Business Law Blog

What To Do When You Receive A Trademark Cease And Desist Letter

Posted by Amanda Butler Schley | Jun 23, 2024 | 0 Comments

In today's digital landscape, safeguarding trademarks has become paramount as scammers and malicious entities target intellectual property for illicit gains. One effective shield against such threats is the trademark cease and desist letter. Cease and desist letters protect businesses' intellectual property rights and deter infringement. When you are on the receiving end of one, it can be intimidating. In some cases, someone may have violated trademark rights unwittingly. Understanding the purpose of these letters and your options when you receive one can help you feel less intimidated and more empowered. If you have received such a letter and are not sure how to respond, one of our experienced trademark attorneys can assist you in doing the appropriate research and drafting a response. Call Business Law Group at (504) 446-6506 to schedule a consultation and learn more about your options. 

What Is a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter?

A trademark cease and desist letter is a formal notification sent by a trademark owner to an individual or entity suspected of infringing on their trademark rights. This letter serves as a warning to cease all unauthorized use of the trademark immediately. These letters are a significant initial step trademark owners take to protect their intellectual property rights and prevent further violations. The primary purpose of a cease and desist letter is to inform the recipient of the infringement and demand that they stop using the trademark in question. By clearly outlining the trademark ownership and unauthorized use, the letter shows the trademark owner's efforts to address the infringement.

In addition to demanding the cessation of infringing activities, a cease and desist letter may also include a request for additional actions, such as providing information on the extent of the unauthorized use, removing infringing materials, and potentially compensating the trademark owner for damages incurred. Failure to comply with the demands outlined in a cease and desist letter can lead to legal consequences, including further legal action, such as lawsuits for trademark infringement. Therefore, recipients of such letters need to take the contents seriously and respond promptly and appropriately to avoid escalating the situation.

A Valid Trademark is Required Before Sending a Cease and Desist Letter

Trademark cease and desist letters are powerful tools trademark owners use to protect their intellectual property rights. However, before sending such a letter, the trademark holder must possess a valid and enforceable trademark. It is important to note that having a valid and enforceable trademark does not equal having a federally registered trademark. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) states that federal trademark registration is not required to establish trademark rights. Registration grants additional rights to the trademark owner and would strengthen their claim in a trademark cease and desist letter, but other factors can make their trademark valid and enforceable. 

These other factors include: 

  • Date of First Use: If the letter's sender can prove that they were using the trademark first, this can give weight to their demand that the letter's recipient stop using the mark. Priority of use gives the trademark owner a common law trademark and grants common law rights to the person or business who used the trademark first. 

  • Strength of the Trademark: The mark's strength is determined by many things, including advertising, market position, advertising, degree of public recognition, and whether the mark meets the USPTO's requirements for a strong trademark. 

  • Geographic Area of Use: The owner can enforce the trademark anywhere in the United States if it is federally registered. If they have not federally registered the mark, their common law rights may only be valid and enforceable within a specific geographic area. There may not be a case if the alleged infringer is outside that geographic area. 

  • Similarity of Goods and Services: Infringement may only occur if the two businesses or individuals sell the same or similar goods and services. For example, an airline and a faucet company with the same name could not claim trademark infringement against each other because their goods and services are so vastly different that consumers could never confuse the two. If both companies or individuals sell the same or very similar goods and services, there is a stronger claim for infringement. 

Common Components of a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

When an individual or business receives a trademark cease and desist letter, there are standard components they can expect to see. These elements are critical in understanding the severity and implications of the situation:

  • Identification of the Trademark: The letter will clearly identify the allegedly infringed trademark. This helps establish the basis of the complaint and clarifies the intellectual property at stake.

  • Allegations of Infringement: The letter will outline the specific instances or actions the sender believes constitute trademark infringement. This section provides details on how the trademark is being misused or exploited.

  • Demands and Remedies: A trademark cease and desist letter will explicitly demand that the recipient cease using the infringing mark. The may also specify remedial actions the recipient must take to rectify the infringement, such as discontinuing specific activities or modifying the mark.

  • Legal Consequences: The letter typically warns of the legal consequences of non-compliance. The letter may mention the potential for legal action, damages, and legal expenses if the recipient fails to adhere to the demands within a specified timeframe.

Understanding these components can help recipients assess the gravity of the situation and determine the appropriate course of action in response to a trademark cease and desist letter.

How Can I Respond To a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter?

Receiving a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter can be stressful for individuals or businesses. To mitigate potential legal consequences, it is crucial to handle the response appropriately. The USPTO suggests four possible responses. 

Ignoring the Letter

One option is to ignore the trademark cease and desist letter and any subsequent communication. However, this approach may have negative repercussions. Ignoring the letter could be considered reckless behavior, potentially leading to legal action and enhanced damages if the alleged infringement continues.

