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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Was 'Urban Homesteading' Issued a Trademark in the First Place?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 4:36 PM

click to enlarge Is this book ― published in June 2008 ― evidence that the Dervaes family's claim to the term "urban homesteading" is full of shit? - SHIRA GOLDING/FLICKR
  • Shira Golding/Flickr
  • Is this book ― published in June 2008 ― evidence that the Dervaes family's claim to the term "urban homesteading" is full of shit?

SFoodie's Sean Timberlake weighs in today at Punk Domestics on the fight over usage of "urban homesteading" and its variations. Timberlake explains:

In October of last year, the Dervaes family, of Homestead in the City in Pasadena, ... acquired registered trademark status for both "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading" ― and have been sending notifications to blogs and other sites that use those terms to either change the usage or apply the ® symbol and give credit to them for it.
Since yesterday, when the story blew up, OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano has been documenting the Dervaeses idiocy in real time, idiocy that includes firing off cease-and-desist letters to DIY blogs (also: the Santa Monica Public Library, which hosted an urban homesteading event) who use the term.

Timberlake wonders about the Dervaeses' legal bullying here in the Bay Area, notably against Oakland's Institute of Urban Homesteading, which Timberlake says has had its Facebook page blocked. (For more, including an interview with the Institute of Urban Homesteading's K. Ruby Blume, check out the story by the Bay Citizen's Twilight Greenaway. "'They're trying to boot out everybody whose using urban homesteading to describe what they do, so they can make it distinctive,' says Blume. 'That's what a lot of big corporations do.'")

Timberlake again:

To my mind, the US Patent and Trademark Office made an error in judgment in allowing these terms to be trademarked because of exactly that. In fact, the Dervaes' filing had been previously denied for that reason. Nicole of FARMcurious did a little digging, and found 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." Best evidence: A book titled The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, written by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutsen, was published in June of 2008. The cat was clearly well and truly out of the bag.
Want to protest the Dervaeses' dickishness? Take a stand at a Facebook page that's sprung up to protest the Pasadena couple's strongarm tactics, Take Back Urban Home-steading(s), accessorized with typographical tricks to evade copyright infringement, apparently. Or you could take to the streets, armed with bee smokers and pruning hooks. Grrr.

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