Receiving a cease and desist letter can make many of us immediately alarmed, even without reading, and there is an actual reason for that. The persons or the company, who instructed lawyers to issue such a letter, consider that you interfered with their rights and are demanding that you cease the violation immediately and/or also compensate them for damages caused by such violation.
At the same time, it should always be remembered that any cease and desist letter in Singapore reflects the sender’s private opinion on the matter. It might well be the case that the sender is attempting to infringe on your rights or simply claim possession of a right or property without legally having such a right.
You can receive such a letter in various situations, for example, when an agency claims they own the logo you used for your company branding or when a corporation asserts that your comment on social media is defamatory of their reputation and caused them losses. In any situation, no matter how insignificant this claim might seem at first glance, it’s advisable to show the letter to an experienced lawyer.
Often a cease and desist letter is prepared by the sender’s lawyers who have analyzed your legal standing vis-à-vis the sender and is ready to proceed with further legal actions against you, including a claim in the court for an injunction or damages should you fail to comply with the demand in the said cease and desist letter. A lawyer hired by you will be able to evaluate the claim and prepare a reasoned reply, and such an action may be the most cost-effective way to protect your legitimate rights and avoid protected litigation.
Cease and Desist Letter vs. Summons to the Court
In many cases, when recipients read the words ‘Cease and Desist’ in a formal letter, they confuse it with a court summons. A cease and desist letter is just a tool to start a dialogue with the other party before proceedings are begun in court by the sender’s. We have identified the main aspects of cease and desist orders and summons to the court in Singapore to help you understand the difference:
|Cease and Desist Letter||Court Summons|
|Does not follow a specific form but can be drafted on a lawyer’s letterhead.||Must be made in form and according to the rules as defined by rules of court or other relevant written law.|
|Usually sent by registered mail and sometimes, even by email.||Summons are served according to a specific procedure, for example, by a court process server.|
|Does not start a court case and in many cases is not followed by litigation if parties can resolve the matter amicably.||A summons commences a court case.|
|If ignored, a cease and desist letter will not usually be followed by an arrest or other enforcement measures.||If a summons is ignored, it may lead to the arrest of the recipient and/or default judgment against the recipient.|
|The contents of a cease and desist letter may be challenged or disputed by your own lawyer in a response letter.||The subject of the summons can be contested only during a court hearing.|
Evaluating a Cease and Desist Letter
The first step of handling any cease and desist letter is to evaluate it. You should clarify:
- Who is the actual sender of the letter, whether it was sent by a lawyer, private individual or corporation;
- If you are the person the senders are referring to and if they are able to identify you clearly;
- What is the legal nature of the alleged infringement in the cease and desist letter;
- Whether the cease and desist letter mentions any legitimate grounds for the senders’ alleged rights, for example, a copyright certificate, patent registration, etc.;
- Whether the sender infringes on your own rights;
- If the letter sets some period for correcting the alleged violation;
- What is the amount of compensation claimed or the penalty for non-compliance.
In many situations, if you want to be sure that you have got the right answers to the above, you will need to have an understanding of the relevant regulations in Singapore. Thus, having a preliminary consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer can help to set the matter on the right track from the very beginning.
Responding to Cease and Desist Letter
After you and your lawyer have evaluated the alleged claims, it is the time to prepare a response. Some cease and desist letters require a response within a specified period while others do not require action within a time frame, but it is advisable to react as soon as possible to prevent further legal action on behalf of the sender.
Thus, if the senders’ claims are valid, there are several options, such as:
- Sending them a confirmation letter agreeing with their claims and rectifying the infringement,
- Asking the senders for clarification of their demands to probe their claim and prepare for better response,
- In case you have found that the sender is actually infringing on your rights, sending a cease and desist letter from your side,
- Filing a claim to the court against the sender.
How a Lawyer May Help
As can be seen from the above, many of the options, such a rejecting a cease and desist letter or filing a claim on your side, would call for a consultation with a lawyer to check your legal standing as well as that of the senders.
