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When Should You Send a Cease and Desist Letter?

Mar 11, 2024

In the world of business, your brand is like your fingerprint – unique and distinctly yours.

But what happens when someone else uses your brand's name or logo without permission? This is where a cease and desist letter comes into play. It’s your first line of defense, a formal request to stop unauthorized use of your trademark.

Understanding when and how to use this tool of a cease and desist letter is crucial for protecting your brand's integrity and your hard-earned reputation. In this blog post. we'll cover important details to keep in mind as you consider sending a cease and desist letter against someone infringing on your brand.

To learn more about how Indie Law can prepare and send cease and desist letters on your behalf, click here to book a free trademark consultation with our team.

What is a Cease and Desist Letter?

A cease and desist letter is essentially a formal notice sent to an individual or business engaging in unauthorized activity with your trademark. Maybe they're a direct competitor using or your exact trademark. Maybe their brand, while different, is still similar enough to confuse your customers. Either way, a cease and desist lets them know they are legally in the wrong and that they must rebrand or else there will be significant consequences.

Think of it as a professional way to say, "Hey, that's mine, please stop using it without my permission." This letter is often the first step in dispute resolution, serving as a powerful reminder of your legal rights and the importance of respecting intellectual property. It’s not just about stopping the misuse now but also about preventing future problems. By taking action, you're also setting a precedent that you’re serious about protecting your brand.

Signs You Might Need to Send One

There are a few clear signs that it’s time to draft a cease and desist letter. First, if you discover someone using your trademarked name or logo, especially in a way that competes with or dilutes your brand, action is necessary. This can include anything from selling similar products under your brand name to using a logo that's confusingly similar to yours.

Another red flag is consumer confusion. If there’s a risk that customers might mistake their products or services for yours, it's crucial to address it quickly.

Lastly, the appearance of counterfeit goods can harm your brand's reputation and bottom line, making a cease and desist letter essential.

What to Consider Before Sending a Cease and Desist Letter

Before sending a cease and desist letter, there are several important factors to consider. First, ideally your trademark is already registered — or at least pending registration — and legally protected. This gives your claim more weight and can make a significant difference in the outcome. Assess the strength of your case by considering the uniqueness and recognizability of your trademark.

While it's always best to have your own trademarks registered, it's not necessary have your trademark registered before sending a cease and desist letter. Even if your trademark registration is still pending, or if you have not yet applied for a registered trademark, it may still be worth sending a cease and desist letter. On this point, it is critical to keep in mind that a trademark registration is strong evidence of your rights, but the registration is not what creates your trademark rights. Trademark rights are created upon use, not registration. Therefore, while a registration is very strong evidence of your rights, it's not necessary to have that registration in place before sending a cease and desist letter against an obvious infringer.

It’s also vital to think about the potential consequences of sending the letter. While it’s a necessary step for protecting your brand, it could also lead to legal disputes. Weighing the pros and cons, including potential backlash and the cost of possible litigation, is essential. Furthermore, make sure that you have strong evidence to show that you used the trademark first. The last thing you want is to file a cease and desist letter just to have your own trademark rights challenged and any registrations canceled.

"My Trademark is Registered. Should I Wait to See if the USPTO Files an Office Action Before Sending a Cease and Desist Letter?"

Once you have a registered trademark, you hold the keys to a powerful tool for protecting your brand. However, a common question arises: if you notice a potential infringement, should you wait for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to take notice and file an office action, or should you proactively send a cease and desist letter?

First, understand the role of the USPTO. The USPTO's job is to register trademarks, not to enforce them. While the office examines applications for new trademarks and can refuse to register marks that are too similar to existing ones, it does not monitor or take action against infringements. That responsibility falls squarely on the trademark owner. In other words, the USPTO may refuse to register a similar mark, but that refusal won't force them to cease and desist.

Waiting for the USPTO to file an office action against a potential infringer could result in missed opportunities to address the issue promptly. In fact, such an office action might never come, leaving your trademark unprotected. Furthermore, technically speaking, not enforcing or waiting to enforce your trademark rights can weaken and dilute your trademark rights.

Taking proactive steps to protect your trademark is essential. If you discover someone using a mark that's confusingly similar to yours, it’s important to evaluate the situation carefully. Consider the extent of the infringement, the potential for customer confusion, and the impact on your brand. If these factors are concerning, sending a cease and desist letter can be a decisive action to protect your trademark rights. This doesn’t just prevent further misuse; it also demonstrates your commitment to defending your brand, which can be crucial in any future legal battles.

