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Back to the earth, I mean trademark office.
February 16, 2011 2:52 PM   Subscribe

The Urban Homestead®: Where sustainable urban living and intellectual property collide. Previously on mefi we learned about some urban homesteaders in Pasadena, CA calling themselves the Dervaes Institute. According to the OC Weekly Blog Stick a Fork in It: "In October of last year, the Dervaeses successfully registered the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. But only in the past couple of weeks have they been sending cease-and-desist letters to organizations and blogs using the terms without their permission, successfully asking Facebook to shut down groups using those terms as their name."

Other trademarks include: urban homesteading, path to freedom, grow the future, homegrown revolution, freedom gardens and little homestead in the city (pending).

In a post on their blog they seem to think that a cease and desist letter is only one if the words "cease and desist" are used.
posted by mandymanwasregistered (54 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
C,WAA.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:54 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haha, just came to post about this. There is another great post on Crunchy Chicken.

If you are on Twitter you can Tweet at @urbanhomestead to express your displeasure. I have been involved with this movement for many years now and read tons of urban homesteading blogs. I've never even read anything from the Dervaes institute before. What I know is that this is a a heavily decentralized movement with many diverse players. It combines nostalgia for traditions and frugality (hence the homestead) with modern urban aspects like high technology and small spaces. In Brooklyn this movement is rather large and has succeeded in, for example, getting bee keeping legalized and installing chicken coops in community gardens. I don't oppose people making money, but I do oppose this "institute" co-opting the term.
posted by melissam at 2:56 PM on February 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Streisand effect, anyone?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:59 PM on February 16, 2011


There is a very big difference between promoting a movement, which is what they claim to be doing, and promoting yourself as the leader of a movement, which is actually what they are doing.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:59 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christ©, What an Asshole™.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:00 PM on February 16, 2011 [22 favorites]


Other trademarks include:

grow the future

Obama's going to be pissed.

Oh wait, never mind. Sorry.

Also funny to me, the fact that the word "freedom" has been so co-opted in the last 10 years, that I can't see "freedom garden" without thinking that some assholes started raising vegetables so that he doesn't have to buy some produce that was never made in France to begin with.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:01 PM on February 16, 2011


Well, this sort of thing has a long history. Demeter trademarked Biodynamic, though it hasn't been challenged much. I think this is going to get more buzz because a lot of urban homesteaders are techies/into social networking.
posted by melissam at 3:01 PM on February 16, 2011


On their front page, they show a twitter feed. Right now it reads "WE ARE NOW RECEIVING 'DEATH' THREATS" though the link is gone (ref http://twitter.com/urbanhomestead/statuses/37939531059695616)

I feel like the whole thing's a big prank. Gardens in LA. Yeah. Right.
posted by blixco at 3:03 PM on February 16, 2011


melissam: I don't oppose people making money, but I do oppose this "institute" co-opting the term.

But they're not "co-opting" these terms, they're claiming to be the ONLY ones who can use:
* URBAN HOMESTEAD®
* URBAN HOMESTEADING®
* PATH TO FREEDOM®
* GROW THE FUTURE®
* HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION®
* FREEDOM GARDENS®
* LITTLE HOMESTEAD IN THE CITY® (pending)
And this isn't the Streisand effect, it's media-whoring and name-grabbing. They're not trying to hide the fact they have a giant house on the ocean, they're trying to say "you cannot use these terms, they are ours alone."

It's as if some small fast-food chain tried to claim Fast Food as their trademark, and send C&D letters to MacDonalds and Burger King, or any blog mentioning Fast Food and not referring to the company in question.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:05 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rather amusingly, this change was made to the Wikipedia page for Urban Homesteading on February 10 by user Homegrownevolution:

Urban Homesteading is a registered trademark of Dervaes Institute (Registration Number 3633366).

It just disappeared - a change I know nothing about.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:07 PM on February 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Taking something that is in large part about promoting people's ability to produce for and take care of themselves and trying to trademark key identifying phrases... wow. Just wow.
posted by weston at 3:07 PM on February 16, 2011


Sorry, that actually happened on February 13.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:07 PM on February 16, 2011


Pastabagel: There is a very big difference between promoting a movement, which is what they claim to be doing, and promoting yourself as the leader of a movement, which is actually what they are doing.

