Cease-and-Desist, Please, If You Don’t Mind

A California lawyer is getting high marks for the recent cease-and-desist letter she sent on behalf of Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc., the brand guardian for the iconic Tennessee-based whiskey.  Lawyer Christy Susman is responsible for helping protect the company’s trademarks, frequently contacting potential violators with cease-and-desist requests. But rather than scaring them with the specter of expensive litigation – perhaps the more popular approach – Susman recently sent a request that the recipient described as the “most polite cease and desist ever written.”

The Atlantic magazine posted Susman’s letter, which was sent to an author whose latest satirical novel included a stylized Jack Daniel’s logo on the cover. Susman’s letter tells the author that the company is “flattered,” but it patiently and politely explains why Jack Daniel’s is interested in protecting its trademarks. Susman goes on to request that the book cover be changed for any future reprinted versions – something the author has since agreed to – and offers to provide financial assistance if the author decides to revise the already-printed copies, which he declined.

Susman and her letter have been earning praise from media outlets across the country, from the original story in The Atlantic to NPR’s Weekend Edition. Her supervisor at Jack Daniel’s told the ABA Journal that the company has always relied on the “nice approach” and described the media’s interest as “amazing.”

While the letter demonstrates that the stereotype of litigation-happy lawyers is not true, it also shows that the best lawyers – like the best generals – never use more force than necessary to accomplish the immediate task at hand. 

Posted: 9/13/2012 10:21:51 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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