“Urban Homesteading” belongs to us all


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

Leave a comment


  1. Isn’t this wonderful news? It’s sad that so much time, effort and money had to be spent reaffirming a right which never should have come into question in the first place. And a pox of tomato blight on the so called “D.I.” who thought they could make money by taking unilateral control/ownership over a generic term which has been around for almost 75 years. What hubris to believe they actually “invented” that term!

  2. I’m in the Pasadena area, and when I first heard about the Dervaes family, I thought I might someday check out one of their workshops or events. Then when they started bullying people over common words, I lost interest in supporting them. I’m quite sure I’m not the only potential customer or ally they’ve lost with this game.

  3. This is wonderful news. Please keep us posted for the ‘Urban Homestead’ ‘trademark’. Homestead is a term and the idea of putting it in an urban environment is not a new one or a unique one. That’s practically as bad as trademarking ‘wet blanket’. This is just another example of a lawyer being a jerk using the law as proxy, trying to secure his business by restricting information, pretending the internet doesn’t exist.

  4. Very, very glad to read this.

    Now if we could get this same group of lawyers to get the US Supreme court to rescind their decision to grant personhood to corporations I would believe in right triumphing wrong and Santa Claus and the tooth fairy all at the same time.

  5. This is wonderful news. Once in a while, Karma reigns, and some people get the comeuppance they deserve. Hopefully the EFF is getting attorneys fees, as well?

    • This court case was not the EFF’s– the complaint was filed by Denver Urban Homesteading. Different set of proceedings. If I recall correctly from the press, though, DUH will be requesting compensation for damages.

  6. This is really outstanding news! I’m happy for you and hopeful for the herbalist community fighting a similar fight over “fire cider”. Also hopeful that this will discourage other greedy jerks from trying to trademark commonly used words and phrases.

  7. YEA!!! I am so pleased to hear this and hope this sets an example to other jerks who try and do the same thing. So happy for you! Freedom for the English language!!!! It feels like ‘Urban Homestead/ing’ has been released from jail after being falsely accused.

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