Take Back Urban Homesteading

Urban Homesteading. It’s a beautiful collision of farm and urban life in urban and suburban areas. Feed yourself from your own garden? Try to squeeze a few chickens into your postage-stamp sized backyard? You’re an Urban Homesteader! This generally recognized term for people living The Good Life has, to my great astonishment, recently been trademarked by the Dervaes family of Pasedena, CA.

You may be familiar with the Dervaes family. If you’re at all like me, you probably stumbled across their website in the course of the last few years and thought “how interesting and admirable.” They seemed like a neat group of people doing a neat thing. Growing all that food on 1/10th of an acre! Trying to live sustainably! Documenting their journey so that others could get inspired! It’s all so admirable.

That’s why I was shocked to read about the nasty fallout from their trademarking of the terms “Urban Homestead” and “Urban Homesteading.”

Strange as it sounds, the Dervaes family actually sent out 16 letters last week to various bloggers and institutes bearing the name “Urban Homestead” or “Urban Homesteading” in their titles asking these places to either STOP using these descriptive terms OR give the Dervaes family proper attribution. They even filed a suit against the authors of the book The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, despite the fact that the book was published in 2008 (2 years BEFORE the Dervaes family won their trademark for the terms). As a result of the Dervaes’ letters, Facebook even pulled down many pages for organizations such the Institute of Urban Homesteading and Denver Urban Homesteading — Urban Homesteading communities that relied on Facebook as their primary way of connecting with their members.

It all sounds so mean-spirited, doesn’t it?

Naturally, it created an uproar.

The inter-webs are aflutter with chat about how wrong, wrong, WRONG it is that the trademark was even granted in the first place. To give the United States Patent & Trademark Office credit, they actually did refuse the Dervaes’ initial application for the trademark back in 2008 because “Many entities provide a variety of print and online publications and services on the same subject matter.” In other words, the Dervaes’ use of the word was not sufficiently distinct to merit a trademark. Of course, rather than backing down, the family then spent the next two years working to prove their distinctiveness. I still don’t understand how they could have done so, given that the requirement for “distinctiveness” is through extensive and exclusive use of the term. (Surely they would have failed the “exclusive” test, right? After all, the term has been in wide, general use since at least the 1970s, if not longer.)

The Dervaes family has said that bloggers and the media are blowing this way out of proportion.

He did want to clarify that – contrary to some rumors – he has not gone after blogs or individuals. “They’re all commercial ventures that rival us,” he said. Because the Dervaeses travel often for workshops and talks, he says, the trademark is applicable outside of their hometown of Los Angeles.

Mr. Dervaes is concerned that his intent has been blown out of proportion by challengers, and says “We didn’t come up the name but we came up with the application.” He says his family spent three years convincing the United States Patent and Trademark Office that their use of the term was unique, and had to appeal several times because it was so similar to “urban home,” a previously trademarked term.

“If someone else would have done it first, all my work of ten years would be in jeopardy,” he adds. “We didn’t mean to bully anyone. These marks are what people do to make sure no one infringes on their ideas – they’re to give people who develop something protection. That’s why people like Apple and Nike do it. We did what other normal people would have done.”

Perhaps it is blown out of proportion. Perhaps he feels like his little family Urban Homestead is unique enough in all the world that it merits the same kind of protection as a corporation like Apple and Nike. Perhaps.

I pause, though, because it certainly does look like they did go after bloggers, and even a library for hosting a public event on urban homesteading!

The Dervaes family has said that we should be happy they trademarked the terms because now they can keep them out of the hands of big, bad, evil giant corporations who might want to misuse or abuse them. Okay. I can give them that. But if that’s the case why did they use their newly won trademark to go after people and institutions who are furthering the Urban Homesteading movement? Their actions in the past week certainly paint an unfavorable picture of their motives. And why didn’t they do what those in the Open Source community have done and licensed the terms under something like the GNU or Creative Commons? That would have protected the terms from corporate abuse while preserving the rights of the Urban Homesteading community to continue using the terms to describe themselves.

Ah well. Why am I sharing all of this with you?

If it isn’t already obvious, I should just come out and say that I’m a supporter of the Urban Homesteading movement. I believe the Dervaes family overstepped their proper role by trying to claim credit for a movement they did not start. (And yes, Jules Dervaes actually titles himself the “Founder of the Urban Homestead movement!”). I also believe that it is our duty to preserve our right to use these defining terms rather than trying to coin alternatives. As such, I recently joined a newly created Facebook Group called Take Back Urban Home-Steading(s). You might want to join them, too!

So, let me know what you think about this? Do you feel like the Dervaes family has betrayed your trust? Have they overstepped? Are they innocent victims? Let’s talk!

