'Urban Homesteading' Trademarked, Lots Of Urban Homesteaders Told To Cease Using The Common Term

from the homestead-bullying dept

Melissa McEwen was the first of a few of you to send in variations on the story of how a Pasadena-based family, the Dervaes, were able to get a trademark on the term "urban homesteading," last year, and recently have been sending out letters telling people to stop using the term and getting Facebook groups to shut down. Of course, "urban homesteading" is a term that's been in widespread use for years, and to suddenly claim ownership of it is pretty ridiculous and is a classic case of trademark bullying. The family is defending its actions by claiming, first of all, that the letters it sends out are perfectly friendly and do not contain the phrase "cease & desist." Of course, you don't have to actually include that phrase, and the letter pretty clearly states that no one else can use the term "urban homesteading." Instead, it suggests "it would be proper to use generic terms to replace the registered trademark you are using." Yes, this is friendlier than your ordinary legal nastygram... but it's still a form of a cease and desist.

The family has also posted a separate blog post which purports to teach "trademark basics," but it appears the family might need a refresher course. It notes, correctly, that the same phrase can be used separately in unrelated fields. However, given that's the case, it also means that its letter claiming that no one else can use the phrase urban homesteading is wrong. And that's a big part of the complaint. It seems clear that the family is not just going after those who have used the phrase in a confusing manner, but all sorts of folks who were using the phrase that was in widespread common usage well before the family got the trademark on the name...


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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    I wonder what...

    ...the Dervaes' would say about the several books titled 'Urban Homestead' like this one.

    I also wonder if the authors of those books could combat the trademark, since they used the term for written media first.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:09pm

      Re: I wonder what...

      No ... now the Dervaes'can go after the authors, get rights to their income from this book and have Sony and Steve Jobs inspect their hard drives.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:15pm

        Re: Re: I wonder what...

        ... and have ICE shut down their website.

        A quick google shows lots of prior use.
        "The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board was founded in the midst of New York City’s economic crisis of the 1970s. Since 1973 UHAB has assisted in the preservation of over 1,700 buildings and created homeownership opportunities for over 30,000 households."

         

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          Rose M. Welch (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: I wonder what...

          If there are books, boards, and bloggers using it before you, it's a generic term. End of story.

           

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            ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 18th, 2011 @ 11:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I wonder what...

            "If there are books, boards, and bloggers using it before you, it's a generic term. End of story."

            Yup. And yet somehow our employees have missed that rather obvious fact.

             

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:05pm

    Blame whoever issued the trademark. If I were them, I'd be doing exactly the same. They own the trademark, so what's to stop them? If the entire copyright/trademark/patents systems weren't a complete and utter joke, stuff like that wouldn't be allowed to happen... but what happens in the land of the free.

     

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:56pm

      Re:

      You're right. The true fault lies with the system that approved such a ridiculous trademark in the first place (especially given what AC points out above - that it has been in large-scale official use since the 70s)

      However, those who knowingly abuse that system won't get a lot of forgiveness from me either. Whether it's a big company, a small business or an opportunistic individual, they are consciously trying to "get rich quick" without doing much work - and even when not it's malicious that's not exactly admirable.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:57pm

      Re:

      I have done no researching ofthis at all, but interestingly, this smacks of the Dervaes family doing this intentionally to POINT OUT that exact thing.

      It's absolutely something I've considered doing if I had the extra money and free time.

       

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        ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 5:04pm

        Re: Re:

        No, actually they're pretty much just being trademark trolls.

        What needs to happen now is for "urban homesteading" to be google bombed. Surely the term lends itself to some kind of depraved sex act.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 8:51pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Perhaps if everyone searched for the term "urban homesteading and ...." it will show up in the autocomplete function.

           

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    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:12pm

    "Instead, it suggests "it would be proper to use generic terms to replace the registered trademark you are using.""

    I'm confused. They're saying no one can use the phrase "urban homesteading" but they're also saying we can use a generic phrase. Isn't "urban homesteading" a generic and merely descriptive term in and of itself?

     

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      Rose M. Welch (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:27pm

      Re:

      Yes. I mean, if there are books, boards, and bloggers using it before you, it's obviously a generic term.

