Urban homesteeds, war horses with mulch

Urban Homesteaders

The Dervaes family makes up in farming finesse what they lack in social savvy. Photo: Chris Kelly for Utopia Film Festival.

Take our poll: Should “urban homestead” be trademarked?

The war horses are out and snorting a dust-up in the world of, uh…how shall I say this?…of, er, city-dwelling folks who garden and stuff.

The brouhaha pits long-time (and apparently official) urban homesteaders the Dervaes family of Pasadena, California against…well, just about everybody else who would lay claim to the term “urban homestead” or “urban homesteading.”

From what I can glean, the Dervaeses, notable pioneers in the self-sufficiency and sustainability movement, have rattled the chains of bloggers and on-the-ground doers in the loose but connected community of urban dwelling sustainability aficionados (or what I like to call Urbane Homesteaders, patent pending).

Under the auspices of their non-profit city-dwelling showcase home and farm, which is variously called Path to Freedom Urban Homestead and/or The Dervaes Institute, Julian Dervaes and company issued a letter detailing their copyrights and their expectation that when anyone used the terms “urban homestead” or “urban homesteading,” the proper trademark designation would need to follow the terminology.

They reasoned that for the purpose of clarity behind the meaning of such terms, and proper credit for their contribution to the folks-who-grow-food-and-generate-fuel-while-simultaneously-living-in-a-city movement, such trademarks were necessary.

But as Stick a Fork In It blogger Gustavo Arellano notes, the Dervaeses maintained on their website that the trademark requirement was also in the best interest of all citified grub-growers. “You tell us,” they asked, “who would you rather own the trademarks? Us or a big business corporation?”

If Julian Dervaes is asking fellow urban(e) homesteaders whom they would prefer to be their lord and master on the trademark front, he’s being widely rejected across the Internet by the very folks he hopes to court. And that doesn’t do a lot for gaining a following on the information he wishes to share. It doesn’t help tee shirt and book sales either.

Besides, if its just about owning a trademark to protect others from evil corporations, the Dervaeses would not require its use for their purposes, but rather, they’d not mention it at all.

The Monsanto® seed of city farmers?

It’s understandable in this dog-eat-dog world that creative types want to pierce through the info glut and emerge victorious on the thought-leadership front. After all, this is what helps put money in the bank. In that the Dervaeses are no different than any other hard working people.

And in a world of information manipulation it’s true that meanings are too often distorted so that greedy capitalists can sell back to us watered-down versions of the very ideas we first created for the public good, or at least just for fun.

But everything old is new again, as the Dervaeses have shown us.

After all, there have been people growing their own food in cities since the beginning of civilization. Presumably we’re meant to believe the Family Dervaes owes no back pay to the descendants of the urban homesteaders of yore, or even those found throughout the developing world today from Bangladesh to Buenos Aires. Nor to others who are doing the same work, and documenting it, but not getting down to the patent office as quickly.

However, we’re not in the time of yore. After half a century of back-to-the-land movements, a phrase like “urban homestead” has by now entered the larger lexicon of shared experience as a cultural phenomenon, rather than either an object, a body of work, or a product like, say, Xerox or Kleenex.

Oh wait, sorry, those have entered everyday language too, despite the best efforts of armies of Gucci-loafered trademark attorneys.

Yet according to Good magazine, bloggers and authors have received letters from the Dervaeses or their lawyers telling them to stop using the term urban homesteading or to use the Dervaes’ trademark when they do.

The Dervaeses counter that while the trademark information posted on their website is true, letters warning about unauthorized use of the term “urban homesteading” and purporting to be from the family, as well as attacks on Facebook pages are a hoax. The Dervaeses accuse activists of taking false action and stirring up rumors designed to make the family look bad.

But popular opinion seems to have settled against the Dervaeses. And even if they were innocent of sending cease and desist letters, the whole trademark thing runs counter to the open-source culture in the urban homesteading movement.

Share and share alike

Further, in today’s Web 2.0 world, driven as it is by social media, a new ethos governs communication. The growth of spontaneously viral movements stand as powerful counter forces to the weight of restrictive corporate or government control.

Witness Egypt’s recent revolution. Its underlying swell was driven by sharing the news of where to cluster and how long to stay, come what may. Texting, Twittering, blogging and Facebooking allowed urban revolution-steading to happen in ways that were unthinkable in the past and were not owned by any one agitating body. Now imagine having to figure out which key combo on your Blackberry you need to press in order to legitimately tweet #Egypt Revolt Now® Meet @Tahrir!?

