Trademark This!


I love Twitter for its kerfuffles.  And right now, there is a giant kerfuffle surrounding the Dervaes family, the urban homesteaders in Pasadena whose efforts I have long admired because they had the good sense to make self-sufficiency pretty!

But apparently, they have trademarked the phrases "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" and are warning people who might want to use those phrases to describe a particular lifestyle that that portion of the English language is now the private property of the Dervaes family.

This is insanely jealous of them.  And in trying to defend themselves, they only seem crazier than ever.  Check out the "normal, professional and informative" letter they are sending.  I'm sure I'll get one tomorrow: urban homesteading.


  1. Despite their impressive outputs and creativity, I always got a “cult” vibe off of them. I cannot say I’m surprised by this.

  2. I’ve always had a problem with people marking as their own things that ought to belong to the public, such as words, phrases & sentences. I do understand the importance of trademarking a brand or a motto, but to disallow the use of certain phrases except with strict guidelines & permissions seems – dare I say it – un-American.

    But I am speaking as someone who’s not trying to build a name for herself or her company, so I’m likely missing something.

  3. Total baloney. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth, no matter what sort of good work they have done and smacks of self righteousness.

  4. Insane. How can they seriously say this has been misrepresented as a ‘cease and desist’ letter? Don’t know if a lawyer would call it that, but a layman receiving this letter would say they have been threatened with legal action if they don’t stop use the phrase urban homestead.

  5. Would love to see a copy of the trademark grant. Anybody know where a person could look that up? Really it all kind of sounds a bit whackadoo! (Ooops, I think I got ‘whackadoo’ from a Barbara Kingsolver book, I wonder if she’s going to trademark it??!!)

  6. Ridiculous and insane. A quick Google News search shows that the term has been in use since at least 1896. Jack Kemp proposed an “urban homestead act” in 1984. Absolutely no way this is enforceable.

    Urban homestead
    Urban homestead

  7. I had stopped reading their blog a couple years ago, and only recently started up again. I’ll be removing them from my Google Reader list today – IMO, they could have very easily released their blog content under Creative Commons, rather than the much more litigation-oriented standard copyright. For supposed modern-day hippies, they sure seem to be plugged in to how the establishment likes to do things 😛

  8. Well, those of us with blogs should use these terms


    often, and repeatedly, in our posts for the foreseeable future. I would love to bankrupt them, getting them to chase us all down.

  9. Hoo boy.

    Five Acres and Mule, anyone? Or is that trademarked now, too?

    Stupid stupid corporate world we live in. Why the hell are they buying in to that shit? It’s exactly the shit they are talking about leaving. Must be all trash talk, eh?

    Silly people.

  10. What a crock!

    I used the link to look at the letter. I noticed on their website they shut down comments on this item. I used to look at them from time to time, but no more Homegrown Revolution for me.

  11. The whole idea of ‘intellectual property rights’ of a single person or group of people is rediculous. Plagarism is one thing, trying to retain and restrict for financial gain words or phrases that are part of current usage is another thing altogether. Most ideas are built on other peoples and most ‘original’ ideas are in fact in circulation even if they are articulated and publicized by one person. urban homestead has been around a lot longer than what’s the group called? Oh yes, Dervaes family, never heard of them before nor read their writings but I sure have heard urban homestead, ‘path to freedom’ must be an even older phrase, so must ‘homegrown revolution’.

  12. Wow. How selfish and rediculous! What’s next? Is someone going to start tradmarking all of our normal, everyday language? Cliches? Proverbs? Popular phrases?

  13. I first saw them recently on the VH1 show, You’re Cut Off. They puzzled me then, and with this… oy. Forget about it. The girls had cute aprons though.
    I’m only watching trashy reality tv until I can get back out in the garden. I can only replan my garden so many times.

  14. I remember in the late 90s when Phyllis Furumoto tried to trademark “Reiki” and was unsuccessful. No matter that her intent was honorable, she was unsuccessful because the trademark office decided that the term had become too generic in its use.

    How these 7 words and/or phrases, used by others millions of times over many years, ever got trademarked is a mystery. I’ve used a few myself and today is the first time I’ve ever heard of these people or their blog.

    I have no intention of paying any mind to my use of those words, in lowercase or uppercase.