      Of course, sensible people like us don't get to earn money by making crap mistakes like this.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:15pm

    Claiming ownership of the abstract concept of the word "urban" being next to the word "homesteading" is as silly as claiming ownership of a series of hexadecimal numbers.

     

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    Anonymous Poster, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:24pm

    Looks like urbanhomestead.org is down. Smart move - now they can't get flooded with comments telling them how wrong they are, thus avoiding a Cooks Source situation.

    Of course, when their site comes back up, I bet the "trademark primer" post will be gone.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:27pm

      Re:

      Why are they wrong? At least explain.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:28pm

      Re:

      And their site is actually up. Patience is a virtue.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:39pm

        Re: Re:

        Their site is struggling.
        They have closed comments on their site.
        I'm not sure if they have closed or locked their facebook page.
        They have complained about a lot of unfriendly contacts.
        Their last tweet was
        "know the facts before you (re)Act. Stop the "mob of misinformation" and insighting malicious emails and harassing phone calls."

        In fairness to them, they have been doing whatever they do since apparently the mid '80s and probably felt a sense of rightful entitlement to the term.
        It was a bad move for them, but hopefully they will put it right.

        Internet peeps should be a little nicer and definitely should stay unthreatening, a clear message can be given without being nasty.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well they started it, they deserve every bit of it.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2011 @ 7:35am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Using the law/lawyers to be nasty for you in nice words is the same thing and no better.

          Don't dress it up because people recognize it exactly for what it is and react accordingly.

          You can kid yourself all you like about it. Smiling while sticking the knife in fools nobody.

           

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

    I am feeling particularly ambitious today.

    Hey Mike,
    Are you currently sleeping? Fire up your web browser and respond to this post so we know for sure.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

    Apparently they have been getting a lot of negative internet attention.

    They should take the opportunity to drop the trademark and offer quick, easy and painless apologies.

    That could actually win them the favour of many who wouldn't have heard of these people until this, lets see if they can figure it out and undo some of the harm they have brought themselves and their business.

     

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    mrharrysan, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:44pm

    According to some of the commenters on the original post, they have only APPLIED for a trademark, not received one.

     

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      Anonymous Poster, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:46pm

      Re:

      Maybe they should have waited to actuall receive it before they started the heavyhanded bullying tactics.

      "We own the term...or we will, eventually! Stop using it or we'll sue you...once we actually have legal standing to do so!" probably doesn't have the same weight, though.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:14pm

      Re:

      The "not" a cease & desist letter stated that they owned
      the following
      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.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2011 @ 6:20pm

        Re: Re:

        did anyone mention, that they aren't exactly normal

        http://thehiddenyears.org/category/preface/

        If they genuinely are as crazy as the father appears to be, they will simply consider themselves martyrs, rather than take reason on board and attempt to pull something good out of the mess they've created.

         

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          Heidi, Feb 20th, 2011 @ 11:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I read all of his religious writings... (through web.archive.org) and letters of his communications with his former church, the Worldwide Church of God and have come to the conclusion that none of this has to do with money, but a narcissistic man's desire to be known as THE leader of the urban homesteading movement. After a kerfuffle with church leaders over a difference of a opinion as to whether he should have complete dominion over his wife, he "delivered" 7 scrolls prophesying that the church had entered what Revelations predicted as the last era of the True Church before the second coming. He was thus excommunicated by the church. He paraded his children up and down the streets of Pasadena with banners WARNING the church ministers that they were in err. He documented the entire thing online (last updated 2003) in order to, I guess, "prove" that he was the ONE who prophesied the end of the WCG. Someone later stole his writings and published them, declaring that the had been the ones to see this coming.

          I know a lot of folks want to avoid discussing their religious beliefs as they believe it takes away from the argument, but imho i think it speaks VOLUMES as to motivation and where Jules Dervaes is coming from on an intellectual level.

          btw, i can't believe i read the whole thing. if you have a strong stomach for religious rantings, i recommend reading it. fascinating insight into the mind of someone with a true narcissistic personality disorder. i feel intensely sad for his children.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:49pm

    There oughta be a law prohibiting people from sending letters like this!