To their credit, the Dervaeses do seem to understand this a tiny bit.

On a FAQ on their website they say about the terms urban homesteading and urban homestead, “If you aren’t using it to make money and are simply documenting your life or sharing your journey or information, this would be fine. In fact, we encourage it.”

That alone should quell this ballyhoo, at least technically.

But “technical” fixes are what got the Dervaeses in trouble with the larger urban homesteading movement in the first place. Apparently they didn’t ponder the old saying, “don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.”

By coming out, if you will, about what they didn’t want people to do, they just made themselves look bad, even greedy and self serving. They might not be any of those things, but clearly to a lot of people, it appears that way. After all, the getting money part is reserved just for them.

Perhaps Team Dervaes is so hot now that they need an image consultant before releasing their next public business move?

Insult to injury

While the Dervaeses have made considerable contributions to the landscape of shared understanding on DIY sustainability while also living on the Metro Gold Line, they seemed to have missed the boat on what it means to contextualize this knowledge in a larger cultural paradigm that operates not only against actual corporate control, but also against the tools of oppression and dis-empowerment inherent in the means of corporate control.

While Papa Dervaes and his family might not understand the backlash, blaming it on ill-informed bloggers is not the way to straighten out the mess. According to a Dervaes Institute press release

Blogging is often confused with reporting; and there are now cases where people have engaged in a negative blogging campaign aimed at discrediting the Dervaes family. Whereas professional reporters substantiate their news before publishing stories and are careful not to make slanderous statements, bloggers have no editors and often demonstrate little or no interest in supporting their claims with fact. As a result, irresponsible or malicious blogging can cause harm to people and businesses.

It is true that a new media landscape has changed the way information is shared. And on this story in particular, it appears tweeters got a little trigger happy without necessarily vetting all the facts.

But the myth of objective journalism is just as big an obstacle as slack fact-checking to our understanding of “truth” and “fairness.” Not only has no such prevailing trend of objective journalism ever existed (whatever they teach at J schools these days), but our major media outlets themselves are rife with slanted reporting. Take five minutes on an average Fox News report and let’s talk about fact checking and accuracy.

Blaming the new urban homesteading dust up on bloggers seems like just another misstep in the Dervaes’ clumsy communications campaign to stake their claim and eat it too.

Neither this nor that, but still a mess

Imagine if every time we were talking about anything like BackyardChickens® or CanningVegetables® or NursingOurBabies® we had to put the trademark in? Where does it end? Enforced copyright and trademark demands may not be the actual cause of the fracas, but it is the perceived cause of it. Therein lies the trouble.

The Dervaeses have aimed to make clear that when referencing their stuff directly, the trademark and/or copyright should be used, however off-putting folks might find that. But with “scraper” websites plaguing all creators of original online content, anyone doing anything on the Web has to just accept a certain amount of trolling for content without breaking out the lawyer talk. The Dervaeses should have considered that.

Their claims to ownership of the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” are different however, from a movement that exists on its own, independent of anything the Dervaeses may have done within the movement. That’s the problem your average urban homesteader has with the Dervaes’ actions. It reads like selfish, crass bullying by a family they would otherwise admire.

Until that’s resolved though, surely clear-headed individuals can see that the Dervaes’ henchmen wont be shutting down every downtowner’s blog about an early-girl tomato crop even if you do say urban homestead sans the trademark. It’s just unrealistic.

Finally, we can all appreciate the notion of intellectual property where it is mutually agreed that said intellectual property exists and is actually the purview of the said claimant. We’ve been down this road with Napster and the music industry. But beyond one’s own published texts, is teaching how to can veggies or sharing how to’s on taking your outfit from farm to fork really the same as writing Smells Like Teen Spirit? And in spite of millennia of Buddhist and Hindu references to that happy place, should Nirvana have actually claimed the name Nirvana®?

Their awkward effort at protecting their intellectual property just made the Dervaes’ otherwise-promising local food project look uncool. And like it or not, in a world of social media driven by a sharing ethic, that matters.

–Lindsay Curren

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  1. says

    We own Denver Urban Homesteading, an indoor farmers market in Denver, Colorado.

    Without any notice, the Dervaes Institute took down our Facebook page, through which we communicate with 2200 customers and farmers.

