Pasadena family enforces its trademark of the term “Urban Homestead”

By | February 17, 2011

urban-homestead.jpg
Above, a 2004 catalog from an apple tree company called Urban Homestead. Will they have to cede to the demands of the Dervaes Family to stop using the term “urban homestead?”

The Dervaes Family, who run a great urban farm in Pasadena, CA, is catching a lot of heat from urban homesteaders. They are objecting to a letter the Dervaes Family sent out a couple of days ago to let bloggers know that the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” are trademarks owned by the Dervaes Institute. They registered the terms in 2008.

From Farm Curious:

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.

While, to their credit, the Dervaes have done much to advance the “Urban Homesteading” movement, it seems absurd to me that they could claim ownership of the term which is commonly used and was referenced as early as 1980 in this Mother Earth News article!

Here’s an excerpt from the Dervaes Institute letter:

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.

The Wikipedia entry for Path to Freedom (the Dervaes Family website) has a recent update about this:

In 2008, the Dervaes filed to trademark the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading,” among others. In October 2010 their trademark was finally approved under the supplemental registry after initially being denied due to their reason for trademarking not being distinctive enough. In 2011 they began sending notifications to maintainers of websites who used these terms that these terms were now under their trademark and that they were not to be used without crediting the Dervaes family. Critics (such as blogger Crunchy Chicken) claim that this trademark is unenforceable, since the term “urban homestead” has been in use since at least the 1970s. For example, the New York Urban Homestead Assistance Board was founded in the 1970s in order to provide support during the economic crisis of that time. The Dervaes assert that they are protecting a legitimate business interest, and that their trademark of the term “urban homesteading” prevents corporations from doing the same thing. On February 16, 2011, in light of the negative press stemming from this controversy and claiming they have received threats from critics, the Dervaes shut down their Facebook page.

Here’s a Facebook page started by self-professed “urban homesteaders” who are protesting the Dervaes action.

The Dervaes Family has been responding to criticism on their Twitter page. The OC Weekly is all over this story.