, 2024
Article byShrestha Ghosal
Edited byShrestha Ghosal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Cease And Desist Meaning

A cease and desist is a notice or an official warning sent to stop an unlawful activity. It is sent to inform the concerned party that further legal actions could be taken against them if the activity is not stopped. The notice does not necessarily follow into a lawsuit.

Cease And Desist

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It is usually an official notification served as the first formal step post an informal notification. It is issued because this notice is more feasible than starting legal proceedings. Furthermore, it is often instrumental in stopping the offending activity without having to get into a lawsuit.

Key Takeaways

  • A cease and desist issued by an aggrieved party to an accused party, an individual, or a business, to stop conducting illegal or allegedly unlawful activity.
  • This letter is not legally binding, but it can be used as evidence in litigation if the issuer proceeds to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator.
  • Situations warranting this letter include defamation, infringement of intellectual property and rights, harassment, breaching a contract or agreement, and contributory infringement.
  • Issuing this letter does not automatically lead to a lawsuit.

Cease And Desist Explained

A cease and desist is an official warning to stop an alleged illegal activity or misconduct. This notice is issued to notify a party that they should discontinue alleged unlawful conduct failing which they might face legal consequences. However, if the activity is not terminated, it will not automatically follow into a lawsuit.

This notice can be served under the following circumstances:

  • Character assassination, defamation, and slander can call for this notice. Harming someone’s reputation or making false statements about their character is unlawful. Such false accusations can be countered with this letter.
  • Trademark, patent, and copyright infringement is an act of harming someone’s intellectual property. This illegal act can be served with this letter.
  • Harassment is illegal, and this letter can be issued against the wrongdoer.
  • Any breach of a contract or agreement can count as an unlawful activity where the accused can be issued this letter.
  • This letter can also be served to someone allegedly guilty of contributory infringement. This phrase means someone who is not directly engaged in misconduct but is contributing to it somehow. It is also known as a secondary liability or contributory liability.

A cease and desist order is different from a cease and desist letter. The order has legal standing, whereas a letter does not. This order is granted by a court of law, implying a temporary injunction. It means that the alleged wrongdoer must discontinue his misconduct. The accused party is given a time frame of 10 to 15 days to stop the activity. After that, a trial for it is held. If the accused party is proven guilty in the trial, a permanent injunction will be issued against them.

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How To Write?

The letter can be written in the following manner:

  • The issuing party must provide information on both parties. The information must include the party’s name, type (a company or an individual), location, address, and pin code.
  • The issuing party must select the type of letter to be served. The various kinds of letters are debt collection, trademark, copyright infringement, and general letters. Each of these letters is issued for a specific purpose, depending upon the type of misconduct that is to be addressed by the issuer.
  • The final step includes adding a date to the letter. This step ensures that there is no confusion regarding the timeline of the disputed event. If the issuer is unsure about the date, they can select the “unsure” option.


Let us understand this concept with the following examples:

Example #1

Rachel owns a salon and is popular in her area for her work. However, Rachel’s competitor, Joanna, tried to defame her by publicly accusing Rachel of engaging in shady business in her salon. She also accused Rachel of using low-quality and expired products on her customers. Due to this allegation, Rachel started losing her customers, and her business suffered negative consequences. When Rachel learned about Joanna’s allegations against her, she formally warned Joanna to stop her wrong accusations immediately. This notice is an example of cease and desist letter.

Example #2

An example of this notice is when Britney Spears issued a letter to her younger sister Jamie Lynns Spears. A day after Jamie’s memoir “Things I Should Have Said” was published, her elder sister served this notice. Britney’s legal team asked Jamie to stop using Britney’s name while promoting her book. They also claimed that the book contained outrageous claims against Britney. She and her fans were shocked by how Jamie used Britney’s name for her economic gains, and they collectively wanted to end this atrocious act.

Cease And Desist vs Restraining Order

  • A cease and desist notice is a formal warning that is issued to an accused party, which can either be an individual or a business, to discontinue their alleged unlawful activities and misconduct immediately. It is not legally binding.
  • A restraining order is a legal notice granted by a court of law or government authority and issued to an alleged perpetrator. It is legally binding and orders the accused to cease any unlawful actions. The party served with a restraining order is legally compelled to acknowledge the order. A lawsuit or penalties may follow if they fail to comply with the terms of the restraining order. In some cases, it could also lead to the conviction of the accused.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to send a cease and desist letter?

Since the letter is not a legal document, there is no specified method of sending it. The issuer can write and send the letter themselves, or they can hire an attorney or a legal professional to send the letter. There is no prescribed method of delivering the letter.

Can a cease and desist letter be considered harassment?

This letter is not legally binding, but it does have legal power. For example, it can be considered harassment if the language in the letter is offensive or too aggressive. Furthermore, if the claims are false, unsupported, or just an attempt to intimidate the accused party unethically, it can be considered harassment.

Are cease and desist letters public record?

Yes, these letters can be used as public records once issued. For example, if a lawsuit follows based on the letter, it will eventually become part of the public record.

Do cease and desist letters work?

These letters are not legally effective but can be used as evidence in legal proceedings against wrongdoers if the misconduct is not discontinued.

This article has been a guide to Cease And Desist and its meaning. We explain its examples, how to write it, and compare it with the restraining order. You may also find some useful articles here –

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