2011 in Review: Urban Homestead Trademark Dispute

As the year draws to a close I thought I’d review some of our posts from the previous year starting with an update on the trademark dispute over the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading”.

In February of this year the Dervaes Institute (DI) sent a cease and desist letter to over a dozen different individuals and organizations including our publisher Feral House/Process Media, public radio station KCRW, Denver Urban Homesteading, and the Santa Monica Public Library. In addition DI successfully manged to get Facebook to take down a page about our book The Urban Homestead, that our publisher had put up, in addition to Denver Urban Homesteading’s Facebook page. As of this date both of those Facebook pages are still down.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Winston & Strawn LLP have generously assisted us in challenging the DI’s trademarks. The DI filed a motion to extend discovery earlier this month. I expect a decision from the Trademark Court sometime next year but I’m not going to predict when. The Trademark Court works slowly and via correspondence. We’ll let you know of any major developments.

Thanks again to the support of all the readers of this blog and to our attorneys.

For more background on this issue see our February 21 post.

Leave a comment


  1. This is the first I’ve heard of the silliness. I hope you succeed. I’ve voted with my unsubscribe button from their blog. I regularly followed and read their posts, but I don’t need advice from people who want money over such a silly thing. That’s not living on a homestead, it’s cyber bullying.

  2. Thank you for the update on the trademark thingy. We have continued to boycot anything related to DI. I’m with Danny – this is cyber bulling. How stoopid.

  3. Good luck with this! I used to be a big fan of the Dervaes’ homestead blog, but this ridiculousness really turned me off them.

  4. I’m saddened by all of this. I can’t help but assume such an action is out of greed. I admit that may be premature, but I feel at this point it is the burden of the Dervais to defend and explain themselves.

  5. For what it’s worth, DI may win the battle, but they’ve already lost the war. How many people use the term “urban homestead(ing)” already – and *aren’t* specifically referring to DI? I’d bet half the people I know whom I’ve heard use the term haven’t even heard of DI. *sigh*

  6. The action they are taking is in direct contradiction to their mission statement and most of what they say they promote on their site (visited for the first time after reading your blog tonight). They specifically mention “the community” they are creating numerous times! Not a community I want to be a part of-one that values IP over positive change for the earth and those that inhabit it.
    Thank you Root Simple and EFF for handling this with strength of character, professionalism and a right mind! I wish you peace and perseverance to see you through this.

  7. I’m so glad that you have people (and lawyers) to help you with this!

    A number of years back I went through something similar where I was given a Cease & Desist order for my then website stealthkitten.com by a guy named Leo Stoller. What he was doing was supposedly trademarking words so that you either had to pay him to use it, or he’d take it to court (which I couldn’t afford). Long story short I was told I could fight it but that it would cost me a bunch and I had to give up and get a different domain name. 🙁

    I’m really, really glad to hear you have someone willing to stand in your corner and fight for you! I think you guys are doing great stuff! Keep fighting!

    • It’s my understanding that in order to be able to trademark or servicemark a name you have to show that you are actively using that mark. If this Leo Stoller doesn’t have a product or service that he uses the term Stealth Kitten I don’t think he would have any legal binding to make you stop using it.

  8. @trashmaster46 you seem to not understand how a trademark war works. Should DI succeed, we will be forced to move to a new term or they will not only sue rootsimple, but you, me and everyone each time we use that term. The popularity of the term is exactly why this sort of action is such an large threat. Should they have trademarked the term “fluorescent swizzlesticks” no one would care and it would cost no one any money. That they decided to trademark a term that is increasing in popularity is exactly the worst part of the issue.

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