    I make my living creating and building my clients’ ‘brands’. Their trademarking these words is overstepping their ‘brand’.

    Sorry, but this is ridiculous.

  15. We nearly featured them for an episode last year on Growing a Greener World. We were in communication with their “PR” person and when we learned that we could not have access to the backyard for filming, only the front, we had to modify our plans. I explained that we couldn’t make a whole show out of standing in their tiny front yard with very little to look at as we talked. I said we were going to have to now include another example of an “urban homestead” to fill the time and visuals.
    After that bit of news, they completely changed their tune, not wanting to share this topic with anyone else on the show. If we weren’t going to give them the whole time, or feature another urban homesteader, god forbid, then they would not be willing to participate in the show.
    Well, guess what; good thing b/c with that “tude” we weren’t interested in giving any time to such arrogance.

  16. there is something suspicious to me about a group of people who supposedly live a completely self-sustainable life that is that “pretty”. there were several other red flags for me but knowing that they wouldn’t let you see what amounts to the backstage area of their “homestead” makes me question their authenticity even more.

  17. Such a pile of silly arrogance! I won’t be reading their blog or supporting them in any way here on my SUBURBAN HOMESTEAD (which is just like an URBAN HOMESTEAD but not IN the city.) FREEDOM that!(Not to mention that THIS homestead has been here since 1937. So there.)
    Silly, silly, silly.

  18. Thanks for posting about this also! I’ve been staying up to date on twitter but am now checking out what other bloggers are saying. I am pleased at the collective outrage at their ridiculous tactic!

  19. I’d like to know how they can trademark terms that have been used for many years. I’m 70 years old and I heard the term being used in the 1970s.

  20. Wow. While I don’t tweet, I’d heard of them and visited their blog maybe twice a year. I’m really disappointed in them for this. And how in the heck can you trademark “gardener”????? That’s nuts.

  21. Joe Lamp’l: what odd behavior they had for you and your crew. Their site often featured tv shows that others filmed in their back yard!!! Something must have been up even then.

  22. I stopped reading them about a year ago, because it started to get repetitive. There was lots of patting themselves on the back, cute aprons, but not much else. I do like their snail shaped cob oven, though.

  23. urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading, urban homesteading (times infinity!) 🙂

  24. Self righteous arrogant holier than thou earth warriors.People like this ruin the impression of the hole movement regardless of right and left isuues.

    Screw them and their homestead…jerks

    The TROLL

  25. I love this–I’d love it even more if the Little House on the Prairie franchise (with its own rich history of disputed ownership) turned around and accused them of intellectual property theft with the variation on their name– capitalism is the original American “can-do” spirit.

  26. Seems like one of the stupidest PR moves in all of American business history. Hmmm, let’s be incredibly greedy, trademark a bunch of common-use terms that are going to piss off thousands of garden professionals throughout our nation, and see if it makes our business more successful!

    I don’t see how their trademarks could stand up in court. Wasn’t “freedom gardens” used WIDELY during WWII?

  27. Path to freedom my ass. More like nu-hippie fascists. It’s sad that these folks & their self-congratulatory blog are giving growing your own veg a bad name. It’s pretty chicken shit to choke off comments.

  28. Looks like they’re a bit late on “Freedom Garden” too. A plaque in Louisiana:



    JULY 4, 1976


  29. If those phrases are used on labels, as part of a logo, or as the title of a written piece, then I could see where he might have trademark rights against others using those phrases IN THOSE CONTEXTS (but not in general usage!). If this is what he means, he sure didn’t explain it very well. Personally I think he’s off his rocker and kind of a nut for going to this extreme. My business’s name includes the name of the local town, river, and mountain, and several of my competitors have found unique ways to use slight variations of my whole business name in their publicity and on their labels; also, our product label is quite unique, but others have incorporated elements of it on their labels. None of this bothers me, because even though it is confusing at times, eventually it always leads back to my business in a favorable way. Also, our local mountain is used on so many labels that a graphic designer once told me he had to tweak the mountain on each logo, so that it was “unique” and couldn’t be “legally actionable”; this seems over the top to me!

    I think this guy is just trying to find a way to make money off of the URBAN HOMESTEADING trend, while the subject is hot, and not get lost amongst all the other URBAN HOMESTEADING businesses out there.

