Serving and enforcing a cease and desist letter

Whether you are experiencing harassment or infringement of your copyright, sending a cease-and-desist letter is an option available to you. They are relatively simple to write up and you don't even need an attorney to serve them.

by Crystal Everson, J.D.
updated May 11, 2023 ·  2min read

Dealing with debt collectors, harassment, or theft of your work can be stressful. If you or your business has experienced this sort of activity, sending a cease and desist letter can help you communicate with the offending party before you bring legal action.

Serving and Enforcing a Cease and Desist Letter

Types and elements of cease and desist letters

In many situations, a cease-and-desist letter is an appropriate first step when you want to ask someone to stop engaging in an activity that violates your rights. Here are four of the most common uses of a cease and desist letter:

  • Stop harassment from debt collectors
  • Stop trademark and copyright infringement
  • Stop libel or slander
  • Stop personal harassment

Because the purpose of each cease and desist letter is different, you'll need to add different elements. If you are writing the letter yourself, you should include the following information:

  • Your name and contact information
  • Name and contact information of the person or business being asked to stop the behavior
  • Specifics about the activity you wish them to stop
  • Warning that legal action will follow if the activity does not stop
  • Deadline to comply

You do not need to reinvent the wheel. You can find online cease-and-desist forms ready for you to fill in the blanks.

How to serve a cease and desist letter

No specified method of delivery is required for a cease and desist letter. Because it is not a legal document, you can write and send the letter yourself without the help of a legal professional, or you can hire an attorney to write and serve the letter for you.

How you deliver the letter depends on the situation being addressed. You can serve it via mail, email, an attorney and, in some cases, in person. However you choose to serve the letter, keep a record of delivery and receipt by the offending party.

If you are sending the cease-and-desist letter yourself, send it via certified mail so that you have a record of delivery. You can also require a signature confirmation. With intellectual-property infringement, such as a trademark or copyright violation, sending an email to the person or company suffices and may get an immediate response.

It can also be helpful to follow up via phone or email to confirm that the letter was received and ask how and when they plan to remedy the situation.

A cease and desist letter vs. a cease and desist order

Many people use the terms cease-and-desist letter and cease and desist order interchangeably, but one significant difference should not be overlooked.

A cease and desist letter has no legal standing. It is merely a warning and a request to stop the offending behavior before legal action is taken. If the party continues the offending activity, the letter may help you get a cease and desist order, which is granted by the court. The order requires the party to stop the offending behavior until a trial can be held and the facts determined.

Sending a cease and desist letter is an accessible option for most people experiencing an offending behavior or activity. It can be a valuable tool in your arsenal to protect both your legal rights and those of your business.

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Crystal Everson, J.D.

About the Author

Crystal Everson, J.D.

Crystal Everson was admitted to the state bar of New York and has since retired from the practice of law. She holds a Ju… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.