4 Smart Tips for Designers Who Get a Cease and Desist Letter
As a designer, you never want to find yourself on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter – a document notifying a person or company to stop some action that supposedly violates the sender’s rights of ownership.
For example, if you have recently designed a food label, and your design happens to look like another brand’s design, they might send you a tersely worded cease and desist (or a C&D if you’re into brevity). It could contain a demand that you change your logo or label, and they might even ask for compensation. So, what should you do if you get one?
1) Calm Down
Usually when someone gets this kind of letter, they aren’t happy about it. You might get mad, scared, and want to lash out. Try not to. The most important thing to do is relax and come at the problem with a calm, logical perspective.
First, you should understand that a cease and desist letter is not a legally binding document. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get sued, and sometimes it can be just a tactic to intimidate and harass your successful operation into doing what a competitor wants.
Regardless of whether the letter expresses legitimate demands or if it’s meant to rattle you with no intention of any legal action, addressing it calmly is critical.
2) Think About the Circumstances
As we said, a C&D is not legally binding and you aren’t under any obligation to respond – but you should. If you don’t respond, you could find yourself in a legal nightmare paying huge amounts in legal fees.
So read the letter thoroughly. Are any of the claims legit? Should you change something? Who is it coming from? Take a look at their claim and your situation. Before you respond in any form, give some serious thought as to its validity.
3) Have a Legal Professional Double-Check the Claim
Here’s the most obvious tip – get an attorney. This will accomplish a number of things:
- They will provide valuable insight as to the validity of the cease and desist’s claims.
- It may also be possible to issue your own cease and desist letter – perhaps the other company is copying you, or their letters are just harassment.
- If whoever sent the C&D gets a response from you and your lawyer, they’re going to see how serious you are.
- If their claim is less than 100% valid, they may be inclined to back off, or simply to rethink how far they’re willing to go to get their way.
With the benefits of having a lawyer, you can decide to deny the allegations without providing a detailed explanation, to deny the allegations with an explanation, or to simply ask to negotiate.
Negotiation is the best way to resolve the situation. Depending on the allegations in the cease and desist letter, you can try to seek permission to continue what you were doing before by convincing the other party that you aren’t infringing on their intellectual property.
Negotiation may not be possible for every case, but remember that going to trial is a hassle for both sides. It could cost you and them, bare minimum, $6500, and weeks, months, even years of time and effort. Use this fact to your advantage – by approaching the other party amicably and with a good faith effort to resolve any problem, you could avoid all kinds of headaches.
Just because you don’t have legal training doesn’t mean you can’t navigate a cease and desist. Remember to stay calm, ask for help, and approach the claims in earnest, and you’re sure to come out ahead.
Tell us about your experiences with cease and desist letters and other legal matters in the comments section below.