February 17, 2011
Below is the letter that The Institute of Urban Homesteading sent out to their students and supporters yesterday after receiving the Dervaes’ “informational” letter and having their Facebook page taken down:
Dear IUH Students and Supporters,
I apologize for this rare mid-month posting to the newsletter list. A recent and unexpected issue has come up that I want to share with you and hopefully garner your support.
The Dervaes Family of LA (pathtofreedom.org) gained Trademark rights to the terms Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading in October of 2010 and have recently started to exercise these rights.
Several days ago The Institute received an “informational letter” from them informing us how to properly credit them when using the terms and also telling us that it would be “proper” if not using the terms to identify their products or services to “replace the registered trademark with more generic terms, such as ‘modern’ homesteading.” They have sent similar letters to Erik Knutzen, author of “The Urban Homestead,” a book, The Santa Monica Farmers Market and KCSW, an LA local TV channel that did a panel on Urban Homesteading. In the letter they cited both the iuhoakland site and the site for the new book we have coming out (Urban-Homesteading.org).
Yesterday the Dervaes filed complaints with FB and successfully disabled at least 4 Urban Homesteading sites without prior notice (which FB suggests you should give). We do not believe we have infringed anybody’s property rights. The content of the pages was all original and belonged to the people who owned the pages. However FB will not reinstate them unless the Dervaes family writes them a letter telling them to.
For those of you interested in the legal end: They have trademarked in the supplemental registry, which is for terms that are “merely descriptive and not distinctive.” That is how they could trademark such a general term. One must surmise they hope to make the term distinctive by booting everyone else out of the game. The mark nay be contested within the first 5 years.
I respect the right of anyone who creates original works or ideas to trademark and protect such works. But Urban Homesteading is not a new idea created by the Dervaes. It is a national movement occurring in every state. It has been documented with its current usage back to the early 80s.
For the record I want to be clear. While I am surely upset that the school name may be denied us, I am not writing out of a need to protect our own intellectual property rights. I simply think it is wrong for one group to own the name of an entire movement and profit from it. To add insult to injury, the Dervaes continue to maintain that they are a radical forward thinking community based group. To my knowledge using the methods of the corporate class does not a revolution make! (no offense intended to all the good lawyers and law makers out there!) Closing off the commons, whether real or intellectual property, has never been a move that supported the interests of common folk or the environment.
Several of us affected are polling resources and hope to contest the mark, or at least stop the Dervaes from shutting down our pages, books, farmers market sites, school sites etc.
There will be a couple articles coming out on the topic tomorrow. One in the LA weekly.
Thank you and happy URBAN HOMESTEADING–so much looking forward to learning with you in 2011!