    Sigh. Seriously, what do you want? Most of the time you're bitching about every conceivable infraction against free speech. Now you complain when some idiot gets a wild hair up and uses that right to send out poorly-thought-out nastygrams.

    Oh, but it's trademark law!!! Who cares? Any Joe Blow off the street can misinterpret any law and send out letters about it. Are you going to blog about it every single time?

    Once again, for all the thousands of awesome new artists and business models you claim exist but can't possibly find time to blog about, you certainly seem to have plenty of time and resources to call out every Ma and Paw Kettle who overreacts about some issue related to IP law. I know righteous indignation is a great feeling but this kind of thing practically fetishizes it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:54pm

      Re:

      ...

      ...

      ...

      ...

      You do know which blog you're on, right? So sorry if a blog dedicated to Tech related economics, market and law discussions has all the aforementioned content every day.

       

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      Anonymous Poster, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:56pm

      Re:

      I hope this is satire.

      I really, really do.

       

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:59pm

      Re:

      Please, read back over your own comment and realize what the real problem is here: you spend all your time on a blog you don't like.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:09pm

        Re: Re:

        To be fair, it's all they have left, really.

         

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          ltlw0lf (profile), Feb 18th, 2011 @ 8:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          To be fair, it's all they have left, really.

          Yeah, most of the other sites they already troll have become overloaded with smarter, better trolls, thus reducing their lulz. They have to move on to virgin territory and Techdirt has mostly industry shill trolls who are here to stifle speech, not get lulz.

           

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      Arrrrrr!, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:01pm

      Re:

      Hey welcome there, commenter!

      Did you know that today is "Pin the Eye Patch on the Pirate" day? Here's what we do- we spin you around, then tie two eye patches around your head, and set you on your way.

       

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      Rose M. Welch (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:33pm

      Re:

      Most of the time you're bitching about every conceivable infraction against free speech.

      Yes, we don't want the government to abridge our speech.

      Now you complain when some idiot gets a wild hair up and uses that right to send out poorly-thought-out nastygrams.

      Yes, because they shouldn't have been granted that trademark (if they were). Also, because the previously mentioned freedom of speech allows us to criticize speech that we don't like.

      These two positions aren't mutually exclusive.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 9:04pm

      Re:

      "Most of the time you're bitching about every conceivable infraction against free speech."

      and you're no better, complaining about everyone who complains about something you would rather them not complain about.

      "Any Joe Blow off the street can misinterpret any law and send out letters about it."

      These 'misinterpretations' would be far fewer if the laws were reasonable and if they actually punished those who either abuse our legal system or don't spend a minimal amount of time learning how correctly interpret them before suing people over made up laws.

       

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      harbingerofdoom (profile), Feb 18th, 2011 @ 6:33am

      Re:

      hmm
      successful troll was successful.

       

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    Ron (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:52pm

    Funny

    Do you guys have any control over the ads served up by Google on your postings? I mean, it's kinda funny that on a page taling about trademark abuse, etc. you see the following ads:

    Free Cease & Desist Form The Easiest Way to Make Cease & Desist Letters Online. Free to Try! RocketLawyer.com

    Fast Trademark Filings Register Your Trademark in Minutes. Featured by Entrepreneur and CNN. LegalZoom.com

    Trademark Registrations High Quality Service-Efficient Work Product-Low rates www.klonglaw.com

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:52pm

    "Internet peeps should be a little nicer and definitely should stay unthreatening, a clear message can be given without being nasty."

    As one of those "Internet peeps" let me just say that as a community we are venting to each other and figuring out how to organize to challenge this trademark. It's not about the internet. It's about our way of life.

    As an urban homesteader myself, I am deeply offended by their action. They have landed themselves squarely at odds with a community that they have been at the forefront of for years. They didn't start it. It's been going on for ages. But for some reason they suddenly think they can take credit and ownership of the entire movement.

    Someone should remind the Dervaes family of item #10 in their list of 10 elements of Urban Homesteading as they are NOT following their own guidelines! "10. Be a good neighbor. 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."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:22pm

      Re:

      They can be challenged without people being abusive is my point.

