What is a Cease and Desist Letter?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A cease and desist letter (also known as a C&D letter) is a legal letter that instructs a person, group, or organization to discontinue an action or program of actions that have been deemed harmful to another person, group, or organization. To “cease and desist” literally means to “stop.” Generally, a letter is issued by a legal authority. When an individual must send one, it is usually worded by a lawyer.

An individual who feels that he or she is being bullied on an ongoing basis by another person may issue a cease and desist letter.
An individual who feels that he or she is being bullied on an ongoing basis by another person may issue a cease and desist letter.

These letters are frequently sent at the outcome of a trial. If a judge finds that a certain action or course of actions on the part of one party is unfairly damaging another party, he may issue a cease and desist letter in order to protect the plaintiff against further damages. There are also some government agencies that have the power to issue such letters.

A cease and desist letter may be applied in cases of libel.
A cease and desist letter may be applied in cases of libel.

Cease and desist letters are often used when one party feels that it is being damaged by information that another party is circulating. For example, if an organization began publishing production guides for a patented product without consulting the patent owner, the owner would likely send a letter to that organization demanding that it cease and desist. The publisher would be infringing on the owner’s patent and, if the general public knew exactly how to manufacture a patented product, the owner of the patent would stand to experience a financial loss.

A cease and desist letter may be applied in cases of slander.
A cease and desist letter may be applied in cases of slander.

This is just one example of the application of a cease and desist letter. It might also be applied in cases of libel, slander, copyright infringement, or trademark infringement. Furthermore, an individual who feels that he is being harassed or bullied in an ongoing basis by a group or another individual may also issue a cease and desist letter, calling for the end of such intimidation.

Cease and desist letters are issued by legal authorities.
Cease and desist letters are issued by legal authorities.

In addition to commanding the end of a certain action or course of actions, a letter also typically threatens legal consequences in the event that the recipient does not comply with the letter. In the event that a cease and desist letter is not acknowledged by the recipient, further legal action will generally follow, as promised.

Cases of libel may warrant a cease and desist letter.
Cases of libel may warrant a cease and desist letter.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


What about a lying boyfriend who cheated on me? He promised a future for three years. I am texting him out of anger. What should I do?


My to be ex husband says he is serving me with one of these cease and desist orders for him and his new girlfriend. The information I repeated came from him and their ex married coworker with whom he had relations.

If the information came from the parties involved, how can such a letter be served? She is now saying to my to be ex husband it's untrue, that the married ex coworker lied about their relationship to his wife and me. What can I legally do? We have mediation for our divorce soon. They have been living together for over two months and we have been only separated four months. Basically, they are denying their affair. I have a small child involved and only seek protection from a fallout of their relationship, as my ex has anger issues and because of her supposed affairs. I just do not want my son caught in the crosshairs. Any help or advice is appreciated. He says I'd better be prepared to pay damages. He aims to clear his name.


Is there anything that can be done about my mother, who continues to bash me and my husband's names all over town?


If someone sends a cease and desist, but you are only sharing public and true information, there is nothing they can do, legally. If you are sharing the truth, if they are bashing others, publicly, or running known scams, publicly, and trying to stop you from sharing this info with the public, to protect others, they don't have a leg to stand on.

If you slander (spoken word), or libel (written word) them with untruths, then they have a legal right to stop you. Of course, if they then do the same to you in public, you can go after them, too.


How about the father of my daughter's friend going around and talking bad about my girl to other parents and institutions? What can be done?


What about an ex-wife who has indicated throughout the last five years of Motions to Change that the 'current wife of five years' is the instigator of the conflict.

This has been indicated for five years and I am ready to have her cease and desist her allegations. I have five years of court documents indicating her lies about me. Can I serve her with a letter?


I want to end a very brief business relationship that went very bad (really bad) at the start and I no longer want any emails from person who initiated the relationship (contract employment relationship that turned dodgy).

I only have person's email and Skype ID (and name, not verified, from Gmail account). Nothing else.

Is email blocking enough? Is there a way to send a cease and desist letter, but it can't be me since email is already reported to ISP abuse. I don't want to keep feeding this person who won't stop. (Friendly termination letter by email did not work. Only got a whiny response.)

I'm going away on a trip so I hope this will be resolved so it doesn't spoil my time worrying about it. Any help would be most welcome and would give me peace.


I have a Trademark and registered a domain name in regards. However, I discovered after, there is very similar domain name to mine and offering very similar services, which start confusing my clients and losing revenue. However, the other domain name been registered before I register the domain name and Trademark for my business. In addition, their website for the confusing domain name is not working since August last year.

What is the chance for me to claim and win the confusing domain name even though it being registered before my domain and trademark being registered.


I am assuming that instead of getting a restraining/protective order, I should first send a C&D letter? What if I've already asked the person to stop several times? I've been battling internet stalkers/harassers for several years now. I've ignored and turned the other cheek this whole time but now I'm fed up and feel even more violated because of the new actions that are now beginning to pop up.

Should I do this first, or since I've asked them to stop, should I go ahead with a R/PO? --confused and over it


My mortgage company calls me between the third and fifth of each month for their payment. I am never late and asked them why, if they offer a "grace period" until the 15th of each month they are calling me now? They said payment is due on the first of each month, yet my monthly bill says its considered late if not due by the 15th. They said i should fax them a cease and desist letter if I want them to stop. Is this accurate?


