Commentary

EFF Fights Web Trademark Claims For 'Urban Homestead'

The Dervaes family of Pasadena, Calif., arguably the country's best-known so-called urban homesteaders, have garnered worldwide attention for, in their words, transforming an "ordinary city lot into an organic and sustainable micro-farm."

Now, however, the four members of the Dervaes family are drawing attention for a less noble project: They're attempting to stop Facebook members, bloggers and even online commenters from using the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" online.

In October, the Dervaeses convinced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to issue them trademarks for urban homestead and urban homesteading, though those words hardly seem like the type of terms that warrant trademark protection.

This month, armed with its new trademarks, the family began attempting to shut down others who used the phrases. Among those targeted were a journalist, a farmers' market, the founder of the Oakland, Calif. Institute of Urban Homesteading, a journalist, and two authors of the 2008 book "The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City," the Bay Citizenreports. What's more, not only did the Dervaes family complain to "The Urban Homestead" authors, but the family apparently went so far as to contact Facebook, resulting in the social networking service disabling links regarding the book.

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The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation has now gotten involved. This week, the organization demanded that the Dervaes family -- which founded the Dervaes Institute -- stop issuing trademark infringement claims regarding variations of the word homestead.

"As you must be aware, 'urban homesteading' is a term that has long since been widely adopted to describe a social movement and a set of practices that promote self-sufficient, sustainable living in cities," EFF attorney Corynne McSherry wrote in a letter on behalf of "The Urban Homestead" authors Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. " 'Urban homesteading' is popularly understood to refer not to the Institute's goods and services, but rather to a way of life that is common to many and owned by none."

McSherry is asking the Dervaes family to contact every Web company to which it had complained and withdraw the takedown requests. The family has not yet publicly responded.

1 comment about "EFF Fights Web Trademark Claims For 'Urban Homestead'".
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  1. Bruce May from Bizperity, February 22, 2011 at 7:34 p.m.

    It’s sad that the EFF even has to get involved. This clearly violates our Constitutional rights to free speech. If this practice continued it would not be long before the entire English language was owned by somebody and there wouldn’t be enough words left to write even a single sentence.

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