More than being the leaders, they're almost claiming to be the only ones in this field. No one else can be "urban homesteading."
posted by filthy light thief at 3:20 PM on February 16, 2011


Glad to see their site's server has apparently been crashed.
posted by blucevalo at 3:26 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


So can somebody please just go back to first principles for me - WTF is "urban homesteading"? AFAICT it's having a vegie garden. But I'm sure there has to be a lot more to it than that.
posted by wilful at 3:34 PM on February 16, 2011


Wilful: Urban Homesteading® is an amalgamation of homesteading (self-sufficiency and resource independence) and an urban (and probably suburban) environment. Think Little House on the Prairie in the City. It's typically community based, since true self-sufficiency is a bit of a Hobbesian curse. Hence the enourmous irony of claiming sole rights to use the term.
posted by Galen at 3:40 PM on February 16, 2011


Wilful,

Part of the trouble with the "homesteading" is that it can mean damn near anything. Personally, I think self sufficiency is a much better term, and certainly encompasses more of what the Dervaes are doing. In a nutshell, they have grid tied solar panels, so they produce nearly all of their own electricity, they make their own biodiesel, they grow all their own fruits, veggies, honey, eggs, and fish, and they employ four people at home - by selling their produce and having their web based ventures. In order to live a lifestyle like this, where you are a subsistence farmer/energy producer, you are working for yourself in the sense that you don't have to pay for your electricity/fuel/food. It's a two pronged approach: on the one hand, you have some aggressive DIY activities, and on the other hand, you get money (which you need less of) by selling your cash crop/crafts/expertise. This almost never works unless you are also practicing intense frugality.

Hope this helped.
posted by Leta at 3:45 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


MCMikeNamara: I'm guessing "homegrownevolution" were these people. They are the authors of the booke "Urban Homesteading" referenced in the OC Weekly post and until last week their blog was known as "Homegrown Evolution". I'm also guessing they were recipients of such a letter!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:45 PM on February 16, 2011


ah thanks.

Why does this shit need to be trademarked? I guess that's the point of the post.
posted by wilful at 4:12 PM on February 16, 2011


Yowzers, I read the comments in the Crunchy Chicken link and here's some more info on the dude with the trademarks.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:23 PM on February 16, 2011


It's not unusual for folks running a web presence to trademark their name - a lot of web startups have been outed before launch due to trademarks.

I talk to Jordanne Dervaes relatively frequently online and according to the Dervaes family, they've never sent a cease and desist, they asked people using the terms to put the trademark symbol on them. That's it. They've not stopped anyone from using the terms or asked for compensation for usage, they are just enforcing their trademark by requesting correct usage - which, aren't they supposed to?

I don't know which Facebook groups they've had suspended, but I do know that a lot of copycat sites using the actual Dervaes name have sprung up since their media appearances exploded in 2008-2009, so I wonder if that was the case with those groups.
posted by annathea at 4:23 PM on February 16, 2011


I swear I'm going to trademark the Union of Stupid Patent and Trademark Ogres and then sue the USPTO when they approve shit like this.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:26 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Douchebag of the year (SLYT)
posted by parmanparman at 4:30 PM on February 16, 2011


Ok, my bad, they did ask people to stop using the terms. I've been following along on Facebook but hadn't read the cease and desist they were using until now.
posted by annathea at 4:32 PM on February 16, 2011


Here is the letter with the sentence that gently implies legal action for non-compliance bolded by me:

DERVAES INSTITUTE
Jules Dervaes, Presiding Officer
631 Cypress Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-8400
dervaes@dervaesinstitute.org

To Whom It May Concern:

This notice is to inform you of important matters regarding the published works and/or brand names of Jules Dervaes and Dervaes Institute. We are extremely supportive of members of our online communities; fans of our websites, writings and photographs; and others who help to spread information regarding sustainable living. However, we must also guard against the unauthorized use or exploitation of our intellectual property for commercial gain. From the beginning, our work published online and in other media has been copyrighted and trademarked. We have now secured registered trademarks for certain unique names and images. By protecting our intellectual property we are better able to ensure that our work is presented accurately and contributes to our sustainable living projects and educational initiatives.

As you may know, the Dervaes family has been practicing sustainable living in Pasadena, Calif., since 1985. Our work has been documented and shared online at www.urbanhomestead.org and other websites since 2001, receiving national and international media attention. Additionally, we produced an award-winning short documentary film about our project, called Homegrown Revolution, which has been featured at film festivals around the world and on Oprah’s 2009 Earth Day television special. Over the last 25 years, our family has created a wealth of intellectual property in the field of sustainable living. Through the Dervaes Institute, we have been committed to freely educating others about the practices and benefits of self-sufficiency.

We realize that your use of Dervaes published words and/or trademarks may have been inadvertent. We are generally able to resolve any such uses without involving our legal counsel. This would require that you update your websites and articles to properly cite our works. For example, the writings of Jules Dervaes about sustainable living are original protected works in which Dervaes owns exclusive rights. Content from the Dervaes websites, including text and photographs, are also protected works.

When using Dervaes materials, the proper way to go about it is as follows:

* Only use a small sample of our work in any single instance;
* Copy the portion used in its entirety – do not paraphrase or extract portions of images or paragraphs;
* Make it clear – by using quotation marks or different font size or color – that the Dervaes materials referenced are from another source;
* Include a prominent link or reference to the original source of the content used on a Dervaes website.

