You’ve just secured a huge injection of capital from a VC fund. Your startup looks like it’s finally about to take off after years of toil and hard work. You’ve built up your brand, secured a solid base of customers and your startup’s name is recognisable in the market.
You’re about to hit the big leagues and it’s a great feeling. Then, suddenly, you come back from your coffee break, check your emails to find an email from a mega law firm on behalf of the gigantic client they represent. In the email, they tell you that you’re infringing on their clients’ intellectual property rights and that you must stop using the infringing mark immediately or face legal action.
What you just received was a cease and desist letter. Cease and desist letters are common tools used by companies to enforce their intellectual property rights.
So what should you do if this happens to you? What is the best way to respond to a cease and desist letter?
That’s what you’re about to find out in this blog post.
1. Take A Deep Breath
First, take a long, deep breath. The last thing you want to do is start trembling over this letter and reply while you’re in a state of shock and disbelief. You need to contact your lawyers first and show them the letter. They can advise you on the best course of action.
You do not want to reply immediately to the letter while you’re angry and upset because you’ll likely send something you’ll regret later on.
2. Don’t Dismiss The Claims Of The Company
While it may be a shock to receive a cease and desist letter, the reality is that you may actually be infringing on another company’s intellectual property rights without even realising it. And look, it’s not something you can always avoid. There are millions of companies globally so it isn’t easy to always make sure you’re not violating another company’s IP rights.
Again, your lawyer will know how to best review and handle this.
3. Don’t Assume The Claims Of The Company Are Legitimate
Just like you shouldn’t immediately dismiss the claims of the company sending the cease and desist letter, you also shouldn’t assume the claims levied against you are legitimate. Some companies can be far too aggressive and trigger happy regarding their IP rights. A classic example of this is Louis Vuitton who ended up looking silly for trying to enforce IP rights on another company over a logo they used. Such actions can be considered trademark bullying.
Trademark bullying is more common than you realise, so never automatically assume the claims from a company sending you a cease and desist letter are valid.
4. Consider Your Options
When you get a cease and desist letter, there are a variety of options at your disposal. One is that you can comply with the demands of the company and change the infringing mark you’re using. Second, you could stop using the infringing mark completely. However, this could be a big stretch especially if it means a total rebrand. It may not be reasonable to stop completely under the circumstances.
Other options are also mediation and dispute resolution. Again, your lawyer will know the best course of action depending on your specific circumstances.
5. Remain Sane
You don’t want to lose your cool over this. Try and remain calm and don’t let it deter you from doing your work and focusing on growing your startup. While it’s a big shock to receive a cease and desist letter, it doesn’t mean your startup is about to crumble all around you and that there is nothing you can do.
Final Words: How To Respond To A Cease And Desist Letter
Cease and desist letters are just part of the startup world especially when dealing with intellectual property rights. So don’t fret and think the world is about to end if you suddenly open your email inbox to see a cease and desist letter.
Just keep your cool and get in touch with your lawyer as they are always the people who can advise on the best course of action.
If you’d like to speak with a legal expert about any potential legal issues in your business, then book a free Startup Legal Session.