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Checklist: What to Do When You Receive a Cease-and-Desist Letter

by | Aug 19, 2021 | Basics of Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property

You just received a cease-and-desist letter from a law firm in New York accusing you of trademark and copyright infringement. Your anxiety spikes. What do you do? 

Consult this checklist of nine steps you should take to protect your business and personal assets:

  • In spite of any inconvenience or how you may feel, do not ignore the cease-and-desist letter.  
  • Do not throw the cease-and-desist letter away.
  • Read the letter thoroughly. Make sure you understand what laws you are allegedly violating.
  • If you do not understand the letter, consult with a lawyer who specializes in trademark and copyright law. They can explain the content of the letter and advise you on the best strategy.
  • Respond — in writing — to the person who sent you the letter within the time frame set forth, usually 30 days. You can respond on your own or through counsel.
  • If you are operating a business that is selling counterfeit goods (based on the allegations in the cease-and-desist letter), remove the alleged counterfeit goods from the website or store front. Keep them out of circulation until you can resolve the conflict with the other party.
  • If you are operating a website that includes photos taken by another person, and you do not have permission to use those photos or failed to pay a licensing fee, remove the photos immediately.
  • If you try to resolve the allegations in the letter on your own, make sure you understand any settlement agreement and release that you sign. You do not want to give up valuable rights for your business. 
  • If you do not understand the agreement the other party sends to you, it is wise to seek help from an IP attorney.

What Happens If You Just Ignore the Cease-and-Desist Letter?

If you ignore the letter, the opposing attorney may file a lawsuit in federal court against your business — and possibly you as an individual. The opposing attorney may try to obtain a temporary restraining order without notice. They could even ask a court to freeze your bank accounts, seize your goods, and shut down your business.  

This may sound harsh, but try to see it from the perspective of the other party. Copyright and trademark registrations are very valuable IP assets to successful corporations. They do not care if you were unaware of your copyright or trademark infringement. They just want you to stop infringing their copyrights and trademarks.  

So do not ignore a cease-and-desist letter. Be proactive in solving the problem, for your own sake, the sake of your business, and for those you might have infringed upon.


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