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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82 Responses to Take Back Urban Homesteading
  1. Alice Benham via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 3:22 pm

    Wow, that seems pretty presumptuous of them…

  2. Jill Campana via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 3:30 pm

    Check out Sunrise Ranch (they have a FB page).

  3. Peggy Webb via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 3:30 pm

    It’s as if the Colfax family trademarked “Homeschooling” or Rodale trademarked “container gardening.” it’s misguided, wrong, and divides rather than unites. I am very disappointed

    • Angie
      January 26, 2013 | 9:49 am

      Rodale did trademark “Oganic Gardening.”

  4. Cecilia Long
    February 19, 2011 | 3:37 pm

    Well its a start posting this here and having the word spread. If people by the throngs contact said guy and let him know in uncertain terms that if he does NOT stop his obnoxious behavior, due to the ferociousness of the interwebs, it can pretty much be made sure that he never has a speaking engagement of sells anything ever again.

    The world can be let known what a (fill in the blank with a naughty word) he is being.

    • Mary Virginia
      February 19, 2011 | 5:24 pm

      Cecelia,
      Unfortunately they have shut down their own facebook page and disabled comments on their site. Circling the wagons and controlling the flow of information. Or so they think. Much information on them can be obtained on the internet and they themselves feel that rumors are swirling. Yet they will not directly respond to questions and concerns or allow dialogue. But much damage has already been down to their brand through this trademark move and perhaps especially through their unprofessional and accusatory response, primarily via posts and tweets.

      • Alex Sobieski
        February 26, 2011 | 11:22 pm

        Way to take a brand and completely tank it.

        This will be once expensive lesson in fear/greed. Yikes.

  5. Pat Robinson via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 3:56 pm

    shared.

  6. Shelly King via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 4:17 pm

    I too have been watching this mess unfold. I am disappointed with the lack of judgment by the USPTO and the Dervaes family.

  7. Rachel Zupnik via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 4:22 pm

    The Dervaes family is a disappointment, to say the least. As far as a lack of judgment by the USPTO, well they are the ones who let monsanto patent life.

  8. Tim Huntley
    February 19, 2011 | 4:26 pm

    Removed them from my blogroll.

  9. Meg Logan
    February 19, 2011 | 4:28 pm

    Say WHAT?! You have to be kidding me, these people go away with this?? Unreal, whose side are they on anyway??

    GRUMBLE…. Ok Food Renegade, what can be done about it?

    • KristenM
      February 19, 2011 | 5:24 pm

      There are a lot of interesting ideas being circulated on the Take Back Urban Home-Steading Facebook page. One of them is to financially support the authors of The Urban Homestead which are being sued by the Dervaes family by buying their book and donating to the EFF (which is handling their defense).

      • Walter Jeffries
        March 6, 2011 | 7:36 am

        Buying their book unfortunately only gives them a little money (2% to 10% of what you pay). If you want to support them then send them a direct paypal payment of support, or better yet a check in the mail to save the 4% paypal fee.

        As to the USTPO, they are clerks, they have an inbox and an outbox. They get paid to move the paper from one box to the other as fast as possible. Making waves slows them down. They are, in other words, a joke. Too much slips past them that should be neither trademarked or patented.

        The biggest thing to do to stop the D.Family is to do everything you can to block their speaking and other money raising functions by spreading the word about the evil they are doing. This will dry up their funds. It requires keeping the pressure on them long term. Money talks.

  10. Heidi
    February 19, 2011 | 4:33 pm

    I’m curious to hear more from people who think they are innocent victims. So far I’ve heard nil on that topic.

    • KristenM
      February 19, 2011 | 5:29 pm

      I would like to hear that, too! They pulled their own Facebook page and shut down comments on their blog when everything started unraveling this week. They apparently had some positive supporters defending them in those places, but since it’s all closed down now we can’t go see what they were saying.

  11. Pamela
    February 19, 2011 | 4:33 pm

    Appreciated your take on it..
    Last evening I clicked on a link in Facebook for a blogger who received a letter and found out it’s a blogger and teacher of Urban Homesteading about an hours drive from me. She has it posted here @ http://urbanhomesteadx.com/wordpress/?p=1625. These terms have been around forever.
    You will find in this letter they have 6 trademarked names and 1 pending.
    I remember these terms in the early days of Mother Earth News magazine and a lot of Rodale books, etc.. Urban farming isn’t anything new – even our ancestors that lived in big cites / small towns raised their own produce in their yards and kept chickens and maybe even a goat or cow. They often lived just like country folks did, only in a city / town setting. It’s the same thing today after skipping some generations that has caught on with so many as it was way back then, of which had lost it’s way when commercialization of our food industry came into place.
    I can understand them trademarking their terms if they were solely something unique like 3M’s Thinsulate which is a very unique way of what they do with fibers to make them light weight and warm used in many applications from gloves, mitts, boots and so forth. But Urban Homestead / Urban Homesteading are not unique!!

