'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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Comments on “'Urban Homesteading' Trademarked, Lots Of Urban Homesteaders Told To Cease Using The Common Term”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.”

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The “not” a cease & desist letter stated that they owned
the following
Also, THE TEN ELEMENTS OF URBAN HOMSTEADING copyright has been filed with the Library of Congress.

Heidi (user link) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Ron (profile) says:


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 http://www.klonglaw.com

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Cashie says:


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.


Anonymous Poster says:

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.

Ccomp5950 (profile) says:

There is one problem with their issue.

Prior use.


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.”

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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!

John Doe says:

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.

Deirdre says:

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

Disgusted says:

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.

James Bertini (profile) says:

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.

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