Urban Homestead Trademarks Cancelled!

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:

For more on this case:
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.




Leave a comment


  1. Yay! I’m really pleased for you. I can’t believe that it has been six years.

    I’m a Brit so forgive my ignorance, will they have to pay costs incurred by you or the EFF? Are you out of pocket because of this debacle?

  2. Fantastic! Thank you so much for taking this on, it is a huge win for everyone and 6 years is a long time to deal with something so frustratingly illogical.

  3. What awesome news! It’s wonderful that common sense has prevailed. SHAME on the Dervaes family for trying to tie up a term that they didn’t create and one that belongs to everybody and for all the damage they’ve done.

    Let’s hope the fire cider lawsuit trademark ends similarly.

  4. Hooray for sanity prevailing! Hopefully the Dervaes Institute will have to pay the legal costs of their power grab.

  5. Yay! And what a long, ridiculous journey this has been. Congratulations to everyone who helped achieve this outcome.

  6. I see that Jules Dervaes died in December 2016. I wonder if there is any connection here? It can’t be healthy having so many people dislike you.

  7. This is wonderful news! I’m so happy for you and for our larger community! Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your work on this! It’s been a long road, but so worth the effort, and you are so very appreciated!

  8. Congratulations, Erik and Kelly! Great work, now we can all move on. With all the work we need to do to create a sustainable world at this late hour, it’s a shame to have to contend with this kind of nonsense, but I guess that’s the kind of world we’ve made, and need to change. Onward!

  9. Congratulations! I was just wondering about that recently and am very glad to hear it’s resolved. Proud of you for not giving up.

  10. Pingback: Shown, Unshown - Marching into April 2017 - Ever Growing Farm | Ever Growing Farm

  11. Pingback: 101 Eric Interviews Erik | Root Simple

Comments are closed.