Responding to the Letter

Many recipients choose to respond to the trademark cease and desist letter. When responding, it's essential to do so carefully and consider requesting additional evidence or denying the infringement allegations. Thorough research into factors such as the date of first use, federal registration of the mark, or geographic region of use can strengthen this response.

Negotiating With the Sender

Another option is to negotiate with the sender of the trademark cease and desist letter. Negotiation can help find a mutually acceptable resolution and potentially avoid prolonged legal disputes. Seeking legal counsel and guidance during negotiations is advisable to protect the recipient's interests effectively.

File Your Own Lawsuit

If the recipient believes they have a strong enough case, the fourth option suggested by the USPTO is filing a lawsuit against the sender of the trademark cease and desist letter. The decision in this lawsuit would be a Declaratory judgment, which is a court decision stating that the recipient's trademark does not infringe on the other party's. This can be a risky decision and it is strongly advised to seek the advice of a trademark attorney before moving forward. 

Acknowledge Infringement

A final option is to acknowledge the infringement. If the recipient or their attorney, if they consult with one, can clearly see that they are infringing on the sender's trademark, even unintentionally, acknowledging the infringement and giving in to the demands made in the letter may be the most appropriate way to resolve the issue. 

Seeking Legal Advice

Regardless of the chosen response, it is advisable to seek advice from a qualified attorney experienced in trademark law. An seasoned Louisiana trademark attorney at Business Law Group may be able to provide valuable guidance on how to respond to the cease and desist letter effectively, protect your rights, and navigate the complexities of trademark infringement claims.

Is This Trademark Cease and Desist Letter Legally Enforceable?

A trademark cease and desist letter acts as a formal warning to stop using a trademark belonging to someone else to avoid potential legal action. However, one might question its legal enforceability. The truth is, a trademark cease and desist letter, in itself, does not hold legal weight. The document is a notification of the trademark owner's objection to unauthorized use and signifies an intent to enforce their rights. The recipient of such a letter is typically asked to cease the infringing activity immediately.

The effectiveness of a cease and desist letter lies in its ability to communicate the trademark owner's stance clearly and initiate a dialogue to resolve the issue amicably. While the letter may not have legal standing, it sets the groundwork for potential legal action if the unauthorized use continues.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some frequently asked questions many people ask when they receive a trademark cease and desist letter. 

Is Having a Valid Trademark Essential Before Sending a Cease and Desist Letter?

Yes, having a valid trademark is crucial before sending a cease and desist letter to protect your intellectual property rights effectively. A valid trademark provides legal protection and strengthens your position when asserting your rights. However, federal registration is not a requirement for the trademark to be considered valid. 

What Are the Options for Responding To a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter?

Options include ignoring the letter, requesting evidence or denying allegations, negotiating for a resolution, filing your own lawsuit, acknowledging the infringement, and seeking legal advice. Careful consideration and appropriate action can help the recipient choose the most appropriate response for their circumstances.

Is a Trademark Cease and Desist Letter Legally Enforceable?

A trademark cease and desist letter is not legally enforceable but serves as a formal warning to stop unauthorized trademark use. This indicates the owner's intent to enforce their rights and can lead to further legal action if necessary. The letter clearly communicates the owner's stance and sets the groundwork for potential legal steps to protect intellectual property.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Trademark Attorney Who Can Help Protect Your Legal Rights

A trademark cease and desist letter is a powerful tool to protect intellectual property rights. This letter serves as a formal warning to stop unauthorized trademark use and demonstrates the sender's commitment to enforcing their rights. While the letter may not have legal weight, it sets the stage for potential legal action if necessary, so recipients should take these letters seriously. Whether you are confident that you have not infringed on another's trademark or are concerned that you may have unintentionally infringed, speaking with one of our knowledgeable Louisiana trademark attorneys may be able to clear up your situation and help you determine how to respond. Call Business Law Group at (504) 446-6506 to learn more about your legal options in a consultation. 

About the Author

Amanda Butler Schley

Ranked as a Top Rated Business and Commercial Attorney, I have more than a decade of experience representing boutique hotels, family-owned businesses, privately owned restaurants, breweries, artists, executives and entrepreneurs.


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Business Law Group is a boutique business services law firm in New Orleans, Louisiana. Our focus is on understanding the legal pitfalls of your business and industry, as well as the secrets to maximizing your legal leverage at every opportunity and in every negotiation. We work selectively with clients that aren't ready for the overhead expense of an in-house general counsel, but understand the advantages of having a trusted legal advisor on their team. Amanda Butler has been ranked as a Louisiana SuperLawyer, New Orleans Top Lawyer, Best Lawyers, and in Leaders of Law.