You know, I’ve grappled about what to write about tonight. I was going to give you a lovely completed garden plan with lists of delectable varieties of heirloom plants I’m going to grow this year… but no. That will have to come next week. I promise a lovely garden update- one that will inspire and fill your mind with visions. But tonight, I’m compelled to share about a recent controversy- one which I have pretty strong opinions about.
I’ve long been inspired by the works of the Dervaes family in California. They live on a 1/5 of an acre, half of which is cultivated land, and they’ve actually carved out a little living for themselves in the middle of their city. They grow the majority of their food and sell veggies to local restaurants. They raise chickens, goats, ducks, etc. You should check them out- they really have great ideas. Undoubtedly they have done a lot to benefit this movement, and I’ve been really inspired by them over the past few years. However, today I read all about this controversy regarding their recent trademarking of the phrases "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading". Apparently they’ve been sending out letters to small businesses, bloggers, libraries, you name it, to stop using those terms without proper credit.
I am an urban homesteader. That’s just what I’ve been doing. I’m homesteading in an urban area… I have lots of friends who are urban homesteaders- it’s a way of life. But NOW, we have to be URBAN HOMESTEADERS® (this term is a protected trademark of Dervaes Institute). Are you kidding me? I was somewhat outraged at first- but I’ve loved following these guys and thought I’d do a little investigating. I went to their website, and much to my dismay, there it was outlined in their "FAQs" section.
"Why do you own registered trademarks–particularly "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading" when you are against corporations?
We filed our trademarks for the purpose of maintaining standards and for the protection of the term and concept. We are still in this society that is ruled by laws and governments and, sometimes, you have to use those rules to protect the freedom of an idea before it’s too late.
We began to see the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading" used as "green-washed bandwagon" terms solely for profit — even mentioned in an glossy magazine advertisement of a car. It bothered us to see the terms being used for ideas that no longer reflected the down to earth roots.
The final straw came in an email we received. It was from the owner of a small business who created a product and named his little business with a great sounding title. Guess what? Big corporations thought it was a great sounding title as well and trademarked it and told him, he could no longer use the name he came up with.
In addition, more and more people began to use the term for profit and the public / media started to confuse our project with that of the others. It was a matter of survival — trademarks keep the little people from being overwhelmed.
So, as the popularity of Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading increased and began to label everything from television productions to big agriculture products, we couldn’t shake the warning bells in our minds. The establishment of Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading needed to be protected so we can all move forward as a movement.
But I want to write about my urban homestead — can I not use or refer to "Urban Homesteading" or "Urban Homestead" in my blog?
If you aren’t using it to make money and are simply documenting your life or sharing your information, this would only require that you update your websites and articles to properly cite our works and properly acknowledge if used.
When using these trademarked terms, the proper way to go about it is as follows:
Proper trademark usage should include the proper trademark notice [®], and note in close proximity that the term is a protected trademark of Dervaes Institute or link to the site.
That’s it! If you want to label a for-profit endeavor with the term, we ask that you contact us first.
Thank you in advance for respecting our legally protected intellectual property rights. If you have been supportive of our ten-year online work in the past, we appreciate very much your continued support."
For real. I can’t even believe it. People started to get outraged all over facebook (the thread to which has been since deleted). I made a comment about the situation (which seemed to be spurred because a woman’s facebook page for her business was deleted because of this). I wrote that I felt disappointed about their motivation to protect the term from corporate misuse- anyone that knows what we’re doing will know the difference between the real revolution and one that is trademarked and copyrighted and used for profit. I mean, all this serves to do is to alienate us from each other. This really doesn’t sit right with me- especially because it was said in the thread that they sent a letter to a local library about the use of the term in a workshop they gave on the subject. I mean, how is this protecting us? Furthermore- it’s actually not their intellectual property. I mean, I guess legally it is, but in reality it’s a term to describe a real thing- not a new concept. There are loads of people who have been doing this and using that term long before it was coined by this family. Ugh. I’m just outraged. This is entirely contrary to the spirit of this revolution. For what it’s worth, I highly resent their attempt at sparing us this same drama with a corporation. The corporation would be just as wrong. I honestly don’t care if it’s all legal, it’s still a bunch of bullshit, if you look at the reality. I really hope that they gracefully return to a place that we can all respect. Unfortunately, this was the article they posted on their blog about it after they deleted the spirited thread on FB. It’s a copy of the letter they send out, and it’s not incredibly comforting.
This is why we must focus on sharing our knowledge and our love of the earth. Really sharing. We need to focus not on ourselves, not on what we’re doing and who sees it… we need to focus on real health, real restoration, real connection. This issue I’ve talked about, this issue is just a waste of our time. What about the real issue at hand? What about our precious home, our home that is in severe trouble? We need real food, we need more urban homesteaders, we need more folks who are willing to speak up and say what needs to be said without nit-picking about supposed intellectual property. This about our lives, our future.
Ugh, that’s all I can think to say on the matter. What do you think?