In many situations, you will also need to have evidence to prove your case should it go to trial. You will need to take screenshots of social media conversations, copies of documents, images, and/or emails and other communication, such as text or voice messages. Your lawyer would advise you on a proper way to gather and keep the evidence so that it’s ready to be presented when needed.
There are various scenarios of what to do if you have received a cease and desist letter in Singapore, and just ignoring such a letter is not the best option as it leaves the aggrieved party with no other choice but to use other legal actions. The only exception is when their demands are entirely null and void, but only a lawyer would be able to give you a definite answer to that.
In any case, it is recommended to immediately get in touch with a lawyer whenever you receive a cease and desist letter in Singapore. An experienced lawyer will help you to evaluate the legitimacy of claims against you and outline of possible legal defenses to settle the dispute with minimal concessions on your side.
Cases Involving Cease and Desist Letters
- Dr Who Waterworks Pte Ltd and others v Dr Who (M) Sdn Bhd and others  SGHC 156
In this case, the plaintiffs’ solicitors sent a cease and desist letter to IKEA to order them to stop selling cartons of water with the Dr Who trademark on it, arguing that it was copyright infringement. The judge found that there had been trademark infringement, and ordered the defendants to pay damages to the plaintiffs.1
In conclusion, receiving a cease and desist letter in Singapore can be a cause for concern, but it’s important to remember that it reflects the sender’s perspective and may not necessarily indicate a valid claim. Seeking legal advice from an experienced lawyer is crucial in evaluating the allegations and formulating an appropriate response. Understanding the difference between a cease and desist letter and a court summons is essential, as the former is a prelude to potential legal action while the latter initiates a court case. Promptly addressing the claims and exploring various options, such as clarification, rectification, or counteraction, with the guidance of a lawyer can help protect your rights and reach a resolution.
Glossary and Key Terms
Cease and desist letter: A letter sent by a lawyer or other authorized person demanding that another party stop engaging in a particular activity.
Court summons: A document issued by a court ordering a person to appear in court.
Copyright certificate: A document issued by the government that grants the owner of the copyright exclusive rights to use the copyrighted work.
Patent registration: A document issued by the government that grants the owner of the patent exclusive rights to use the patented invention.
Infringement: The unauthorized use of another person’s intellectual property.
Compensation: Money paid to someone who has been injured or suffered a loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the purpose of a cease and desist letter?
A: A cease and desist letter is a formal warning sent by a lawyer or other authorized person demanding that another party stop engaging in a particular activity. The letter typically states that the recipient is violating the sender’s rights, and that if the recipient does not stop, the sender will take legal action.
Q: What should I do if I receive a cease and desist letter?
A: If you receive a cease and desist letter, it is important to first read it carefully to understand the claims being made. You should then consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options. In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate a settlement with the sender. In other cases, you may need to file a lawsuit to defend your rights.
Q: What are the consequences of ignoring a cease and desist letter?
A: The consequences of ignoring a cease and desist letter will vary depending on the specific circumstances. In some cases, the sender may simply file a lawsuit against you. In other cases, the sender may take other legal action, such as filing a complaint with a government agency. If you are sued, you could be ordered to stop the infringing activity, pay damages, or both.
Q: What are some common reasons for receiving a cease and desist letter?
A: Some common reasons for receiving a cease and desist letter include:
- Unauthorized use of intellectual property: This could include copyright infringement, trademark infringement, or patent infringement.
- Defamation: This is the publication of false statements that damage someone’s reputation.
- Harassment: This could include repeated unwanted contact, threats, or intimidation.
- Unfair competition: This is engaging in business practices that are designed to harm a competitor.
Q: What are some tips for responding to a cease and desist letter?
A: If you receive a cease and desist letter, it is important to respond promptly and professionally. Here are some tips for responding to a cease and desist letter:
- Read the letter carefully and understand the claims being made.
- Consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options.
- If you are going to respond to the letter, do so in writing and send it by certified mail.
- In your response, state whether you agree or disagree with the claims being made.
- If you disagree with the claims, explain why.
- If you are willing to stop the infringing activity, state that you will do so.
- If you are not willing to stop the infringing activity, explain why.