In this video, you will get answers to these questions:
- Do I have to obey a cease and desist letter?
- What is a cease and desist letter?
- What should I do if I receive a cease and desist letter?
Do I have to obey a cease and desist letter? That’s the question I’m answering today. I’m Aaron Hall, a business attorney in Minnesota. Let’s imagine you received a cease and desist letter. It’s pretty scary. It’s pretty intimidating. Usually, it’s written by an attorney on law firm letterhead and it’s telling you to stop doing something.
The first question is whether what you’re doing is legal or illegal. A cease and desist letter generally is only used when conduct is illegal. If it’s legal, you’re permitted to continue to do it, so they can’t tell you or they have no legal basis to tell you to stop doing something. So usually when my clients contact me and they say, “Hey, I want to send a cease and desist letter, the other side is doing something,” my first question is, is what they’re doing legal or illegal? Now, as an attorney, I can often look at a lot of the gray area of the law and figure out is there at least a basis to argue that what they’re doing is illegal. And if so, that’s probably enough of a reason to put it in a cease and desist letter.
So back to the question, do you have to obey it? Well, first off, this is no substitute for legal advice. If you get a cease and desist letter, you should go talk to an attorney in your jurisdiction. But for general educational purposes, you should obey the letter if it is directing you to stop doing something illegal. And you don’t have to obey the letter if it is directing you to stop doing something that is permissible, where there’s no law against it. So that’s the first question. Is there any legal reason you should stop? Now, if you are doing something illegal, you probably should stop because a cease and desist letter sends the message they’re serious, they’re about to take legal action. They’ve already spent money on an attorney. Look out. This is the first step typically to a lawsuit. A cease and desist letter is very commonly the first step before a lawsuit if a party doesn’t cease and desist illegal behavior.
But if your behavior is legal, there’s no law against it whatsoever, then this is just a letter asking you to do something that you don’t have to do. Keep in mind as a general rule, a cease and desist letter is just a letter. It’s written by an attorney who is paid by somebody to argue in favor of their position. It’s just a letter. It’s not a court order. It doesn’t come with the authority of government. Now, of course, it may be bringing your attention to the fact that your conduct is violating a law. That’s a different thing though. That’s the law coming to bear on your conduct, but keep in mind, a letter is just a letter and if you disregard a letter because it’s telling you to stop doing something that you’re legally entitled to do, that’s fine. There’s generally nothing they can do about it. I say generally because sometimes I’ve seen where when there is a cease and desist letter sent that tells somebody to stop doing something that they’re allowed to do, the next step is they get sued.
Now you might say that’s a frivolous lawsuit. You’re right, it is, but you still have to prove it. Now because it’s a frivolous lawsuit, it probably violates rule 11 of the rules of civil procedure. And thus the court could not only dismiss the case, but if the court determines that it’s frivolous and did violate rule 11, then the court can order that your attorney’s fees be reimbursed and even other penalties and sanctions. So my point is you might win in the end, but I can’t guarantee you won’t be faced with a frivolous lawsuit. That’s the nature of the world we live in.
If you’d like to learn more about this, you can see the links in the description below. They point to aaronhall.com, which is my website. I’m an attorney in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you’d like more videos like this, feel free to subscribe. That way you’ll know when other videos come up of this sort of educational nature, typically for business owners. Thanks for joining me here today.