  30. Not one person standing up for them? Are all these harsh words because they tend to live different? Seem like hippies do they? They have made what seems to be an error in judgement by going too far trying to make a living from their work.
    I have admired the site and the homestead for some time and loved reading of what the daily meals would consist.
    I am also frightened by the extreme anger shown when the pack turnsso do not blame them for backing out for awhile.
    Let’s be good neighbors and hope they learn from this and can recover…

  31. I am one of the owners of a nursery called Perennial Favorites. We started the business in 1987, and registered the name in Colorado. Because no one else was using the name in my state, we were allowed to use it for our business. I thought it was cute and clever, and other people did, too. There’s a nursery called Perennial Favorites in Ohio, and one called Perennial Favorites in Minnesota, and who knows how many in other places. Now I hear that a Utah nursery called Perennial Favorites is trying to trademark that name. Is that crazy or what? Does that mean that all the book reviewers who call To Kill a Mockingbird a perennial favorite, or any other common use of that term will be in violation of the trademark law? I hope the Utah Perennial Favorites reconsiders this request.

  32. It’s possible that no one is really defending him because, although he promotes the concept of “freedom” a lot, he seems to be trying to corner the market for his own private personal use on something –language–that we all value as being “free” for our common usage (language is a common good, and we have freedom of speech, etc). Anyone who has been alive in the last couple of decades will understand that “freedom of speech” is a passionate subject in this country….

  33. Gloria,
    I think there are few people standing up for them because there is such inherent hypocrisy in trademarking “Freedom Garden”, “Path to Freedom” and “Urban Homesteading”. Apparently a Freedom Garden isn’t free at all – it is legally restricted according to Dervaes.

    Further, the homesteading movement is diametrically opposite the industrial/corporate complex that favors exclusive legal restrictions on all sorts of things in order to segregate wealth. For example Monsatan’s ownership of organisms and their consequent suing of farmers who’s crops they’ve contaminated.

    This type of hypocrisy is a not a refudiation but a complete repudiation of everything natural and good about gardening, the sustainability movement, and homesteading.

    As someone else has mentioned, the use of Creative Commons is really the way of the future for intellectual property. Would’ve been a win-win for the Dervaes family if they would’ve used it. Unfortunately, IMO they seem to have run afoul of some bad advice from corporate-type lawyers.

  34. They have an overly broad interpretation of their trademark. It only limits the use of the phrases by an outside party according to the specific goods and services defined in their filing.

    As long as people are not profiting by the phrase by linking it to a specific good or service that is limited by the trademark, they can use the phrases.

    Suggesting people use synonyms to avoid the phrases altogether and passively threatening legal action are the kinds of things I’d expect from a Monsanto, or other corporate giant, not a supposed model of sustainable living.

  35. You may trademark the desgin of a name or word but not the word or phrase. For instance Banana republic logo is trademarked because of it’s design. You cannot trade mark the phrase babana republic
    the TROLL

  36. Ridiculous. I propose that people start using the writing about “TUrban Homesteading” just to piss them off. Although perhaps the idea of gardening in a turban has its merits.

    At any rate, how selfish and hypocritical of them to try and claim such. Going on about reducing carbon use, being sustainable – but their true colors come out eventually.

  37. All of this has just made me horribly aware that I better never do anything to tick anybody off these days. The viciousness with which the Twitter and Facebook crowd has gone after the Dervaeses is truly scary. A virtual mob is still a mob.

  38. I don’t know about that Claire. It seems to me that the viciousness is on the part of the Dervaes and that the reaction to them is an example of self-defense and justifiable outrage. Should we allow them to get away with this ridiculous behavior? Should we cower before them and be prevented from using common phrases we have every right to use? Is that what we should do?

    My interpretation is that they are the aggressors since they the ones threatening people with take down notices and legal action that is totally unjustified. I consider that to be vicious and I am always relieved when people stand up for themselves and their neighbors against bullies.

    The Dervaes are so very clearly in the wrong here. They attacked first. I am not surprised that they are playing the victim as though they are the ones being attacked. It’s a pretty classic move for a narcissist and it’s hard to deny that Julian Dervaes is a narcissist.

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