  12. Pamela Burleigh Nelson via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 4:37 pm

    Just posted comment on your blog about it. Shared a link to read the letter the Dervaes sent to a local blogger in my area.

  13. Lauren Lionheart
    February 19, 2011 | 4:49 pm

    Dang. As the story is told, there do seem to be some glaring inconsistencies between supposed intentions and actions. I too came across that website many times over my years of Googling homesteading in the city. Always liked what they were sharing at the time and still send love to their family.

    And I support those who are questioning those trademarking choices.

    This is 100% about replacing outdated systems with new ones. Red tape like trademarking, and going after “commercial ventures that rival” you is the Old Ways.
    The only lack is what you imagine in your head. There’s enough urban homesteading love to go around for everyone.

    How can we look at this situation with a fresh perspective? How can everyone win here?

    Peace,

    Lauren

  14. Todd S.
    February 19, 2011 | 4:52 pm

    They used the system of IP laws to do exactly what it is intended to do: create artificial scarcity.

  15. Debbie
    February 19, 2011 | 4:53 pm

    That is just wrong!!
    My husband wants to know if they may be related to Al Gore who claimed to invent the internet LOL.
    They were an inspiration — not so much anymore.

  16. Glenn
    February 19, 2011 | 4:58 pm

    What the Dervaes family has done is absolutely unconscionable. The 16 letters threatening legal action were all sent to decent people trying to make a living in some way connected to urban homesteading. The facebook pages that the Dervaes family had shut down were for wonderful people working to make the world a better place as well. They went after the Institute of Urban Homesteading and small bloggers that teach a couple classes on things like gardening and making your own butter. The Dervaes family isn’t protecting people from giant corporations, they are harming people like them. It really is monstrous.

    Unfortunately, their actions have made it so that publishers will now be avoiding anything to do with urban homesteading like the plague, in order to avoid any legal hassles. The harm they have done is beyond shameful. I urge everyone to support the businesses that they have harmed, and to boycott any of their goods and services.

    And please sign this change.org petition to get them to cancel their ridiculous trademarks:
    http://www.change.org/petitions/cancel-trademarks-on-urban-homestead-and-urban-homesteading

    • KristenM
      February 19, 2011 | 5:32 pm

      Thanks, Glenn for your perspective. I hadn’t even started thinking long term about this (as in, what will happen with publishers, etc. down the road).

    • Mary Virginia
      February 19, 2011 | 5:35 pm

      Actually there is a new book in the works using this term and the author said (on the Take Back FB page I believe) that they got the green light to go ahead with it. No one including lawyers apparently believes these trademarks will hold up in court. The couple who wrote the UH book before the Dervaes family got the trademarks is now suing them. I do not think they were sued first, just sent a letter like the bloggers and the library and others.

      And regarding their contention that no bloggers or individuals received letters (which has been proven wrong) I have yet to hear of any corporations that did either – except Amazon for linking to the UH book. Via letters and FB shutdowns they have gone after small organizations teaching skills including cooking, and after a farmers market in Denver.

      • Sundari Kraft
        February 20, 2011 | 1:32 am

        Mary’s right — “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading” is coming out in June.

    • marie
      March 8, 2011 | 12:52 pm

      I agree! What they have done is downright evil IMO.

  17. Leah
    February 19, 2011 | 5:03 pm

    yuck! I used to think that was a cool thing they were doing… very sad. I will certainly join the fb group.

  18. Food Renegade via Facebook
    February 19, 2011 | 5:12 pm

    @Peggy — Excellent point.

  19. Liz
    February 19, 2011 | 5:54 pm

    This is awful. We need to be sticking together and encouraging each other, not quibbling over the rights to use specific terminology.

  20. StacySix
    February 19, 2011 | 6:29 pm

    Mountain Rose Herbs of Eugene, Oregon, is one of the Dervases advertisers. I wrote a very politely worded letter to them this morning, asking that they consider ending their support for the Dervaeses over this issue. If you’d like to do the same, their email addy is: [email protected]

  21. silani
    February 19, 2011 | 7:09 pm

    If you actually go to your place, you will find that unlike the photo you have at the top of your page, and the promo photos they have, the gate is closed and padlocked. They were brutally unfriendly to us and we were just there ot pick up an order, having confirmed that we were coming by phone, by email and of their Facebook page. Something is happening with them that is very “TV Reality Show”…..and the crazier the story the better it seems. Anything to get attention, but the story they create is different from what one incounters when one actually arrives there.
    I am grateful for the “dream” set in motion by them. I am now an Urban Homesteader. There, I’ve said it. So sue me! I’m not taking it back. I’m an Urban Homesteader, and I have no lock on my front gate.