    The Dervaes Institute, which is actually a church, has no trademark on our name. However, they have decided that we should be unable to use it.

    • says

      I’m interested in your story. Since the Dervaes claim that they did not take any legal actions, can you corroborate that the letters actually came from the source?

      As for Facebook, have you been able to wrestle back your page? The Dervaeses also claim that Facebook pages were taken down to help guard others against verbal attacks, the kind of attacks that they say brought them to tears. Were people on your Facebook page attacking you?

      Please use the contact form on our page to get in touch with me.



      • Sundari says

        Lindsay — The Dervaes family absolutely were the ones responsible for “homesteading” facebook pages being removed. James may not be able to check back with this blog, so if you’re interested in his story you should go to his business’ webpage (which is still operating) and contact him.

        The Dervaeses chose to voluntarily take down all of their own Facebook pages, because the public outcry over what they did was so strong. There are people on this page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Take-Back-Urban-Home-steadings/167527713295518 who took screen shots of the Dervaes’ Facebook pages before they were taken down, and the screen shots demonstrate that none of the language was violent or threatening. However, the commenters were freely expressing their feelings about the trademark issue, and so the Dervaeses took the pages down to save face.

  2. says

    While the Dervaes family may have been pioneers in PROMOTING urban homesteading through NEW MEDIA, they are not pioneers in the urban homestead field. In fact, based on their own timeline, they are quite late to the game. In 1975, the mayor of Boston, Kevin White, used the term in his Section 810 Urban Homesteading Proposal. Jules Dervaes himself, in his biography, says he took the first dozen issues of Mother Earth News with him to New Zealand in the 70’s, and they have been using the term since they began publishing. In the letter they published, trying to explain their actions, the Dervaes family likens their trademark to Nike and Apple trademarking their names. However, Nike did not trademark “tennis shoe”. THAT is the true equivalent to what the Dervaes family has done. Had they trademarked the name “Dervaes Method of Urban Homesteading”, no one would be upset. Instead, they have practiced an arrogant revisionist history, declared Jules Dervaes the “Father of Urban Homesteading” (seriously, read his bio) and pretended that all the books. articles, and how-to treatises that came before, when they were still blissfully ignoring the idea, and eating Taco Bell (again, read their self-authored bio) simply never existed, or somehow plagarized a thought process they hadn’t even come to yet. Patently, TRADEMARKEDLY ridiculous.

    • says

      Thanks for your comments, Elizabeth.

      I agree that the term was in common parlance before the Dervaeses joined the movement, and that no one figure can be said to own a term so broadly in use as a cultural phenomenon. However, I do think the Dervaeses are pioneers, just as I think the Denver Urban Homesteading group is above. One does not have to have done something 100 years ago for them to be the sole claimants to the idea of being a pioneer. In context, there is a vibrant movement of urban homesteading happening across the US, both in official organizations and as individual family practitioners. I would argue that because is it still such a relatively small group in relation to the overall urban population, almost anyone doing it with any seriousness right now is a “pioneer.”

      In attempting to sort out this dispute, I think it only fair to be realistic about how committed to their project the Dervaeses are, and how well they’ve done their thing, while also acknowledging that the broader movement exists independently of any one figure, meaning that they should not be able to lay claim to urban homesteading as urban homesteading® any more than every city in this country should be force to use the term Farmer’s Market® simply because someone with a long standing Farmer’s Market happened to high tail it down to the patent office first.

      I found it particularly peculiar that the family should compare their efforts to biodynamic farming, which, coming as it does out of the tremendous body of research and writing by Austrian scientist, philosopher, and mystic Rudolf Steiner. Placing himself in league with Steiner simply because he and his family have written and blogged about Path to Freedom and other projects is absurd in the extreme.

      I’m trying to get both sides of this story. Any way that you can help is great, particualrly if you have documented proof that the Dervaeses sent letters and took action through communications corporations to have other sites taken down in contrast to their Website claims that such efforts were hoaxes.



