Well, to answer your questions, I’m going to say hypothetically that “you” stole something that was legally protected in some way (be it via patent, trademark, copyright, signing an NDA, or the likes).
Can they successfully stop you from operating your business? Yes, they have options that could put “you” out of business. If you’ve violated their legally protected rights to certain items (their trademarked name, their copy-protected material, their patented goods, or business processes from a former employer after you signed an NDA and it is still within the legal timeframe), they can exercise their options (cease and desist letters, lawsuit for an injunction to stop you plus damages) under the law.
Can they sue you? Yes, they can, but whether or not they will sue you is a different story. Keep in mind two things: they must first elect to exercise their rights and they’re probably going to wait until it is profitable to sue “you.”
What are the consequences? That depends on what, if anything, that they can prove in court that you did to violate their intellectual property rights.
In all honesty, if you or someone you know have found yourself with a legal threat of a lawsuit because of intellectual property, you should consult with a lawyer experienced in the area. The laws related to intellectual property can be complex and it isn’t something that you should do on your own (and you could get advice on whether what happened was actually a legal issue).
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