A cease and desist letter is a letter that a rights owner or her attorney sends to someone who is allegedly infringing the rights owner’s copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property asset. In the letter, the rights owner explains how your actions are violating her rights and demands that you stop such activities.
Cease and desist letters usually carry the threat of additional legal action, usually a lawsuit, if the activity does not stop. Sometimes, the rights owner means business and has the intention and the resources to follow through with a lawsuit if you fail to comply. However, other cease and desist letters are the equivalent of the rights owner huffing and puffing with no real power to blow your house down. The rights owner may have a weak or no valid legal argument against your activities and hopes that the cease and desist letter will scare you into compliance. In effect, the rights owner is just bluffing. Sometimes the recipient calls the bluff. A cease and desist letter too strongly worded can backfire as bad publicity for the sender.
An example from real life of a backfiring bluff is a correspondence in which Direct Buy tried to stop the posting of negative comments about the company on www.infomercialblog.com and other websites by sending this letter. The owner of the website enlisted the help of Public Citizen which in its response called Direct Buy’s cease and desist letter “over the top” and filled with “foolish legal assertions”.
While stating sound legal theory, Public Citizen’s response also manages to be humorous. In response to Direct Buy’s threat to file a lawsuit in Canada against the US-based website owner, Public Citizen suggests that Direct Buy also consider filing suit in Tashkent. Direct Buy’s attorney asserts that his cease and desist letter is the copyrighted property of his law firm and that the recipient would violate intellectual property laws if the recipient dared to post the letter online. That was a mistake! Public Citizen called Direct Buy attorney’s bluff and posted his letter online “as an invitation to test the theory that the writer of a cease and desist letter can avoid public scrutiny by threatening to file a copyright lawsuit if his letter is disclosed publicly on the internet”.