The term 'trademark cease and desist' most commonly refers to a letter directing a party, who is using a company's trademark without proper authorization, to immediately stop all use of the mark. Such letters are often drafted by an attorney, and are usually sent via a method that requires a signature or other proof that letter was received by the correct party. The notice is a quick way of informing the offender that the trademark owner is aware of the situation, and is often be enough to convince the offender to stop. If further legal action must be taken, however, the court may issue a cease and desist order. Should the offender opt to ignore this order, he may be fined or otherwise penalized by the court.
Use of a trademark without proper authorization is known as trademark infringement, and is serious. Companies pay fees — sometimes substantial ones — to ensure that no one else can use their logos, symbols, or other trademarked images without the company's express permission. A business that allows others to infringe on its trademark rights risks customer confusion and dilution of its brand strength. Yet lawsuits can be costly. A trademark cease and desist letter is a cost-effective way for the company to assert its rights.
Large companies and those with brand images that are susceptible to infringement often ask their attorneys to draw up a standard trademark cease and desist form letter that contains customizable fields. These letters typically allow the company to insert the name of the recipient, the date of the letter, and the nature, location, and date of the infringement. This makes it easy for the business to send out letters as needed, without asking the attorney for a new letter every time an infringement occurs.
If the offending party fails to respond to a trademark cease and desist letter, the notice itself can be valuable evidence in the resulting court case. It can serve to establish that the party was aware of the infringement and proceeded to willfully continue after notification. It can also show that the filing company made a good faith effort to avoid going to court.
Companies should track all such cease and desist letters, even if the matter is promptly resolved. A party that is determined to infringe on a trademark may cease infringement after receipt of a letter, wait for a period of time, and then quietly resume infringement activities. This manipulation can continue indefinitely if the trademark owner does not have a tracking system that exposes repeat offenders.