Urban Homestead Trademarks Cancelled!

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After six years of legal wrangling, “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” belong to us all. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled the trademarks thanks to the hard work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the law firm of Winston & Strawn. Here’s the press release from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Urban Homesteaders Win Cancellation of Bogus Trademarks
Global Community Had Faced Baseless Legal Claims and Content Removal Threats

San Francisco – Urban homesteaders can speak freely about their global movement for sustainable living, after convincing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel bogus trademarks for the terms “urban homesteading” and “urban homestead.” The authors and activists were represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and law firm of Winston & Strawn.

“This is a victory for free speech and common sense. Threats over this trademark harmed us and the whole urban homesteading community—a group of people who are dedicated to sharing information about sustainable living online and elsewhere,” said Kelly Coyne, co-author with Erik Knutzen of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. “We are so pleased to have this issue settled at last, so we can concentrate on making urban life healthier and happier for anyone who wants to participate in this global effort.”

“Urban homesteading” has been used as a generic term for decades, describing activities like growing food, raising livestock, and producing simple food products at home. But a group called the Dervaes Institute managed to register “urban homesteading” and “urban homestead” as trademarks with the USPTO for “educational services” like blogging.

Citing the trademarks, Dervaes got Facebook to take down content about urban homesteading, including pages that helped publicize Coyne and Knutzen’s book, as well as the Facebook page of a Denver farmer’s market. In 2011, EFF and Winston & Strawn petitioned the USPTO on behalf of Coyne, Knutzen, and book publisher Process Media, asking for the trademarks’ cancellation.

“The words and phrases we use every day to describe basic activities should never be the exclusive property of a single person or business,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “It took six years, but we’re proud that this terrible trademark is off the books.”

“You can’t trademark generic terms and force ordinary conversations off the Internet,” said Winston & Strawn attorney Jennifer Golinveaux. “We’re relieved that the urban homesteading community can continue sharing information about their important work without worrying about silly legal threats.”

For the full opinion from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
https://www.eff.org/document/opinion-cancelling-trademark

For more on this case:
https://www.eff.org/cases/petition-cancel-urban-homestead-trademark
Contact:
Corynne
McSherry
Legal Director
[email protected]

We’d like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Winston & Strawn for coming to our aid pro bono. We’d also like to thank Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly, Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing and Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast for their coverage of the case. If you’re a new reader here at Root Simple here’s a set of previous posts on the trademark dispute.

And please consider making a contribution to the EFF.

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“Urban Homesteading” belongs to us all

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Huge congratulations to James Bertini of Denver Urban Homesteading, for winning the right for all of us to use the term “urban homesteading” freely from now on out.

Longtime readers may remember that back in 2011, the Dervaes Institute sent notices to a dozen or so organizations, informing them that they could no longer use the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” unless speaking about the work of the Dervaes Institute, as they had registered trademark on both terms. Beyond that, some people found their web pages or social media sites removed when their hosting services responded to take-down notices issued by the Dervaes Institute, including Denver Urban Steading and Process Media/Feral House, the publisher of our book, The Urban Homestead.

The good folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) stepped forward to help. One of their interests is protecting the commons of language from being limited by the intrusive use of trademarks on generic terms. They offered to appeal these generic marks for all of us at the trademark board, pro bono, and partnered with the super-talented attorneys at Winston & Strawn, who are trademark specialists, to do so. Meanwhile, James Bertini of Denver Urban Homesteading–who happens to be an attorney– also began to take action.

And as of last week, Denver Urban Homesteading won a victory in California federal court: U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, canceled the trademark “urban homesteading” on the grounds that it was too generic for protection.

“Urban homestead” is still trademarked, but after this precedent set by Judge Walter, we hope to hear good news from the EFF and Winston & Strawn, very soon.

Read more in the OC Weekly

Denver Urban Homesteading’s press release

Our previous posts on this subject

Urban Homestead, Urban Homesteading: These Terms Belong to All of Us


Our attorneys at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the law firm, Winston & Strawn, have filed a petition to cancel the bogus trademark registrations for the terms “Urban Homestead” and “Urban Homesteading.”

You may read the EFF’s press release here, and the actual petition here. It is a thing of beauty. We are very fortunate to have access to the talents of some of the best people in this business.

We hope that this petition will prevail for everybody’s sake. It goes without saying that these trademark registrations are ridiculous and hurtful and an insult to the generosity of spirit which is integral to this movement. We help each other–we don’t hold each other back.

Our lawyers tell us that the petitioning process takes a while, so don’t expect lots of news right off the bat. Just know that the wheels of justice are turning.

(If this is all news to you, read this previous EFF post on the subject. And here’s our own original post.)

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