      • says

        Lindsay – that’s why I say they are pioneers, not perhaps in method, but in the promotion of the movement. Certainly, they have brought attention, through film, blog and commercial venture, to a concept that is venerable. But to say they are pioneers in actual, on-the-gound urban homesteading doesn’t work with the common definitions of pioneer, which generally says that a pioneer is among the first in a field of study (as in “pioneer in cancer research”) or among the first to settle a region, as in people entering a heretofore uninhabited place. Not only was the term in common parlance prior to them joining the movement, they most likely read about it (Mother Earth News, for example) and had the phrase in their minds prior to naming what they do. To then claim you are the founder of something, that clearly pre-existed you is specious. Again, I say, if they had trademarked the phrase “Dervaes Method of Urban Homesteading”, that would make sense. Intensive gardening is not new. Backyard livestock holdings, again, not new. The only new thing they brought to the table was large audience media, as far as I can see.

        • says

          I agree to say they were the founders of urban homesteading would be going too far, but I don’t think saying pioneers of it does go too far. I mean I don’t want to have a semantic argument here, I just disagree. I think in journalism we hear all the time that folks who are among the first to do things in a wide sense makes someone a pioneer. Maybe not in some kind of dictionary, absolute literal sense, but certainly in a broad sense. And I didn’t say they were THE pioneers, just “notable pioneers.”

          I aslo think my article made clear the distinction between them being part of the movement and having started the movement. My article makes clear that not only has urban homesteading been going on for millennia, but that even their recent contribution is one part of many folks doing the same work and that they should not lay claim to the trademark.

          I definitely respect your right to disagree though. And sorry, I would have answered sooner but my poor hubby has the flu and I’ve been nurse-maiding all day.



          • Harriet says

            I can’t agree in any way that they were pioneers in urban homesteading. My grandmother used to raise 2 pigs in her backyard before WWI. She had a large vegetable garden to feed the family and pigs, baked bread, preserved everything she could, etc. She was only continuing what her forebears had done before. The only thing the D family pioneered was … what? Even letting people know about it? Nah… Mother Earth News and Whole Earth Catalogues and similar monthly magazines did that well in the 1970s. No, the family wasn’t a pioneer at all. Period. They did not pioneer. They might have done what they do well, I’m happy to acknowledge that, but they are not and never have been pioneers, other than in their own minds.

          • says

            I don’t think we’re disagreeing, so much as agreeing about different aspects. :) It seems to me that they bottom line is that they have overstepped their importance to the urban homestead movement. There is no clear “father of urban homesteading” as Jules Dervaes styles himself, and if there WERE one, he fathered it well before Dervaes came on the scene. I hope they learn a lesson from the hue and cry over their behavior, and step back from this kind of claim. Otherwise, I fear that the good they have done for the movement will disappear.

          • says

            Yes, clearly they have overstepped their bounds.

            To me, there is a difference between people who may have lived in cities 500 years ago or 60 years ago who also raised animals, food, and energy source, and articulating a lifestyle today that is meant to reclaim self sufficiency in an era of automation. In other words, conscious urban homesteading as a response to or reaction against the suburbs, over consumption etc., and folks who just naturally did the urban farming thing because that’s what generations did before them. One is an inheritance, the other is an attempt to create, add to, shape, contribute to a conscious movement or way of life. That said, I do not think the Dervaeses (or anyone for that matter) can lay claim to the terms urban homestead any more than say, families that are attachment parenting or home birthers can lay claim to those terms simply because they are doing these things today in a conscious way that communicates lifestyle choices.

            Clearly the Dervases have overstepped their bounds. I look forward to seeing this story unfold, on everything from the petition to the planned Monday blog-a-thon.



      • Sundari says

        Lindsay — I take issue with this comment in the article: “’If you aren’t using it to make money and are simply documenting your life or sharing your journey or information, this would be fine. In fact, we encourage it.’
        That alone should quell this ballyhoo, at least technically.”

        Absolutely not. The core of the matter is that this family has no claim to own a generic, commonly used term. There are many people out there who write or teach about urban homesteading, and others like Mr. Bertini who operate small businesses that are focused around urban homesteading.

        The Dervaeses make money off of writing and teaching about urban homesteading (don’t let their non-profit status fool you; urban homesteading is how they pay their bills). And that is completely ok. They *should* be able to make their living by writing and teaching about urban homesteading. As should James Bertini, K. Ruby Blume, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, and many others. This idea that non-profits can freely use the term, but anyone who wants to write or teach about urban homesteading must credit the Dervaeses, is absurd.

        Rather than retyping a bunch of stuff, please see here if you’d like to know more of my thoughts on this issue: http://news.yahoo.com/s/usnw/20110218/pl_usnw/DC50891?bcmt=55898721#mwpphu-comment-55898721

        • says

          Thanks Sundari. I actually agree, as I think my follow on paragraph indicates as do several other analyses that I offer in the article, such as “Besides, if its just about owning a trademark to protect others from evil corporations, the Dervaeses would not require its use for their purposes, but rather, they’d not mention it at all.”

