Law firms can issue cease and desist letters to potential defendants before the commencement of formal legal proceedings. Such letters usually contain demands to stop a continued breach or infringement and request payment of damages. Ultimately, these letters aim to achieve the following objectives:
- Send a clear signal to the defendant that you are serious about having your legal rights enforced
- Lets you state your legal position in detail with the aim of persuading the defendant that your position is strong and sound
- Strengthens your position by stopping the offending party from claiming that they acted in good faith and that any violation on their part was unknown or unintentional.
Remember that these letters are not Court summons or orders, and they are quite inexpensive. As they are likely to help with the resolution of a matter, it is recommended that you ask advice from an experienced lawyer to draft a formal demand, laying out the consequences which would follow if your concerns are dismissed or not taken seriously enough.
When to Send a Cease and Desist Letter
Although there are numerous situations where these letters may be used, there are some common scenarios where they are used most often, such as:
- Infringement of copyright, trademark, logo, or patent. A common example is where someone used content that is plagiarised or attempts to capitalise on someone else’s brand name or logo.
- Slander or libel. Slander means verbally spreading defamatory allegations, whilst libel refers to written statements that describe someone in a negative way. This might include fake negative feedback written by competitors trying to destabilise your business or any scenario where your reputation is infringed by someone.
- Stalking and other types of harassment. Cease and desist letters will not cancel or clear your debt, but they may help to stop unsolicited communication from a debt collector who is harassing you. However, note that sending demands to people who are harassing or stalking you may provoke them into taking further, more adverse actions. Therefore, in these cases, you should also consider other means of protecting yourself from harassment that are available in Singapore.
- Infringement of contract. Contracts can be infringed in a number of ways, whether express or implied. Cease and desist letters can be used as a formal demand to the other party to cease this violation.
- Encroachment of boundaries. This is common where, for example, a neighbour violates property lines. These letters are certainly not the recommended first step in cases involving an infringing neighbour, but they can be used if your other attempts at raising concerns in a more informal way do not achieve the desired outcome.
What Information Should be Included?
In Singapore, there are no formal rules or requirements for the content of a cease and desist letter. However, they should be drafted according to certain guidelines around good legal practice, to ensure they are effective. As well as being written in legal language, a letter should include the following relevant information and statements:
- Information about the sender, so the recipient and their lawyers know who to contact if they want to negotiate or send a reply;
- Details of the recipient, including their correct name and address;
- A description of the violation – for example, the thing that has been infringed, whether it is copyright, a boundary, reputation or privacy;
- Demand to cease the violation;
- A summary of the legal grounds on which the demand is based – e.g. a copyright registration certificate, or other proof of ownership of the rights which are being violated;
- A description of what the subsequent legal proceedings will be if the recipients fails to comply;
- Reservation of your rights, for example, your right to claim compensation for damages, and use further legal remedies even if the offending party corrects their infringement.
How a lawyer can help
As we have seen, although the cease and desist letter seems like a private communication between two parties, in Singapore it should be made as a formal document, reflecting the true legal standing of both the sender and the recipient.
You may be able to find sample cease and desist letter templates, for example online, but it is often better to obtain professional legal advice. You may save money by drafting and sending the letter yourself, but remember that having the letter sent on your behalf, on paper with a law firm letterhead, can instantly add weight to your claim.
A further advantage to engaging a lawyer is that the recipient is likely to show your letter to their lawyer, who will study it and decide if you have grounds for your demands, and whether they are legitimate. It often helps to have the letter written by a legal professional as it ensures your statements are correct and demonstrates to the recipient that you are fully prepared to take legal action if necessary.
Method of Sending a Cease and Desist Letter in Singapore
You should send the letter in paper form to give it a formal tone and have the desired effect on the recipient, although you may sometimes send it by email attachment or as plain text.
The quickest and most effective way of sending the letter is by registered mail or courier, ensuring you get confirmation of receipt. If the matter later goes to court, such confirmation will benefit your case, because it demonstrates to the court that you have tried all legal means prior to filing your claim.
Following up on Your Demands
In an ideal world, once the recipient has received your letter they will stop their infringement and possibly give you compensation for the damages. However, in practice, this does not happen in every case, and if it doesn’t then you must take further steps quickly.
You should give the recipient reasonable time to correct their infringement, although most cease and desist letters will demand the infringement cease immediately. However, if you have heard nothing from the recipient after several days and the violation continues, it would be reasonable to conclude that they intend to ignore your demands.
If this happens, you must take the steps laid out in your letter regarding non-compliance. If they continue to violate and you do not follow it up with more action, then it will most likely worsen, as the perpetrator will think that you will not (or cannot) defend yourself.
Often, people will mistakenly think that follow up legal costs will be too high for them. Speak with your lawyer to explore the costs involved and make an informed decision on the best way to proceed.