A “cease & desist letter”- also known as “infringement letter” or “demand letter”- is an order or request that a party halt an activity (“cease”) & not take it up again later (“desist”), else face legal action. The recipient of the letter may be an individual or an organization.
Receiving numerous cease & desist letters may be very costly for the recipient. Each claim in the letters has to be evaluated & responded to; if there is no response & the Cease & Desist Order, & it contains valid claims, the conditions are then ready for the enacting party to become the litigate (the accuser & bringer of evidence on behalf of a claim).
Cease & desist letters are sometimes used to intimidate their recipients & can be “an effective tool used by corporations to chill the critical speech of gripe site operators.” A company owning a trademark may send such letter to a gripe site operator alleging a trademark infringement– although the actual use of the trademark by the gripe site operator may fall under a fair use exception (in compliance with, in the U.S., the protection of free speech under the First Amendment).
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Wikipedia on “Cease & Desist”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cease_and_desist
Black’s Law on “Litigate”: http://thelawdictionary.org/litigate/
Blank “Cease & Desist Letter” template: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/107467048/Generic-Cease-and-Desist-Form-Letter-(Personal-Activity)