While it's important to be vigilant, being strategic about when and how to send a cease and desist letter is equally crucial. It’s not always the first step you should take. Sometimes, gathering more information, understanding the infringer's intentions, and considering alternative dispute resolution methods can be beneficial. The goal is to resolve the issue effectively while maintaining your brand's reputation and avoiding unnecessary legal conflicts. Consulting with a trademark attorney can provide insights and guidance tailored to your specific situation, helping you make the most informed decision

"My Trademark Application at the USPTO is Still Pending. Should I Wait Until It's Registered Before Sending a Cease and Desist Letter?"

Navigating the period between filing a trademark application and receiving registration can feel like sailing in uncertain waters. One common dilemma is whether you have the standing to enforce your trademark rights while your application is still pending. The question of whether to send a cease and desist letter during this time is a nuanced one.

When your trademark application is pending, you're in the process of obtaining formal rights, but that doesn't mean you're without protection. The date you started using your trademark in commerce is crucial because it establishes your priority claim over the trademark. This means that, even before your trademark is officially registered, you have a claim to it based on your first use date.

Deciding to send a cease and desist letter without a registered trademark is a strategic decision. There are scenarios where taking early action is advisable, especially if the infringing use is causing significant harm to your brand or could potentially lead to serious confusion in the marketplace. In these cases, a cease and desist letter can serve as a strong notice to the infringer that you are serious about protecting your rights and have already taken steps to do so by filing your trademark application.

However, there are considerations to weigh. The strength of your position is not as solid without a registered trademark, which could impact the effectiveness of your cease and desist letter. Furthermore, if your trademark application is ultimately denied, this could weaken your position in any subsequent legal actions you might take based on the letter. It's a delicate balance between protecting your emerging brand and ensuring you're not overstepping based on the current status of your trademark rights.

For those with pending applications, a carefully calibrated approach is recommended. It may be beneficial to note in your cease and desist letter that your trademark application is pending and that you are actively seeking formal registration. This signals to the infringer that you are in the process of securing your rights and are vigilant about protecting your trademark. Consulting with a trademark attorney can provide valuable insights and help you navigate the best course of action based on the specifics of your situation.

Sending a cease and desist letter with a pending trademark application is a decision that should be made with careful consideration of the potential risks and benefits. While you do not need to wait for registration to enforce your trademark rights, the pending status of your application means you'll need to tread carefully, balancing assertiveness with the understanding of your current legal standing. Ultimately, protecting your brand is the goal, and taking informed, strategic actions will serve you best in the long run.

How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter

Crafting a cease and desist letter requires a balance of firmness and professionalism. Start by clearly identifying yourself and your trademark, providing evidence of your legal rights. Explain how the recipient is infringing on your trademark and the specific actions that constitute this infringement. It’s important to be clear but not aggressive, aiming to resolve the situation amicably. Outline the steps you want the recipient to take, such as stopping the use of the trademark or destroying infringing goods, and set a reasonable deadline for compliance. This not only shows you’re serious but also opens a pathway for resolution without immediate escalation to legal action.

While it's possible to send a cease and desist letter on your own behalf, it is recommended to have an experienced trademark law firm prepare and send a cease and desist letter on your behalf.

To learn more about how Indie Law can prepare and send cease and desist letters on your behalf, click here to book a free trademark consultation with our team.

Alternatives to Sending a Cease and Desist Letter

Before jumping to send a cease and desist letter, consider direct communication as a first step. A simple conversation can sometimes resolve misunderstandings without further action. If that doesn’t work, mediation or negotiation might be viable alternatives, offering a way to reach an agreement that benefits both parties. These approaches can save time, money, and stress, preserving business relationships and preventing the issue from escalating.

What to Do if the Situation Escalates

Despite your best efforts, some situations may escalate. If the cease and desist letter doesn’t achieve the desired response, legal action may be necessary. This step should not be taken lightly, as litigation can be costly and time-consuming. Prepare by gathering all relevant documentation and evidence of your trademark rights and the infringement. Consulting with a trademark attorney can provide valuable guidance and improve your chances of a favorable outcome.


Sending a cease and desist letter is a critical step in defending your trademark and, by extension, your brand's reputation and value. It signals to others that you are vigilant about protecting your intellectual property rights. However, it’s just one part of a broader strategy that includes registration, monitoring for infringements, and knowing when to seek professional advice. By understanding the when, why, and how of cease and desist letters, you can more effectively safeguard your brand against unauthorized use and infringement.

To learn more about how Indie Law can prepare and send cease and desist letters on your behalf, click here to book a free trademark consultation with our team.



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