  22. silani
    February 19, 2011 | 7:11 pm

    I meant to say “if you actually go to THEIR place, meaning the Dervaes family…whose photo you have at the top of your article.

  23. claire
    February 19, 2011 | 7:19 pm

    The thing that struck me was one of the members of the family saying

    “These marks are what people do to make sure no one infringes on their ideas – they’re to give people who develop something protection. That’s why people like Apple and Nike do it. We did what other normal people would have done.”

    This type of thing may be CORPORATE but is it NORMAL? Very misguided in my opinion. Too bad. I hope they feel a strong backlash and loss of reputation and take it seriously enough to right the wrong they are perpetrating with their actions.

    There are ways to protect the rights of your business from infringement. Becoming part of the corporate machine and using lawsuits as actions is probably not it.

    Thanks for the info.

  24. Judy Gex
    February 19, 2011 | 8:06 pm

    I hate to have to tell Jules Dervaes that my Granny was Urban Homesteading way before he “founded” the movement. She was raising chickens, rabbits and as many veggies as she could manage in a postage stamp-sized yard in a subdivision back in the early 70′s. Her chain link fences were trellises and she used the rabbit poop in the gardens. There was the big ol’ compost pile in one corner and grape trellises and a worm bed under the rabbit coops for when we wanted to go fishing. My love of gardening grew there and as much as I was impressed by the Dervaes family’s accomplishments, they certainly weren’t the first folks to show others that veggie gardening could be done in an urban environment.

    That they have shut down Denver Urban Homestead’s FB page and slapped the Oakland Library and others with a cease and desist for trying to further the movement in their own way is indeed unconscionable. I, even though impressed by their homestead, never looked to them for advice in my own homesteading adventure… I went to Organic Gardening and Rodale and homesteading message boards.

    They ain’t all that. The phrase “does not play well with others” comes to mind.

  25. Judy Gex
    February 19, 2011 | 8:11 pm

    Oh, and in their own list of “The 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading,” number 10 states:

    “Be a good NEIGHBOR.

    Be conscious and considerate of your surroundings – ask yourself, “Would I want to live next to me?” Offer a helping hand for free. Urban homesteading is a community-based way of life, not a business opportunity. Be a neighbor, not a business person.”

    No. I would NOT want to live next to them, especially after reading Silani’s post above.

  26. Amy
    February 19, 2011 | 8:31 pm

    I’m so confused! I swear I read on their blog that the letters sent out were false and it was all rumors. I can’t look it up easily on my phone at the moment. If everything they’ve done is true I will be so disappointed.

    • Amy
      February 19, 2011 | 8:42 pm

      Well this is what I was thinking of.
      http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2011/02/16/fyi-urban-homestead-trademark-matter/
      Actually reading their letter it sounds so pompous. I have a section on my blog titled urban homesteading. Ugh.

      • KristenM
        February 19, 2011 | 8:59 pm

        Right. They’re saying what’s “false” isn’t the claim that they sent out the letters (they readily admit to that), but that the letters were “cease & desist” letters. However, after reading the letter they posted, I can’t see any other way to interpret it. It says:

        In addition, Dervaes Institute owns numerous trademarks which should be properly acknowledged if used. These protected names and images include the following registered trademarks:

        * URBAN HOMESTEAD®
        * URBAN HOMESTEADING®
        * PATH TO FREEDOM®
        * GROW THE FUTURE®
        * HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION®
        * FREEDOM GARDENS®
        * LITTLE HOMESTEAD IN THE CITY®

        * Also, THE TEN ELEMENTS OF URBAN HOMSTEADING copyright has been filed with the Library of Congress.

        If your use of one of these phrases is not to specifically identify products or services from the Dervaes Institute, then it would be proper to use generic terms to replace the registered trademark you are using. For example, when discussing general homesteading or other people’s projects, they should be referred to using terms such as ‘modern homesteading,’ ‘urban sustainability projects,’ or similar descriptions.

        When using a phrase listed above to refer to the work of the Dervaes Institute, proper trademark usage should include the proper trademark notice [®], use the protected phrase in all capital letters, and note in close proximity that the term is a protected trademark of Dervaes Institute.

        What else could that mean other than STOP using these words for general use OR make sure you acknowledge they’re a registered trademark?

        • Karen
          February 25, 2011 | 3:18 am

          Very interesting rules they are making for other people who have, for decades, participated in urban homesteading. So exactly what alternative wording do they propose once other groups or individuals trademark the remaining commonly understood terms to describe the activity of urban homesteading? They did not invent the concept. Too bad this pile of crap isn’t organic and compostable. I have lost all respect for the ” Dervaes Institute” as it now looks more like a “New Age” Monsanto wannabe. Thanks for posting this!

