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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Weed Cloth Fail

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One of the few, in my opinion, indisputable truisms in gardening is covered this week on Emily Green’s blog Chance of Rain. Green’s warning to the novice gardener: weed cloth always fails.

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There’s considerable controversy about this subject but I reached the same conclusion as Green. I’m still picking bits of plastic weed cloth out of our backyard from a ill fated decomposed granite project dating from nearly fifteen years ago.

It’s time to declare a truce with the weeds. As Gerard Manly Hopkins says in his poem “Inversnaid,”

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

A programming note: my mom is still in the hospital. I’m putting the podcast on hold temporarily and posts will be light for the foreseeable future. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

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Thank You Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County!

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I want to take a moment to thank the staff of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. They were nice enough to invite Root Simple to do a coffee roasting demo and gave us booth space during Nature Fest this past weekend. They were also very compassionate and understanding when I had to leave early on Sunday when my elderly mom was, unexpectedly, hospitalized.

If you’re a local please consider joining the Museum as a member and sign up to find out about the many programs they put on. They are doing amazing work to encourage biodiversity and citizen science.

And a programming note: posting will be light this week as I need to help my mom.

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Saturday Tweets: Late Edition