      You need to remember that while there are many urban homesteaders, there are also a lot of people who are not who get irate at trademark abuse like this,
      Many of those who had never heard of urban homesteading will have been gently or not so gently flaming and abusing these people.

      Having seen the internets come down on people before, even when brought on by their own actions it can be excessive and I see no harm in suggesting that people remain a tad civilised.
      From your comment I have no doubt that you will, and I am not suggesting that you needed any advice from anyone to remain so,
      I suspect you misunderstood my suggestion that internet peeps be nicer as some kind of justification for the Dervaes family actions, it was not.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 9:07pm

        Re: Re:

        "They can be challenged without people being abusive is my point."

        Define "abusive."

        Our legal system is far more abusive than our resistance to it.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2011 @ 7:48am

        Re: Re:

        So, apparently, only 1 side needs to be responsible for their actions, for some reason arbitrarily defined by you.

         

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    mrharrysan, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 3:54pm

    From blog comments: "Dervaes's trademark is in SUPPLEMENTAL REGISTER. It means that they almost have no rights. Obviously they have no rights for any exclusivity on this common phrases."

     

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    Cashie, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:05pm

    Unfortunately,

    Unfortunately, the Dervaes family asked Facebook to remove all pages with the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading" and FB complied with the request! This took down pages with upwards of 2000 followers from communities to farmers markets to schools.

    Shame on the Dervaes family, the trademark office AND Facebook.

    http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2011/02/urban_homestead_drama.php

     

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      Anonymous Poster, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:10pm

      Re: Unfortunately,

      I'd almost wager Facebook will be undoing that as soon as the bad press starts to flow back to them.

      Then again, I remember this is Facebook, and they're too busy counting wads of cash while snorting cocaine off of Mark Zuckerberg's asscrack to care about their userbase beyond the predictable "we're sorry we never wanted to anger you please accept our heartfelt apologies" line they trot out during PR disasters.

      So yeah, no bet.

       

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    Ccomp5950 (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:18pm

    There is one problem with their issue.

    Prior use.

    http://www.marklaw.com/trademark-glossary/M-Q.htm
    "Once a company has nationwide priority via a federal registration, they can use the mark without restriction anywhere in which any prior user is not already using the mark. However, the registered owner cannot sue to prevent prior users of the mark from expanding into new regions, until the registered owner of the mark can show actual use or in some cases an imminent intention of using the mark in that region. For example, if BeeBop establishes rights to a mark in territory XYZ, and then DooDah registers the mark federally, DooDah can claim priority over all regions in the country except XYZ. While BeeBop can still expand into regions in which DooDah is not using the mark, BeeBop can be forced to discontinue use in the new region the moment DooDah can demonstrate a presence of the mark in that region or an intent to imminently enter that region. Until DooDah can demonstrate such a presence or imminent intention, the federal registration cannot be used to enjoin BeeBop from using the mark in that territory."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:21pm

    And the irony lies in that they don't want to be dependant on the government that is why they were able to become something, but now they want to go back to dependency using the law.

    I like what they did, cutting their costs of living to something like $13 a day is just incredible, but this trademark BS they are trying is just wrong.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:44pm

    On the good side of things this will further educate people of why they should care about IP laws, it is affecting them directly now and they should do everything in their power to start pushing in the opposite direction.

    Yay!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 4:51pm

    Their Youtube page is full of comments.

    seks03 (22 hours ago)
    what a scumbag thing that your doing, going after others being they use the term  Urban Homestead... You have lost all of the respect I once had for your family... I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way either.


    Source: Youtube: Dervaes Channel

    If something is very clear is that in every forum on the internet people are pissed.

     

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    Alix, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 5:45pm

    Good Grief

    Well, thanks. Now I know one website I'll never visit. Never heard of it until this post.

    Seriously. I love that people want to "own" language.

    Who dat? That's hot. There's an app for that.

    Puh-leeze. Blow me.

     

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    abc gum, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 5:51pm

    Their website is sluggish under heavy load, with mounting negative comments ... I imagine it is only a matter of time before the posting of negative comments is considered criminal activity.

     

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    Howard the Duck, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 6:11pm

    Take Back Urban Homestead Facebook page

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 7:05pm

    I have trademaked the word "anonymous" All of you poeple will now have to cease and desist using my word now... Its mine I tell you. Mine!