  27. misty
    February 19, 2011 | 9:15 pm

    I will be joining your fb group. When I first began reading this post, I was thinking ‘How interesting! I need to check it out.’ But I dont like that. I think the beauty of blogging is in the ability to inform, entertain, and provide benefit to others. Im also a fervent capitalist. Im not opposed to this family making money with their blog. The real problem is that they will prevent others from sharing similar information because they think they will make less money. That just seems greedy. It appears that their greater motivation is in the money and not in the message. The ironic thing for them is, they would probably make more money had they NOT gone to such an effort to attain it!

  28. K Joseph
    February 19, 2011 | 9:22 pm

    Thanks you for this information! – it’s just outrageous! Where do I complain/protest!? :)

  29. Mama Kelly aka Jia
    February 19, 2011 | 9:49 pm

    If nothing else it just seems downright rude to trademark a phrase that’s already in use.

  30. Ox
    February 19, 2011 | 9:57 pm

    So KristenM, do we know who approved this and/or how to de-approve. The USPTO office didn’t have ANY links as to how to contest this swill.

    I will forever BOYCOTT the Dervaes and see them forever as Yuppie Scum.

    Please someone come up with a plan to fight this b.s. I’ve been looking online for 3 hours and i’m done.

  31. Aleisha @ Whole Family Project
    February 19, 2011 | 11:24 pm

    How ridiculous. They defined the application?! Do we take that to mean that they feel they were the very first ones, in all the United States to grow food and livestock in their backyard?! What presumptuous, self-agrandizing idiocy. I will never support their efforts again. If you really have a heart for this movement…there are no words that can keep you from being ecstatic every time someone else picks up a hoe and takes up the reigns of their own food production! There is no term that can define how joyous you are when you reach someone with the understanding of what our industrialized food system is doing to their family…no way to contain how wonderful it is to see people taking it back from Big Food. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

  32. Cherie
    February 20, 2011 | 12:01 am

    Thanks for sharing this and to everyone for their helpful input! I joined your FB page. I also agree that it’s shameful and plain greed. Like they say… if it walks like a duck?? I doubt in the long run this is going to give them the type of consequences they are seeking!

  33. meg- grow & resist
    February 20, 2011 | 12:21 am

    Hope this doesn’t double-post, my computer just cut out. Anyhow, great piece and I’m glad to have found your site!
    I really dislike the term homestead but am horrifed by the trademarking of a term that in common usage as a way of being/an activity/a lifestyle/etc. I wrote about it (http://growandresist.com/2011/02/16/urban-homestead-act-2-1/). I am so pleased, however, at the sense of community that has been built from their actions.
    Resist!

  34. Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions
    February 20, 2011 | 12:44 am

    Great post! I’m furious at the family and have lost all respect for them and what they do, especially since their actions had a direct effect on me. I live in Denver and the Denver Urban Homesteading group of great importance to our community. The information and education they provide is in invaluable. I’m not an urban homesteader yet, but I am working towards it and hope to one day be as self-sufficient as possible. I also go to the Denver Urban Homesteading’s weekly farmers market (that runs year-round – the only one in Denver that I am aware of) and so the removal of their FB page hinders my ability to see what’s happening at the market that week.

    I think that what the Dervaes did only hurts the urban homesteading movement. I thought this movement was about growth, community and relationships. Their “corporate-ization” of the terms only hurts others, including themselves b/c I don’t think their reputation will ever recover from this. They’ve lost me as a fan and I’m sure countless others.

    • Sundari Kraft
      February 20, 2011 | 1:37 am

      Jessica — I completely agree with you. The dismantling of the Denver Urban Homesteading facebook page with absolutely unacceptable.

      If you want, you can “like” Sustainable Food Denver on facebook. We’ve offered to post James’ weekly market updates for him, while he works to get his page reinstated.

  35. Bernadine Talmadge via Facebook
    February 20, 2011 | 2:32 am

    wow – just wow.

  36. Barbara Bradley Hoyer via Facebook
    February 20, 2011 | 7:10 am

    Icky! Next they’ll trademark sustainable living! Kind of makes me want to plaster the terms all over the internet! I’ve never heard of a copyrighted term being retroactive either. On the internet that would be impossible to enforce.

  37. Stone Cottage Mama
    February 20, 2011 | 7:54 am

    This is such an important blog post. So important, I hope you don’t mind me sharing it on my facebook fan page for our farm. Everyone needs to know about this!

  38. Gayle Trepanier via Facebook
    February 20, 2011 | 8:47 am

    Wow. Reminds me of the quote: ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand.’ These people are wasting money and resources quibbling over a phrase they did not create in order to gain publicity. Which only casts a negative light on the whole issue! Shame on the US patent office for giving in. They were right the first time when they denied it. I certainly will go out of my way to avoid this despicable group. I believe that you can’t trademark a word or phrase, btw, unless it’s attached to a logo which then makes it unique. If that were the case, the co. ‘polarity’ could be going after anyone who used that word. Did they get a trademark, copyright or patent for these phrases? Just curious, I am pretty sure they are overstepping their legal bounds, and these things cannot!! be applied retroactively. What an ass.

