“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.)

Urban Homesteading

UPDATE:

Our super lawyer, Corynne McSherry, Intellectual Property Director of the EFF,  has a blog post up on the EFF site: Riding the Fences of the “Urban Homestead”: Trademark Complaints and Misinformation Lead to Improper Takedowns summarizing the situation and the important issues at hand–issues that affect all of us. That post also has links to a letter she sent to the Dervaes Institute on our behalf.

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This has been such a big flap I suspect most of our readers know this by now, but for those of you who haven’t heard the news, the Dervaes Institute (the operators of the popular website, Path to Freedom) have trademarked the terms urban homestead and urban homesteading, and in the last week or so, have started to enforce their trademarks. Follow this link to Boing Boing for a concise summary of what’s been going on. (ETA 2/23: This two part article at Agrariana seems currently to be the most complete summary available. ETA 3/2: They have a round-up of most writing to date at Seasons in the Soil)

We’ve landed in the middle of all this because in 2008 we wrote a book titled The Urban Homestead. Because they apparently believe this title infringes on their trademark, the Dervaes Institute has interfered with our ability, and the ability of our publisher, Process Media, to promote the book. We are by no means the only people affected by their actions, but we can only speak for ourselves.

We want to take this moment to tell you how grateful for all the the kind and super-supportive comments, emails and conversations we’ve had over this last week. It’s hard to describe, but we’ve received so much love from you all that it’s been like being bundled in a warm blanket. We’ve been busy, and we’ve been taking this seriously, but we haven’t been worried or stressed. Thank you for all your positive energy.

It’s also been wonderful to see how this has all served as a galvanizing action to bring the homesteading community together. We admire how the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) page on Facebook stepped into the gap and created a place for people to gather. Today it’s hosting a day of action, in which its members (nearly 4000 strong!) are all posting about their own urban homesteads. Check it out if you can. Join in if you can.

But back to business.

The one thing we didn’t know last week was who was going to help us fight for our rights, because unfortunately it seems legal action is necessary. We’ve had good news.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has stepped forward to represent us and our publisher, Process Media. We couldn’t be happier.

Who is the EFF?  They are a leading civil liberty group dedicated to protecting freedom and privacy in the digital domain. They’re the guys and gals on the white horses. When you read about something idiotic going on and you say to yourself, “Someone has to do something about that!” — more often than not, the EFF is that someone.

Just check out this page on their awesome work, and you’ll know why we are honored, amazed and thrilled that they’ve taken us on.

We’ve had many people ask us how they can help. Right now, the very best thing you can do is send a few dollars to the EFF as a gesture of appreciation. Two-thirds of the EFF’s budget comes from donations, so your donations will help them shoulder the costs of taking us on–not to mention all their other excellent work.

Again, thank you so much for your support. We love you all.