     

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    Anonymous Poster, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 7:31pm

    http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2011/02/17/not-in-our-name/

    They claim that the C&Ds are not being sent by them, but instead are being sent by impersonators.

    Considering that they offer no evidence to prove their claim, this strikes me as a last ditch effort to try and quiet the storm.

     

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      Anonymous Poster, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 7:34pm

      Re:

      Oh yeah, especially since they printed the C&D and challenged people to find the "cease and desist phrase" within it.

      http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2011/02/16/fyi-urban-homestead-trademark-matter/

      I'd think that if the letter was fake, they wouldn't have made a post like that.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 8:33pm

        Re: Re:

        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.

        But I trademarked "modern homesteading" and "urban sustainability projects" and "similar description" so those are a no go!

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 9:05pm

    Incredible.

    Seriously, how do these people sleep at night? They are poisoning the urban homesteading community with their selfishness.

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Feb 17th, 2011 @ 9:17pm

    It seems that the Dervaes Institute have also tried to, or already have gotten, Trademarks on the following phrases as well

    Path to Freedom,
    Grow the Future,
    Homegrown Revolution

    Strange phrases to have unless you are trying to start a civil movement to oust a government.
    think I will trademark "Viva Le Homesteaders." now ;)

     

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    Schmoo, Feb 18th, 2011 @ 2:33am

    Why is everyone so against scorn? We have so many idiots to correct and so little time - bollocks to the feelings of morons. Short, sharp shocks seem perfectly appropriate to me.

     

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    John Doe, Feb 18th, 2011 @ 4:20am

    I had to shut down a website for the same thing

    My brother and I ran a website for about a year when we got a C&D letter from an attorney telling us our site was using a trademarked term. We checked and it had been trademarked 6 months or so after we started using it. But, the term is used widely by lots of people and for a long time. But we were bootstrapping the site and had no money to fight it.

     

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    abc gum, Feb 18th, 2011 @ 4:46am

    I expect this to go "Monster" soon - you know, where they will lay claim to everything that begins with Urban. Shall I make some popcorn?

     

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    Jim, Feb 18th, 2011 @ 7:59am

    DMCA takedown notice to Google

    This is entertaining -

    http://chillingeffects.org/N/58166

     

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      Deirdre, Feb 19th, 2011 @ 5:03am

      Re: DMCA takedown notice to Google

      The EFF according to boingboing is going to represent the authors of the book with the title Urban Homestead that the Dervaes are trying to take down from Amazon and Google using their trademark on the term. Announcement is expected Monday. Useful ploy-- announce something on Friday about close of business and let it simmer all weekend. http://boingboing.net/2011/02/18/eff-is-representing.html

       

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    Disgusted, Feb 19th, 2011 @ 2:40am

    Are they gonna sue the Dictionary now?

    I loved their example, now I'm beginning to think they got too big for their britches after doing that "Reality TV" show. One touch of the big time and they turn into puds.

    Urban homesteading is what it is called. They can go "f" themselves. They got the website name, why is it so damn important to try to "copyright" common terminology? It makes no sense and it just makes them look like rich pricks.

    Don't act all big and bad, you're just a dude who grows veggies in the yard. This news is disgusting!! MTV-style b.s. got to 'em.

     

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    James Bertini, Feb 20th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Our Facebook page disabled

    We are Denver Urban Homesteading, an indoor farmers' market, and our Facebook page was disabled by the Dervaes Institute with no prior notice. (We received their "cease and desist" letter one week later; it had been postmarked AFTER they tookdown our FB page.) Our FB page was the primary means of communicating with our customers and farmers.

    These people had no right to shut down our FB service as we have a different name from the ones that they have trademarked. We are contemplating legal actions to get back our FB page, i.e. by cancelling their trademark, but any legal actions take time, more time, and money. So basically we just lose, lose and lose.

    Someone commented above that the legal system itself is abusive. In light of the fact that wrongdoers can harm an innocent victim's business and there is no quick way to resolve the problem and achieve justice, perhaps the system is abusive, or at least it tolerates abuse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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