I have a pair of strange men who are following me by car to various cities and locations, and I believe they may be private investigators. Could a cease and desist letter be used to keep these unwanted guests away, or would I need something more serious, like a restraining order?


First of all, I am a Catholic priest. I am writing because there is a female parishioner who is writing emails to me, claiming to have romantic feelings for me. I have told her to kindly stop writing to me and that I want to remain a priest. However, she has kept on sending me emails and even head pictures of herself.

She hasn't been following me, but she has been harassing me through emails. What would be my course of action? Should I contact the police or an attorney? Thank you and God bless.


I have a car loan with a co-signer on the loan. The company I have the car loan with are sending letters every month that I am one month behind in my payments. My records prove that I am current on all payments and no money is owed. The letters seem to be harassing me to pay them a payment I do not owe. Can I send them a cease and desist letter?


I am looking for help. My ex wife has a book and it's been seven years that i have been going through hell because of her.

She has dates in this book and when the dates come up in her book, she calls the police on me and gets me put in jail for no reason. Every long weekend she puts me in jail. This long weekend she called the police me and i was with my new wife and the police all the time believe her.

i had to plead guilty for no reason. i never did anything to her. But she has ruining my life. I am flat broke because of paying lawyers to get out and have to stay in jail for something i did not do.

I need help. She has a book and when that date comes up she calls the police on me. All the time I have witnesses with me but they still put me in, so i am looking for someone who can help me with this please.


i was working for a doctor who has a web page and he asked me and husband to be on his webpage me as his employee and my husband as a model patient, and he also asked me to talk on the phone system for the medical office which directs the callers to the right department. six months later he fired me and and i sent him a cease and desist letter almost three weeks ago and he has yet to remove my voice and our images of his practice. this is causing me problems in finding new employment what should i do?


what about a person that post things that are downright lies about you on facebook and then turns around tells everyone to block and delete you. even though you have proof this person is lying about you now has pretty much has turned the world against you.


I am not sure what category of law this comes under. This individual is actually a parent with mental disorders. Because of this person's impulsive actions, she has nearly caused some legal issues for the family which fortunately have not gotten out of hand.

Also, this person has a sense of entitlement believing that someone else's assets and money belong to her to as well and the minute something does not go her way she throws a fit and does childish things (this is a 65 year old I'm talking about).

Because of her behaviors, such as writing vicious letters to other people and family, demanding that certain properties and monies be shared with her, it may cause legal issues for our immediate family. How do I get her to refrain from doing this? I am willing to take any suggestions.


What if there is a daycare that is posting remarks about you (as a client) negatively on a local review site for possible employers/landlords etc. and the statements are untrue. I've gone through the website and they refuse to take the comments down and have not researched the information for its truth.


What about your friends who post pictures of your kids on the internet. You are no longer friends with them and you ask them to take the pictures down off the internet. Could I get a Cease and Desist order?


For you to be able to prosecute for defamation you have to prove that the things being said have in some way caused you harm or affected your well being. Say your ex spouse called your employer and told lies and got you fired from your job, or something like that. Otherwise, it's just someone talking bad about you and that is not illegal.


Is it possible for anyone to be a victim of innuendo slander by use of clever propaganda? For example, suppose an individual is being verbally attacked by another person who is going behind their backs spreading malicious, horrendous,and untrue remarks regarding their personal character, mental persona and virtue.

Most innocent people are usually the victim of this type of unkind slander. Any suggestions?


A victim send a cease and desist letter to the infringer to stop the infringement of victim's rights. The letter mentions the precise particulars of infringement and how it affects the victim. It is like a pre litigation notice for discussing and remedying the grievances of the victim.


From what I gather, anyone can draft a "Cease and Desist Letter" asking the person/company to cease all actions listed in the letter that are legally and morally ethical (for example you cannot ask your ex-wife to stop having a sexual relationship with Jo-Smo just because you want to.)

It's pretty much a forewarning, such as letters from gas and electric companies warning they will turn off service if there isn't a payment. You are asking that this person cease all communication/harassment or whatever the case may be, and should they decide not to stop then you intend to file suit.

Don't get me wrong, this should not be used for ridiculous purposes (i.e. asking the ex-wife to not eat peanut butter on Sundays) and the order should be requesting something that can be prosecuted should they continue.

A judge will not fine your ex-wife for continuing to eat peanut butter on Sundays just because you sent a cease and desist order; that's ludicrous. But if the ex-wife/ex-husband is harassing you, has committed libel/slander or defamation of character then you can request a cease and desist order, showing the courts you tried to resolve this peacefully outside of the judicial process, with this being known and the actions still continue, it falls in your favor because you did make every reasonable attempt to halt their behavior but the respondent chose not to comply.

From what I've witnessed, most people take this seriously and tend to not want to go to court as they perceive this as a threat. However, you must be clear on your intentions because you can very well be charged with threatening the person if your true intentions are not what is stated in the order.

For example, if you state you will file a suit if the actions persist and you never intend on filing, you only want to threaten that person, that in itself is illegal, hence the numerous mentions of retaining counsel (hiring a lawyer) so you have reassurance and clarifications on the order and know you are abiding by the laws of your state.


I have the same scenario only it is my ex-husband of four years. And not just negative talk but outrageous lies that are hurtful to me and attack my character and moral standards. Though my adult children say they don't believe half of what he says, it is the fact that they have any doubt at all that is tearing me up inside.


what about x-wives that continually talk negatively about you to everyone, even your children?

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