John Oliver is known for his satire news show Last Week Tonight and for his stint on The Daily Show. The English comedian made headlines earlier this week when he called out coal company CEOs and what he termed their encouragement of an “us versus them situation.” This mentality, he argued, was to the detriment of coal workers. He contended that the CEOs were encouraging an overly suspicious mentality of those who are not in the coal industry while decreasing the worker’s benefits and increasing their own salaries.
Prior to going on air, the comedian received a cease and desist letter from one of the coal CEOs. As noted in a recent piece in Time, asking a comedian like John Oliver to “cease and desist” is “simply asking for trouble.” The comedian went on with the show, comparing the CEO to “a geriatric Dr. Evil” that seeks the counsel of “a talking squirrel” when making business decisions. Much to the comedian’s delight, the allegations led to great comic fodder.
What is a cease and desist letter? Unfortunately for the comedian, he potentially has a serious legal matter on his hands. These letters are legal instruments that can be used to serve a number of purposes. In some cases, the claim may be based on an actual patent infringement. In others, the letter may simply provide an attempt for one party to get an advantage over another. Determining the right course of action when you receive one of these letters can be difficult.
What should I do if I get a cease and desist letter? Those who receive these letters can choose to either follow the terms or not. Any response to the letter should be crafted carefully. You could unintentionally provide evidence that may be used against you at a later date.
Although you may want to follow John Oliver’s lead and call the writer “a geriatric Dr. Evil” or make other disparaging remarks, the best course of action is to seek legal counsel. An experienced intellectual property litigation attorney can help you craft a response that addresses any potential legal issue while also preserving your business interests.