  39. Real Food Mama
    February 20, 2011 | 9:09 am

    This simply boils down to greed. The only reason why anyone needs to “own” an idea like this is so they can profit from it, clearly at the expense of freedom if information and ideas.

    It is unfortunate, but not all that surprising, that the Dervaes family has decided to use their lifestyle to make themselves rich at the expense of encouraging others to live in the same manner. I frequently refer to my little set up as the urban farm and I am seriously considering changing it to the urban homestead on my blog just to see what happens.

    Outrageous that they have been allowed to get away with this.

    – RFM

  40. Rhonda Mapp via Facebook
    February 20, 2011 | 9:40 am

    I am totally amazed the trademark was granted, but I understand that it could still be revoked?

  41. rosie_kate
    February 20, 2011 | 2:01 pm

    Guh. All this does is further regulation. So what if they think they’re using for a good purpose… if we don’t like when Monsanto does it, why is it okay for everyone else?

  42. Robynn's Ravings
    February 20, 2011 | 2:22 pm

    Wow. They used to have my admiration and respect. Those days are now gone. I think there’s a wolf in the centralized-city’s-removed-from-a-typical-farming-and/or-agricultural-location, poultry dwelling. Didn’t want to take the risk of saying “urban” or “hen house.” One never knows.

  43. Stone Cottage Mama
    February 20, 2011 | 2:52 pm

    Joined the facebook group! And this morning after their statement attacking fellow bloggers, I decided to post my own. FELLOW bloggers! Now, come on. These people were their only friends.

    I am also going to buy that book right now.

  44. Diana Bauman via Facebook
    February 20, 2011 | 2:55 pm

    As an urban homesteader, thank you for such a great post Kristin!!

  45. Shirley @ gfe
    February 20, 2011 | 8:55 pm

    What a sad turn of events and some trademarks just don’t make sense. Thanks for sharing this info with us, Kristin.

    Shirley

  46. Angela Nolan
    February 21, 2011 | 9:29 am

    Love your blog. Have linked it at mine and joined you on facebook. Great job!

  47. Joyce
    February 21, 2011 | 10:45 am

    I think the picture of their sign at the beginning of your post proves that urban homestead is a generic term. Path to Freedom is their unique name and Urban Homestead is the description of what they do. It’s no different than if they were Path to Freedom Cafe, or Path to Freedom Hardware. Cafe and hardware are not eligible for a trademark because they are common words used to describe a service or product offered. It is the same for urban homestead. This would be like Ace Hardware trying to trademark the word hardware.

  48. Cathy Raymond
    February 21, 2011 | 1:44 pm

    Gosh, I’m pretty sure I agree with the path they’ve chosen, and if we looked at organizations like Polyface Farm, Weston A. Price Foundation, Real Food Media, Food Renegade, I can be happy that I know them as discrete groups, with clear missions and principles. I certainly don’t want to see Food Renegade tampered with. :-)

    I’m glad that there are copywrite laws, that protect a name from being watering down. Many of our pioneers started early, and have many copycats that come along afterward, or if not copycats, people with similar resonance. But, they can choose their own names, why not? It’s not like there is a shortage of words, or clever titles.

    As I understand it, an organization with a copywrited name MUST counter EVERY unauthorized use of the name (whether it’s a blog, small library, or like-minded farm), If they don’t then, other organizations can also use the name, without permission, based on the fact that it’s ignored in other instances. They go so far, as to require WRITTEN permission in in every instance.

    What they did must have much more to do with the laws in our country, than purported greed etc.

    I’ve enjoyed my interactions with that family and organization, and support them for their amazing efforts to open up possibilities for others to follow suit. esp. with food costs rising as they are.

    What puzzles (and deeply concerns me) is the in-fighting in our local foods community. Gosh, don’t we have enough on our plates with BigAg, FDA, USDA?

    Let’s choose some bigger fish to fry. :-)

    • Jess
      February 26, 2011 | 2:13 pm

      The problem is, they’re not copyrighting a brand. What they’re doing would be similar to La Leche League copyrighting “breastfeeding”. Sure, they are pretty knowledgeable, but does that give them the right to control the term “breastfeeding”? Despite the fact that women have been doing it for eons, can they claim they’ve now done it in a “new and innovative way” and therefore can force every breastfeeding support blog or website to state “invented by La Leche League” if they do use the term? Sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it?