          The article is a little snarky, and so perhaps my sense of humor is not felt by every reader. When I say, “That alone should quell this ballyhoo, at least technically.” I mean that they are parsing words in order to keep their trademark while trying to maintain the posture of neutrality relative to the wider movement. It was not meant as an endorsement of their effort to secure the trademarks for their purposes. I think the trademarks are absurd on a movement and a way of life that is cultural in its origins, not the work of original intellectual property on the Dervaes’ part.



  3. says

    Hi Lindsay,

    I appreciate the fact that you want to get both sides of the story. I don’t know if you have checked out the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) Facebook page, but if you look at the earliest comments and Crunchy Chicken’s blogpost on the issue you’ll see the events that instigated the “blowup”. An acquaintance of mine who runs the Institute of Urban Homesteading is one of the folks that received a letter and whom also had her Facebook page removed. From the people I know who were directly affected by this (and I am no expert as I was not one of them), the events that transpired seem to be that 1. The Dervaes announced on their blog that they owned the trademarks to the various phrases, including “URBAN HOMESTEAD” and “URBAN HOMESTEADING” 2. 16 individuals/entities were sent a letter from Path to Freedom explaining what “proper” use of these trademarked words would be (this letter is posted on the Dervaes blog). I have heard, but one would need to verify this with individuals that received the letter, that the letter was signed not by Jules Dervaes, but by Mignon Rubio, who is Jules Dervaes ex-wife and occasional volunteer at Path to Freedom (you can find her on Facebook). 3. Facebook pages were taken down that contained the words “urban homestead” or “urban homesteading” in them. 4. People began posting questions on the Dervaeses blog asking what was going on. 5. These questions were not answered and suddenly the posts on their blog were closed from comments. 6. People got pissed and reacted by organizing through Facebook. 7. The Dervaeses responded that “cease and desist” letters threatening to sue were a hoax. This is a point of confusion as several individuals have verifiably received a letter, which was the same letter that was posted on their website. There were no threats of “suing” or was it a technical “cease and desist” letter as it only indicated what was proper use of the terms. However, it did contain language that legal counsel would be called upon if proper use was not followed.

    If you contact the moderator of Take Back Urban-Homesteading(s), she could put you in touch with more individuals who have been affected by this.

    Prior to this event, I have been a big fan and supporter of the Dervaes and their accomplishments. However, this incident has left me questioning their true motives in this situation. They state on their blog that they want to protect these words from being co-opted by big evil corporations who would misuse them, but their actions say something very different as they have adversely affected the lives of the very people you would have thought they would have been trying to protect. I am left saddened by the debacle, but inspired by the number of not so highly publicized folks out there who are committed to practicing a more sustainable lifestyle.

    • says

      Yes, I would like to talk to not only the folks who received letters, but also to the Dervaes’ to hear whether they will state for the record that the letters sent to individuals were sent by them and that the letters were meant as an actual 1st lob in what would be follow on legal action.

      Between Facebook posts and the Dervaes’ website, it is tough to get the whole story, particualrly given the language used by the Dervaeses (“hoax”) to share their side. Whether I can get comment I do not know.

      Thanks for the tips!



      • Sundari says

        If you scroll through the photos that have been posted on the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) facebook page, you’ll see one of the letters that was sent by the Dervaeses to a blogger (it’s a two-page letter). It is signed, although off the top of my head I can’t remember who — pretty sure it was Jules.

        • says

          The thing that concerns me is that the Dervaeses say any letters sent as a cease and desist are a hoax. Could persons angry that the Dervaeses got the trademarks have sent the Website letter to actual individuals in order to heighten the controversy? Or, did the Dervaeses actually send them with the intent to edge others out of the movement through the strength of the newly acquired copyrights?

          I don’t ask in order to doubt anyone. But I’m a reporter, too. I’m looking for some corroboration that the Dervaeses have admitted to not only posting the letter, but actually sending it.

          I’ve heard the Dervaeses explanation for taking the Facebook pages down, that they were concerned for peoples’ feelings. This seemed like a huge overstep and a nice “spin” on their real intent. Any Facebook page administrator should be able to handle their own crowd. It seems more likely that the Dervaeses contacted the Facebook team and sought to have their trademarks enforced.