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® (pending)

* 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.

Thank you in advance for respecting our legally protected intellectual property rights. If you have been supportive of our ten-year online work in the past, we appreciate very much your continued support.

If you have any questions regarding the use of Dervaes materials or trademarks, please contact us at (626) 795-8400. We would be glad to provide you with more details.

Regards,

Jules Dervaes
Dervaes Institute
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:33 PM on February 16, 2011


wow that's a lot of crazy now being redirected to the main home stead website, mandymanwasregisterd!
posted by stagewhisper at 4:41 PM on February 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yowzers, I read the comments in the Crunchy Chicken link and here's some more info on the dude with the trademarks.

Your link 404'd for me.
posted by rtha at 4:43 PM on February 16, 2011


Huh. Out of sheer curiosity, I looked up "Urban Homesteading" in WorldCat.

349 books, quite a few of them published before 1985.*

Actually, the late '70s seems to have been a heyday for publications on Urban Homesteading, even looks like HUD had an "Urban Homesteading Assistance Board"! ...maybe HUD should send them a C&D letter.

* Being extra-generous & saying that they invented the term when they first started gardening in Pasadena. Also: Pasadena? Sad to see this come out of my hometown.
posted by epersonae at 4:44 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, never mind - I see the cached version.
posted by rtha at 4:45 PM on February 16, 2011


Gross.
posted by wowbobwow at 4:46 PM on February 16, 2011


They've not stopped anyone from using the terms or asked for compensation for usage, they are just enforcing their trademark by requesting correct usage - which, aren't they supposed to?

If you have a trademark, I hear that's what you're supposed to do with it if you don't want to lose it.

This doesn't address the fundamental question of why concepts related to urban homesteading need trademarks in the first place.
posted by weston at 4:46 PM on February 16, 2011


Since 1973 UHAB [Urban Homesteading Assistance Board] has assisted in the preservation of over 1,700 buildings and created homeownership opportunities for over 30,000 households. [cite]
You don't say.
posted by epersonae at 4:47 PM on February 16, 2011


As a vegetable gardener in a suburban area I find it hard to imagine why this seems so revolutionary to people living in urban areas. All you need is dirt, water, and light. And the claim that these people live in an "urban" environment is specious at best - it's Pasadena. They aren't surrounded by high rises and building beds on top of a loft.
posted by Big_B at 4:47 PM on February 16, 2011


"As a vegetable gardener in a suburban area I find it hard to imagine why this seems so revolutionary to people living in urban areas. All you need is dirt, water, and light."

Well, you need to stop doing that. Or you'll get sued.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:57 PM on February 16, 2011


"In addition, Dervaes Institute owns numerous trademarks which should be properly acknowledged if used. These protected names:

* PATH TO FREEDOM®
* FREEDOM GARDENS®"


I do not think that word means what you think it means........
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:00 PM on February 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


To Whom It May Concern:

This notice is to inform you of important matters regarding the published works and/or brand names of grapesaresour and grapesaresour Institute. […] We have now secured registered trademarks for certain unique names and images. By protecting our intellectual property we are better able to ensure that our work is presented accurately and contributes to our […] initiatives.

As you may know, the grapesaresour Institute […].is awesome […].

We realize that your use of grapesaresour published words and/or trademarks may have been inadvertent. We are generally able to resolve any such uses without involving our legal counsel. This would require that you update your websites and articles to properly cite our works […].

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

* PLATE OF BEANS®
* TATERS®
* HIVE MIND®
* SAME AS IN TOWN®

* Also, THE TEN ELEMENTS OF OVERTHINKING A PLATE OF BEANS 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 grapesaresour Institute, then it would be proper to use generic terms to replace the registered trademark you are using. For example, when discussing general beans on a plate, they should be referred to using terms such as ‘legumes on a platter,’ ‘large plant seeds on a flat round thing,’ or similar descriptions.

When using a phrase listed above to refer to the work of the grapesaresour 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 grapesaresour Institute.

Thank you in advance for respecting our legally protected intellectual property rights.

If you have any questions regarding the use of grapesaresour materials or trademarks, please contact us. We would be glad to provide you with more details.

Regards,

grapesaresour
Grapesaresour Institute
posted by grapesaresour at 5:18 PM on February 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


I wonder what burning wood for energy is supposed to make them "free" from.
posted by so_gracefully at 5:30 PM on February 16, 2011


I burn wood to heat my (well insulated, properly oriented) house. It's a helluva lot more sustainable, local, and cost effective than natural gas. We installed a particulate vent pipe, so the emissions are considerably lower than the real total of piped gas, MUCH lower than that of bottled gas.