      The Dervaes family has now linked themselves to the likes of Nike and Apple, boldfaced and proudly. We have lost an invaluable connection to our neighborhood farmer’s market because they dared have “Urban Homesteading” in their name. The Dervaes family is hurting the community and, what’s worse, they’re aggressive and entirely unapologetic about it. When we are no longer allowed to state “we urban homestead” without a trademark at the end and a completely ridiculous statement that the Dervaes family “founded” Urban Homesteading (someone please tell the hundreds of immigrants who were doing it since arriving here and being a part of cities), without being sent a cease and desist, having facebook pages shut down, having important community connections threatened? They’ve just made themselves a negative corporation and, therefore, absolutely are the “bigger fish to fry”.

      The term fox in the hen house comes to mind. Wolf in sheep’s clothing is a very close second. Hopefully, the Dervaes family hasn’t managed to get copyrights on either of those terms yet but, if they did, they would be quite a bit more honest choices than their current ones.

  49. Kay
    February 21, 2011 | 1:56 pm

    Whoa! How presumptuous! These people are unbelievable!

    Makes me want to start a “Urban homestead” in my backyard.

  50. Small Footprint Mama
    February 21, 2011 | 3:50 pm

    While I am a bit amazed by recent events, I know that these types of issues get exaggerated by misinformation, rumor and hyperbole.

    The Dervaes’ did send that ridiculous letter, and they do seem to have gotten unattractively over-protective of their business identity since urban homesteading began hitting the mainstream, BUT they are actually not suing anyone. They don’t have the means, frankly.

    Furthermore, I think this is much more of a molehill than a mountain. There are many trademarks for common words that people use for blogs, classes, etc. all the time, without legal fallout. For example, did you know that the terms Edible Landscaping, Biodynamic, Locavore, Victory Garden, Simple Living, Backyard Farms, Gaia, Biodiesel, Homegrown and Urban Farming are also all Registered Trademarks? It wouldn’t surprise me if there was one pending for “Real Food.”

    LIVING HOMEGROWN

    HOMEGROWN HIPPIE

    PLANT THE SEED

    GARDEN GIRL

    URBAN FARMING

    HOBBY FARM

    URBAN FARM

    BIODYNAMIC

    • Idahomesteader
      February 26, 2011 | 7:49 pm

      True, the Dervaes Family has not sued anyone – yet. What they have done, through DMCA filings and other requests to ISPs and companies such as Facebook is deny all the other people who rightly use the phrase Urban Homesteading – or derivatives – from having an internet presence unless they succumb to the Dervaes demands of attribution. People and organizations whose use predates their Trademark claims and uses of the phrase that predates all their marketing of homesteading as an invention of the Dervaes Family.

      This is the issue.

      None of the examples you gave in your message have made the same demands of others who use exactly the same or similar phrasing when describing their activities.

  51. Jennifer
    February 21, 2011 | 7:28 pm

    Ack – I used to recommend them to everyone and enjoyed some of their stuff, but now…moving on to REAL homesteaders, urban and otherwise!

  52. Pete
    February 22, 2011 | 2:38 pm

    Did they do this not realizing the trouble they would be bringing upon themselves? Or are they just that clueless?

    I first saw their stuff on youtube and thought it was neat what they were accomplishing, but now I have lost all respect for them. They have joined the likes of Monsanto, Conagra and Cargill….

  53. Brandy Afterthoughts
    February 22, 2011 | 5:56 pm

    This reminds me of Joel Salatin, who has coined many unique terms (Pigerator, anyone?), and yet deliberately decided NOT to register them (so he says in his book Holy Cows and Hog Heaven). I’ve been a “fan” of the Dervaes for a long time, and I’m very disappointed in their decision to even attempt to trademark these terms (especially Urban Homesteading). Salatin explains in his book that he WANTS his terms to become common terms, which is why he doesn’t “protect” against their use. In creating the language for his style of farming, he is actually encouraging said farming. I think we can say the same about Urban Homesteading–in using the language, many of us caught a vision.

  54. Girl Hero Jenn
    February 23, 2011 | 2:46 pm

    This is ridiculous and pompous. I’ve heard and used the phrase urban homesteading for years and have never even heard of the Darvaes and I also live in Southern CA. Sounds like they need to get over themselves and get a clue.

  55. Kevin
    February 25, 2011 | 10:09 pm

    I was a loyal fan and advocate, and it’s sad to see this all unfold. They’re in for a prolonged world of hurt because of this poor choice – I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

    The really sad part is that the whole purpose, I believe, of what they’re doing on the writing and outreach end is to inspire. Apparently they see it differently – but their unique perspective is clearly doing vastly more harm than good.

