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Do Not Ignore Cease and Desist Letters

by | Nov 13, 2020 | Basics of Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property

Imagine this scenario: You receive a cease and desist letter from a law firm. It says you are committing trademark infringement and/or copyright infringement.

What do you do?

Let’s take this step by step:

1. Do. Not. Ignore. It. The circular file is not the appropriate place for the letter. If you ignore it, the attorney who sent the letter will eventually file a lawsuit in federal court against you for trademark infringement and/or copyright infringement. This action may not happen right away. You might even think you are out of danger. But even if a few years pass, you could still end up in legal trouble.

Additionally, while you are ignoring them, the opposing attorney could attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order and ask a court to freeze your bank accounts, seize your goods, and shut down your business. They do not have to provide notice to you about this action. By the time you figure out what has happened to your business and hired a lawyer to defend you, it may be too late. You will have an uphill battle in trying to defend yourself and recover your business. Instead…

2. Read the letter and make sure you understand what it says. If you do not understand what the letter is telling you, go talk to a lawyer who specializes in copyright and trademark law. In fact, even if you do understand it, consulting with an IP attorney should be your next move, because they can respond on your behalf and advise you on the best strategy to prevent yourself from accidentally getting into (further) legal hot water. Do this as soon as possible.

3. Immediately end any potentially illegal behavior. Are you operating a website that sells counterfeit goods? Take down the site immediately. Operating a website that includes photos you do not have permission to use? Remove the photos immediately.

4. Do not attempt to negotiate on your own. Some small business people will actually try to talk to the lawyer who sent the cease and desist letter. They may try to negotiate an agreement with the other party’s lawyer. 

This is a bad idea. Before you sign any type of agreement, refresh yourself on what it says in #2 above and consult an attorney who specializes in this area of the law. Otherwise, you could end up unknowingly doing something you regret — like giving up valuable rights in your business.  

Why is working with a knowledgeable lawyer so important in these types of situations?

Because the other party will not care that your cousin gave you the goods and you had no idea the products were counterfeit. They will not care that you had no idea that you were involved in copyright infringement or trademark infringement. They just want you to stop infringing their copyrights and trademarks. 

Copyright registrations and trademark registrations are very valuable IP assets to successful corporations. And large corporations can and will use the power of the law to shut down your business.  

So do not ignore that cease and desist letter. Tread lightly and quickly seek wise counsel.


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