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What is the meaning of cease & desist?

Updated February 21, 2017

"Cease and desist" simply means to stop doing the action specified in a court order. It is a term used when legal action is likely to ensue, or has commenced, if the party you are asking to stop doing something keeps doing it.

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Cease and Desist Letter

A cease and desist letter, or demand letter, is a missive that you or your attorney sends to tell a person, corporation or other entity to stop doing whatever it is you want them to stop doing. Generally, a cease and desist letter will be dated, state what you want the other party to do, and tell the recipient what action you intend to take if the party does not comply with your demand. A cease and desist letter is the first step in asserting your rights.

Reasons For Cease and Desist Letters

Cease and desist letter are sent in a variety of circumstances. If someone were to use all or part of a book you wrote without buying it or getting your permission, then this might constitute copyright infringement. This might include, for example, a professor making copies of a chapter of a book that you wrote and giving the copies to his students. If you had a business with the trademarked (registered and protected) name, "Henry Mac's Super-Duper Insurance Agency," and someone else opened a business with the same name, this might be a trademark violation. If creditors are calling you repeatedly to try to collect on debts and you have already filed for bankruptcy protection, then you might send a cease and desist letter to tell them to stop calling.

Party Complies

The target of the cease and desist letter might comply with your demand. Compliance could mean not using your trademarked name any longer, not calling you about debts, or not using or distributing your copyrighted material. If the party complies, you probably do not need to do anything else.

Civil Lawsuit

If the other targeted party of the cease and desist letter does not comply with your demand, you can sue them in a civil court and ask a judge to issue an injunction, or a cease and desist order, telling the defendant to stop doing whatever you have asked him to stop doing.

Types of Injunctions

If the judge agrees with you, she could order one of three types of cease and desist orders, depending on the status of the litigation. A mandatory injunction requires that the other party do something that the judge specifies. A final injunction is issued at the end of a trial. An interlocutory injunction is issued while a trial is still going on to maintain the status quo until the matter is decided.

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About the Author

Tanya Lee

Tanya Lee is a professional writer with more than 30 years experience. She has published extensively in the field of education and as a journalist, the latter in such publications as "High Country News" and "News from Indian Country." Lee holds a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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