  56. Irina
    February 26, 2011 | 3:45 pm

    It looks for me that people need to know – Dervaes has no rights as he claimed on generic phrase “Urban Homesteading”. Urban Homesteading trademark was registered in Supplemental Register. It means that it is merely descriptive.
    Descriptive marks (or more properly, “merely descriptive marks”) are devices which merely describe the services or goods on which the mark is used. If a device is merely descriptive, it is not a mark at all, since it does not serve to identify the source of the goods or services. No trademark rights are granted to merely descriptive marks. No secondary meaning was developed by Dervaes to make it a protectable trademark. Most of people believe and there is sufficient proof in the internet that Urban Homesteading is generic phrase and therefore is incapable of functioning as a trademark
    The benefits that apply to Supplemental Registrations are:
    1) the mark will appear in trademark searches, and that the registrant is given the right to use the ® symbol in connection with the mark.
    2) In addition, having a mark registered on the Supplemental register will assist in achieving registration of the mark in certain foreign countries.
    3) Finally, Supplement Registrations can be used to help prove exclusive use of a mark for a five year period, which is one of the ways in which secondary meaning may be proved to the U.S.P.T.O.
    Even if no opposition is filed, and the application becomes registered, it is still possible for a third-party to object to the registration of a particular mark. This objection is usually made through a cancellation proceeding, which is similar to an opposition proceeding except that it takes place after registration. You can find more information on http://www.bitlaw.com/trademark/index.html
    Protests online will help urban homesteaders to cancel this trademark. Thank you for doing it – more comments, please.

  57. Canoeman
    February 28, 2011 | 6:40 pm

    Google these folks, they were big in the worldwide church of god.
    That is one of the end times, the world is going to end tomorrow cults.
    He as extensive end of times writings on the web.
    All His companies are also registered as churches (read: no income tax)
    This creature is the head of an odd family church, who apparently, has the benifit that god speaks directly, only through him.
    To say that there are odd things going on in his compound, is an understatement.
    I expect to read about him in the papers soon.

  58. Jennifer
    March 3, 2011 | 4:07 pm

    This is directly from the USPTO

    “Word Mark URBAN HOMESTEADING
    Goods and Services IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Educational services, namely, conducting informal programs in the fields of sustainable living, organic foods and gardening, the environment, and conservation, using on-line activities and interactive exhibits; entertainment services, namely, providing a web site featuring photographic, audio and video featuring sustainable living, organic foods and gardening, the environment, and conservation; on-line journals, namely, blogs featuring sustainable living, organic foods and gardening, the environment and conservation. FIRST USE: 20020306. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20020306
    Standard Characters Claimed
    Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
    Serial Number 77326565
    Filing Date November 10, 2007
    Current Filing Basis 1A
    Original Filing Basis 1A
    Supplemental Register Date April 6, 2009
    Registration Number 3633366
    Registration Date June 2, 2009
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Dervaes Institute CORPORATION CALIFORNIA 631 Cypress Avenue Pasadena CALIFORNIA 91103
    Attorney of Record Erik M. Pelton
    Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
    Register SUPPLEMENTAL
    Live/Dead Indicator LIVE”

    IT SAYS RIGHT THERE THAT THIS TRADEMARK IS TARGETED AT BLOGS!!! This is outrageous!

  59. Dan
    April 3, 2011 | 4:22 pm

    On the bright side, it was that families’ cutthroat tactic that brought Urban Homsteading to my attention. Ultimately, the practice and values of gardening in cities will be advanced even if we have to call it urban farming from now on.

  60. Irina
    April 17, 2011 | 1:26 pm

    Dervaes don’t have as much rights as they claim. We started procedure to cancel the trademark. Documents are published on http://www.denverurbanhomesteading.org.

  61. Anglea B
    May 2, 2011 | 11:56 pm

    Take Back Urban Homesteading is grossly misrepresenting what the Dervaes are domg. It will not correct its blatant misrepresentations of what the the Dervaes have done. The letter sent out by the Dervaes Institute was to inform commercial business how to correctly use the term. It was never meant to stop others from using the term descriptively. When asked, Take back Urban Homesteading refuses to address the issue when confronted with the truth of the matter. Take back Urban Homesteading cannot handle the truth nor defend itself. It is more interested in promoting its own agenda .

  62. anna
    July 11, 2011 | 1:04 pm

    That’s just appalling. Why not just add their last name and copyright it? Dervaes Urban Homesteading. They’re off my list now…. It’s like the FDA saying they “own” the word “organic”, uh huh…

  63. Mimi
    May 1, 2012 | 10:34 am

    Your info is all wrong. Dervaes never filed a suit against that book. Here is the correct info http://dervaestrademark.wordpress.com/

  64. Irina
    October 13, 2012 | 1:16 am

    Motion for Summary Judgment to cancel trademark URBAN HOMESTEADING is filed October 6, 2012 – copy is available on our website http://www.denverurbanhomesteading.org/ or USPTO website.

  65. Angie
    March 19, 2013 | 11:28 pm

    Both EFF and Denver had their Motions for Summary judgment thrown out!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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