          I hope to get an answer from the Dervaeses themselves admitting or denying that they were the actually party who not only posted the letter, but sent the letter to specific individuals and groups.



          • Sundari says

            Lindsay — The Dervaeses have never denied that they sent the letters (for example, the one that’s posted on the TBUH page). You can find the letter reprinted on the Dervaes’ own site. They admit that they sent it. The title for the blog post where they reprinted the letter is “FYI.”

            What the Dervaeses are calling a “hoax” are the ideas that they sent a “cease & desist” letter, a “pay up or else” letter, or that they are suing bloggers. They admit to sending the letter everyone received, but they are calling it a “normal, informational” letter.

            While it’s true that the letter they sent didn’t actually include the words “cease and desist,” the underlying meaning is pretty clear — for example they say something to the effect of “we are usually able to resolve matters like these without involving legal counsel.”

            And no, none of their letters include the words “pay up or else.” And no, they are not suing bloggers (yet, though they seem to be threatening to).

            Does that make sense? The Dervaeses have never claimed that the whole thing is a hoax — just specific accusations that they say have been leveled at them. However, they have never addressed the fact that they got Facebook pages removed, or that they sent Google notices attempting to block searches for urban homesteading books, etc.

          • says

            And that’s the thing that has been tough about getting this story entirely straight—the Dervaeses are parsing language such that folks looking from the outside (I support Urban homesteading and live in an urban setting but have yet to get those chickens and solar power going, more a reporter on it all) can’t tell what’s real what’s not.

            Thanks for filling me in so much, Sundari. Are you an urban homesteader or affiliated with any organizations that do? I’m looking to do a follow up story on this on Monday or Tuesday.


          • says

            Hi Lindsay — I can’t seem to reply to your most recent message, so hopefully you’ll see this post wherever it lands! Yes, I — like thousands and thousands of other people — am an urban homesteader. I raise chickens and dwarf dairy goats in my Denver backyard, and make part of my living by running an urban farming project. I also teach classes in gardening, backyard chicken and goat keeping, canning, and other things. I run an advocacy organization that is working to get the Food-Producing Animal laws improved in Denver. I recently wrote a book on urban homesteading, which will be published in June.

          • Kathleen McKinley says

            I don’t believe they are saying that the letters as such are a hoax. They are saying that asserttions that the letters were “cease and desist” letters is a “hoax”. They are just parsing words and appear to be trying to create the misleading impression that they didn’t send the letters at all.

            The letters were real and were from them, but they were not full-blown “cease and desist” letters. They purported to be “informational” letters about how the terms in question should and should not be used by others. But make no mistake, these letters are intended as the first shot across the bow in the Dervaeses’ campaign to enforce these trademarks – marks that should NEVER have been registered in

          • says

            True enough. But rather than using the word “hoax” to describe this, which would have implied false letters sent, they should have said, “falsely interpreted as cease and desist letters.”

            I know that this will be an unpopular thing to say, but anyone can sign a letter that they take off of a website and then send it in order to stir up a controversy. I’m not saying anyone did that. I am saying they could in theory.

            But did any letter recipients actually call either the Dervaeses or their lawyers to confirm that the “informational” letters were sent by the Dervaeses and not just sent as a “hoax” by those so angry about the website posting that they wanted to ratchet the issue up higher? I am not asking if people truly received them. I am asking if recipients called to confirm that they were sent by the Dervaeses? That is a legitimate question given the Dervaeses use, rightly or wrongly, of the term “hoax.” It was a peculiar word choice if they did actually sign and SEND the letters personally and/or through their lawyers.

            I get the many possible interpretations here. Very clearly. I am looking for facts, not interpretations.

          • Kathleen McKinley says

            Lindsey –

            You are confusing “copyright” and “trademark.” If you are a reporter, don’t even THINK about writing a story on this till you get the difference between these two kinds of intellectual property protection clear in your mind. Copyright does NOT come into the current controversy.

          • says

            Kathleen. I prefer respectful communication on our website, thank you.

            My article notes that the Dervaes’ letter deals with copyright and with trademark. They expect their written works to be cited in limited form, and the copyright to accompany it. They expect any use of the term “urban homestead (ing) (er) (ers)” to be signified by a trademark that currently belongs to them.

            My article makes this clear.