So there's that.
posted by Leta at 5:47 PM on February 16, 2011


If only I had trademarked "One Swell Foop" a dozen years ago when I started using it online, I would have a Media Empire by now. (And a steady flow of royalties from Piers Anthony).
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:18 PM on February 16, 2011


They probably should also trademark: We're dumb fucking retards.

I think it's available.
posted by Skygazer at 6:50 PM on February 16, 2011


It'd be just horrible if somebody scattered GM grain over their Urban Homesteads ® and somebody called Monsanto ®.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:39 PM on February 16, 2011


Sharing and cooperation are part of sustainable living - laying exclusive claim to the terminology seems counterproductive to me. But I know as much about homesteading as a hamster does about arson, so whatever.
posted by gingerest at 11:40 PM on February 16, 2011


Small world! I live near these Dervaes Institute guys. Exercise route distance away from them, and I'll probably be running/jogging past tomorrow morning. I didn't realize they were special snowflakes until I came across this post.

The only thing special about them is that they look like a mosquito hazard in an otherwise trim neighborhood. But then again, you know, there's a couple of those in every neighborhood.
posted by Xere at 12:55 AM on February 17, 2011


I don't have any special interest in either side, and I don't think it's the kind of thing where you could assess someone's motivations based on reading some articles or comments. But, it seems like they are getting a lot of shit for this and it's not obvious that they deserve it.

I mean, these guys have been doing this for 25 years or whatever, what if they are just really committed to this idea. And then they see corporations coming in and trademarking and bastardizing terms. I could see them feeling motivated, even obligated perhaps, to intervene to prevent this from happening. Once they get the trademark, they have to defend it, them's the rules. It doesn't seem like they're trying to get anything out of anyone, just trying to keep the terms under their control instead of the likely alternative.

Of course, I don't know these people or what their motivation is. Maybe they want to charge ten radishes for every time a gardener uses the terms in a blog post. I do think, though, that part of this is a reaction to the idea that no one should trademark the terms. Would it be better to wait until they get taken for the Urban Homestead lawnmower or insecticide?
posted by snofoam at 5:34 AM on February 17, 2011


FB Group: Take Back Urban Homesteading
posted by melissam at 5:43 AM on February 17, 2011


Also, I hadn't read the OC Weekly link before I posted. I still don't have a horse in this race, but man, is that supposed to be journalism? They "cracked down" on bloggers? They're a "dingbat" family? If what they did was wrong, then it shouldn't be hard to illustrate that by laying out the facts.
posted by snofoam at 5:53 AM on February 17, 2011


Unfortunately what needs to happen is that Kelly and Eric need to publish the book mentioned on the OC weekly and it needs to go to court.
posted by melissam at 5:59 AM on February 17, 2011


In fact, it appears their original application to trademark the term “Urban Homestead” was denied based on the fact that it’s a generally descriptive term open to use by anyone. You can track the entire application process for their trademark of “Urban Homestead” here. You can also see here that on Dec 9, 2008 their original application was refused because “Many entities provide a variety of print and online publications and services on the same subject matter.” In order to execute their trademark application, they had to go back and show evidence that they had “acquired distinctiveness” through exclusive (which we know to be untrue) and extensive (which is not deniable) use of the term. What I don’t understand is why the application was approved in the end; even though they could show extensive use, they certainly couldn’t demonstrate exclusive use of the term.
posted by melissam at 6:00 AM on February 17, 2011


gingerest, you've never given hamsters matches, I take it ?
posted by k5.user at 8:24 AM on February 17, 2011


This reminds me of a story I heard on This American Life a few years ago. There was some non-profit startup in Topeka KS called Love Thy Neighbor involved in massive lawsuits and grar with some established non-profit in Orlando FL called Love Thy Neighbor. (Those locations are probably erroneous because this is a years-old memory.)

The story was hilarious.
posted by bukvich at 12:12 PM on February 17, 2011


Now in techdirt
posted by melissam at 5:26 PM on February 17, 2011


I think it's funny that they're sending out letters asking people not to dilute their trademarks while their own site encourages people to dilute their trademarks:
USAGE IN A SENTENCE “My neighbors’ urban homestead is so productive, they’re able to live entirely on food they grow themselves.”
...
USAGE IN A SENTENCE “Their urban homesteading started with a small vegetable garden, but over time they become so self-sufficient that the family could sustain itself in the middle of the city without working any outside jobs.”
That's from their Urban Homestead Definition page, and it sure looks to me like they're telling people to use it as a generic term, counter to the letters they sent out.

These clowns need better lawyers. Or, better yet, to knock it the hell off.
posted by hades at 12:22 PM on February 18, 2011


Just because people are into things which are cool doesn't mean they can't also be idiots. Unfortunately.
posted by Horatius at 9:06 PM on February 18, 2011


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken up the case.
posted by melissam at 11:09 AM on February 21, 2011


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