Cease and Desist Letters in TX
Cease and desist letters are the bread-and-butter of business law. A business is using your copyrighted works without paying you royalties, an employee is brandishing your confidential corporate information to your competitors, an unsatisfied customer takes out a newspaper ad accusing you of fraud, etc., so you send a letter telling them to stop. If you are an individual or a business that has received a cease and desist, it’s important to act rationally. If you know what you are up against, there’s no reason to be intimidated. Below, we discuss cease and desist letters in Texas and how they are used. Call a seasoned Houston business lawyer if you’ve received a cease and desist letter or if you’d like to put a stop to harmful conduct by another party.
What is a Cease and Desist Letter?
A cease and desist letter is a formal warning regarding some alleged violation of contract or law. The letter notifies a person or organization that they are engaging in illegal behavior or are violating contractual or legal obligations. A cease and desist letter might be used, for example, to allege a party is:
- Using misappropriated trade secrets
- Committing copyright infringement, or permitting others to infringe a copyright using their platform
- Committing harassment, stalking, or other tortious or unlawful conduct
- Violating a Texas non-compete agreement
- Violating a Texas non-solicit agreement
- Committing slander, libel, defamation, or other forms of character harassment
What’s in a Cease and Desist Letter?
A cease and desist letter will typically include identifying information about the parties involved, a description of the alleged unlawful conduct, a demand for the conduct to stop, a warning about the potential consequences of continuing that conduct, and a time limit for compliance. The point of a cease and desist is to resolve matters without the need for filing a lawsuit: “Stop selling your product that violates my trademark within 60 days or I will be forced to sue you for damages.”
What is the Effect of a Cease and Desist Letter?
A cease and desist letter is just a warning. It carries no actual legal weight, other than serving as notice that you are potentially violating the law or a contractual duty. Anyone can send a cease and desist letter, for any reason. The letter may contain well-founded allegations of unlawful conduct, or it may simply be a scare tactic meant to intimidate a party into stopping certain business activities.
Aside from that, a cease and desist letter cannot be used to force you to do anything. If you choose to ignore the letter or respond to the letter with your belief that the allegations in the letter are erroneous, you risk only further legal action. Whoever sent you the letter may choose to follow up with additional threats, or they may carry out their threat and file a lawsuit against you.
The only “legal” power of a cease and desist letter is that it notifies you of the potential claims. Once you receive the letter, you are on notice of the potential claim and your alleged behavior should notice or an opportunity to correct be at issue in subsequent legal claims. If you are sued, you cannot claim that you were unaware of the allegations, or that you were never given an opportunity to resolve the situation out of court. Depending upon the nature of the claims, this can affect your legal defense.
Note that a cease and desist “order” is a very different beast. An order comes from the court and carries actual legal weight. If you are ordered to cease and desist by a court, you must follow the proscriptions or pursue proper legal avenues to protect yourself.
What Should I Do if I Receive a Cease and Desist Letter?
If you or your company receives a cease and desist letter, you should take the matter seriously. Consult with a business lawyer before responding. Do not ignore the letter entirely, but do not respond rashly. Even if the allegations in the letter are entirely unfounded, it’s important to give it proper consideration and make an educated decision about whether and how to respond.
If you need legal assistance with a Texas business law matter, contact the experienced and professional Texas business law attorney Leigh Meineke at the Houston offices of Stephens | Domnitz | Meineke PLLC by calling 832-706-0244.