          • says

            Lindsay — Regarding whether there’s any proof the letters were sent by the Dervaeses… What can be proved beyond a doubt is that the Facebook takedowns and the DMCA filings with Google both came from the Dervaeses. That, combined with the fact that the Dervaeses printed the letter they sent on their own website (while explaining that it was “informational,” and not “cease and desist”) makes a pretty strong point that all of it came from this family.

            Oh yeah… and on some of the articles that have been written about this, there’s writings of a reporter contacting Jules Dervaes by phone, and him stating that they sent out 16 letters. I don’t have the links in front of me because I’ve been reading oh-so-much about this in the last few days, but I definitely saw that phone conversation mentioned more than once. If you want a link to that specific article, maybe post a request on the TBUH facebook page — I’m sure one of the 4,000 members has that specific article saved.

          • says

            Great, thanks.

            I would be writing more on this today but my youngest daughter has been sick all day (guess she caught what my hubby had, I hope I’m not next.) Will follow up more tomorrow.


        • says

          On the TBUH page, the photo only has the first page of the letter. The second page contains the signature. You could ask the Institute of Urban Homesteading as to who signed their letter.

  4. says

    I just thought of something to compare this to. You know, when Indie Rock became popular a lot of bands eschewed the big labels and set out to make the music themselves, either pressing their own records on their own local labels, or getting signed by smaller labels across the industry. At some point, just as when people recognize anything and give it a name, someone came out with the term “Indie Rock” to classify a whole host of music, not only by sound, but also by style of production. While each individual band owned the copyright to their music (or whatever the deal was with their label) none owned the right to the term “Indie Rock.”

    Here’s where the Dervaes’ have gone so wrong, and where the patent office made such a bad call.

  5. Kathleen McKinley says

    The poll question is incorrect. The issue is not copyright but TRADEMARK.

    And, no, “urban homestead” should NOT have been trademarked and somebody (or a group of people) with the appropriate legal “standing” needs to hire an experieinced trademark lawyer to file a petition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to CANCEL the Dervaeses’ registration of this mark. The Dervaeses claimed that the phrase “urban homestead” “acquired distinctiveness” (rather than being a generic term) because of their “exclusivie” use. BALONEY! This was a flat-out misrepresentation to the USPTO.

  6. Kathleen McKinley says

    The author said: “On a FAQ on their website they say about the terms urban homesteading and urban homestead, ‘If you aren’t using it to make money and are simply documenting your life or sharing your journey or information, this would be fine. In fact, we encourage it.’ That alone should quell this ballyhoo, at least technically.”

    Utter nonsense. This “assurance” from the Dervaeses fixes nothing and quells nothing. The point is that both “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” are generic terms, widely used by others, and the Dervaes should not have the power to “graciously” tell others that they may use these terms with impunity under certain circumstances and to dictate what those circumstances are. The Dervaeses should never have been allowed to register these terms as their trademarks in the first place. (In fact, only “urban homestead” is on the Principal Register, which grants actual trademark status; “urban homesteading” at this point is only registered on the Supplemental Register, which gives not right to claim exclusivity.)

    • says

      Kathleen, please do a more careful reading of my article. I say it should quell the outcry…at least technically. I go on to say that it is “technical” problems that created the mess though. In other words, the Dervaes’ “technical” issues and “technical” fixes are like Bill Clinton’s “it depends on the meaning of the word “is.” It’s a little snarky. I know the issue is extremely serious to many people, and it should be. But lighten up and see a little humor in the piece.

  7. says

    Thank you, Lindsay, for your well researched and well-thought-out story on the topic. As I noted before, this goes beyond what is legal (obviously, it’s legal to trademark the term, since PTO did it!) to what is ethical. What SHOULD be trademarked, not what CAN be. I think you captured this very eloquently!

    Also, I suggest those who are interested to check out an interview I did with Gustavo Arellano, one of the first to break this story at OCWeekly, at: http://growninthecity.com/2011/02/5questions-with-gustavo-arrelano-the-journalist-who-broke-the-dervaes-urban-homesteading-story-talks-about-intellectual-property-and-the-urban-homesteading-movement/


    • Marilyn says

      To clarify : The WordPress blog on Dervaes trademark has this disclaimer so I wouldn’t say it is from their point of view.

      Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the advise of an attorney when in doubt about your particular situation. This site does not represent Dervaes Institute nor does it make any official statements on the Institute’s behalf.

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