How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter in Singapore
What is a Cease and Desist Letter?
A cease and desist letter is, quite simply, a letter from a lawyer demanding that someone stop doing something, or else.
In this sense, a cease and desist letter is really no different from a letter of demand except that a letter of demand usually ends with a demand for payment of a sum of money, whereas a cease and desist letter is merely a demand to stop doing something.
In both kinds of letters, there is usually a threat to take legal action if the recipient does not comply with the demands stated in the letters.
When Do You Send a Cease and Desist Letter?
Cease and desist letters are usually sent when someone is doing something that you don’t want them to, and you have some legal basis to insist that they stop. Common examples would be causing nuisance in neighbourhood disputes, harassment or an infringing use of a trade mark or of other types of intellectual property.
It is usually a good idea to send a cease and desist letter before commencing legal action against someone as it is a lot cheaper to send a letter than to commence litigation. Moreover, it can sometimes prevent a simple misunderstanding from getting out of control before parties become entrenched in their respective legal positions.
Another advantage of sending a cease and desist letter before commencing legal action is that you may receive a reply which gives you a preview of your opponent’s defence and allows you to better prepare for the legal suit ahead.
Depending on the nature of the dispute, the court may even have certain pre-action protocols that require a letter to be sent to the other party before you are allowed to commence legal action. Your lawyer can advise you on whether this consideration is applicable to your case.
Writing a Cease and Desist Letter
Can you write the letter yourself?
While you can do so, it is highly inadvisable to attempt writing a cease and desist letter yourself. You should engage a lawyer to do it for you.
This is because the objective of these letters is to persuade the offending party to stop doing whatever they’re doing on pain of litigation. That threat is a lot more credible if it comes from a lawyer as it shows that:
- You are prepared to spend money on legal fees to achieve your objective; and
- At least one legal professional thinks that there is a legal basis to compel the recipient to comply with your demand.
By contrast, a letter from you on your own letterhead, simply asking the offending party to stop, carries much less weight.
What should the letter contain?
Typically, a cease and desist letter should contain:
- A short description of the offending activity;
- Possibly an optional reference to some evidence that the activity is taking place;
- A demand that the activity stop;
- A statement of the legal basis for that demand;
- A description of the consequences for failure to comply with the demand; and
- A statement explicitly reserving your legal rights.
Some of these elements will require legal expertise to be formulated correctly and credibly, which is why a lawyer should be engaged to draft the letter.
Sending a Cease and Desist Letter
There are no formal requirements for sending a cease and desist letter. It need not be served personally on the recipient. It can even be sent by attaching it to an email if necessary.
However, as a matter of good practice it is generally advisable to send such letters by a courier service that provides proof of delivery by way of the recipient’s signature. Or if not by courier, at least by registered post.
What if the recipient ignores the letter?
If the recipient ignores the letter, you should take legal advice on your next steps. Your lawyer will advise you on the feasibility and costs of litigation and your chances of success in court.
If you have made specific threats in your letter, it is generally advisable to take steps towards carrying out those threats but you need not do so. Be aware however, that if you do not carry out any threats you have made, the offending party is likely to interpret this as either your surrender, a lack of credibility on your part or just weakness more generally, and the offending activity may well continue.
A cease and desist letter is simply one tool in a lawyer’s arsenal and it must be deployed tactically by reference to all the circumstances of each case, the parties and their relationship. Knowing how to do this effectively requires experience and skill in the field of dispute resolution.
If the outcome of your dispute is of any consequence to you, it is, more often than not, certainly worth investing a little in a suitable lawyer to craft an effective cease and desist letter for you.
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