OC Weekly: "Dervaes family sends out ridiculous press release claiming they're not trying to shut up urban homesteaders

Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly has been staying on top of the story about the Dervaeses of Pasadena, California, a family of urban farmers who have trademarked the term "Urban Homestead." (See previous post).

A week ago, the Dervaes Institute sent out a number of DCMA takedown notices to Google, Facebook, and other sites notifying them of "Allegedly Infringing Material" -- that is, web pages that use "urban homestead" without indicating it is a licensed trademark of the Dervaes Institute. (Here's a Trademark DMCA Complaint to Google that was posted to Chilling Effects on February 13, 2011.) As a result of these DMCA takedown notices, several Facebook page owners say their pages have been deleted.

Here's what Arellano has to say about a combative press release the Dervaeses issued early this morning to defend their actions:

[The release states:] "In the attempt to maintain the reputation and integrity of the trademarks, Dervaes Institute has privately informed, to date, a total of 16 organizations, publishers and businesses about the proper usage of the registered terms," the press release reads (their underlining, not ours). "No threat was made against anyone's first amendment rights; yet, there has been a heated argument in the media against what should have been the Dervaeses' normal rights to protect their trademarks."

"No threat"? That's why Facebook groups with the terms were taken down? That's why KCRW-FM 89.9 -- a station that knows a bit or two about First Amendment rights -- took down a story advertising a urban homestead lecture at the Santa Monica Library?

What's even more ludicrous, however, is how the Dervaeses then lash out at "bloggers."

"Blogging is often confused with reporting; and there are now cases where people have engaged in a negative blogging campaign aimed at discrediting the Dervaes family," the press release states. "Whereas professional reporters substantiate their news before publishing stories and are careful not to make slanderous statements, bloggers have no editors and often demonstrate little or no interest in supporting their claims with fact. As a result, irresponsible or malicious blogging can cause harm to people and businesses."

I'm sure there will be more news to come. OC Weekly: Dervaes Family Sends Out Ridiculous Press Release Claiming They're Not Trying to Shut Up Urban Homesteaders


  1. Urban Homestead has been used in various variations for decades. Here is one book title of many. “Urban homesteading: a guide for local officials by Urban Systems Research & Engineering”. (Jan 1, 1978)

    I had an S-Corp named Urban Homesteader, Inc., registered in Michigan for most of the 1990’s.

  2. Well, the DMCA takedown procedure (the ‘C’ stands for ‘copyright’) only applies to copyrighted works, not trademarks. So there’s a significant problem right there. The only copyrighted work mentioned appears to be a book or something; I doubt people were posting that online. Let’s see some counter notices, people!

    They also seem to not understand the idea that where a mark is descriptive, the trademark only applies to the mark to the extent that there is secondary meaning. Anyone remains entitled to use the mark in its merely descriptive sense so long as there is no confusion. And in this case, I’d expect any confusion to involve whether or not the mark has secondary meaning to begin with.

    These people could probably use a better lawyer. Trademarks are meant, in part, to protect the goodwill that a business has generated in the minds of consumers from free riders. The aggressive action they’ve been taking will likely result in their either losing the mark or at least losing most of the value to them of the mark, and in losing a lot of that goodwill. (Perhaps their lawyer advised them not to do this, but it smells like runaway legal advice to me)

  3. Ug, they ought to have trademarked “Urbin Hōmsteading (TM)” instead of a perfectly plain & common English phrase.

    1. Ug, they ought to have trademarked “Urbin Hōmsteading (TM)” instead of a perfectly plain & common English phrase.

      No, they should have trademarked “Suburban Homesteading”, because they’re in Pasadena. Pasadena is “urban” like Manhattan is rolling farmland.

  4. Their DMCA seems to be claiming copyright infringement on an amazon search results page. Presumably they did this because this page was coming in the top Google search results for “urban homesteading” as it includes the Coyne and Knutzen book of that title (which predated their trademark registration, by the way.) IANAL, but this is not copyright infringement is it? If anything, it’s trademark infringement, and really, it’s not even that.

  5. Here’s a 1976 Mother Earth News article that uses the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” in relation to the Farallones Institute in Berkeley, with basically the same intent that the Devraes are using the term 35 years later. How did these trademarks ever get granted? The Devraes do not have any sort of arguable claim to exclusive use of these terms.


  6. I’ve followed the Dervaes family’s urban homesteading efforts for years, and this whole situation they’ve caused by sending out letters is ridiculous and seems out of character for them.

    I’d like to believe that they just took some bad legal advice too far, but they seem to be digging in, trashing their hard-earned reputation in the process.

    The big mystery seems to be how they got the trademark on urban homestead and urban homesteading (er, excuse me, URBAN HOMESTEAD(R) and URBAN HOMESTEADING(R)) and the other phrases to begin with.

  7. if it’s on a blog it must be a slanderous lie.

    hopefully the public catches on to this family and they go right outta business.

  8. I guess the Derveas’ would like to get even better aquainted witht the Streisand Effect?

    The internet; you’re doing it wrong.

  9. Maybe the government should issue you a unique tag (UUID) for your trademarked phrase. This metadata would disambiguate your use of the phrase from anyone else’s:
    I like to <a href=”urn:uuid:f81d4fae-7dec-11d0-a765-00a0c91e6bf6″>urban homestead</a> in my lederhosen.

  10. Seriously, there should be an automatic very high penalty for misusing DMCA for shite like this. The fine should be split between the state, the alleged infringer, and any third party hosting site like YouTube that hosts the alleged infringing content.

  11. Sadly, the DMCA and its takedown notices are like black-market nukes. They serve no constructive purpose in anyone’s hands, and in the wrong hands they can do massive amounts of indiscriminate damage.

  12. Dear Dervaes
    I heretofore shall attempt to trademark your personal names, and if you dare to use them for profit or non-profit without crediting me for the brilliancy of trademarking them, you’ll hear from me in a NOT cease-and-desist letter!

    Up yours!

  13. As a result, irresponsible or malicious blogging can cause harm to people and businesses.

    What qualifications differentiate a blog post from a press release, exactly? Might it be possible to release an irresponsible or malicious press release with similar effect. I say yes.

  14. I have decided to trademark the phrase “In God We Trust”. I demand anything that is printed with this phrase be sent to me immediately.

  15. As my counter eco-economic(tm) effort for the cause(tm) I,Anon(tm) make the following pledge.

    I,Anon shall henceforth only use the generic terms Homestead and Homesteading when describing the act of household agriculture and household industrial activity.

    I,Anon shall also refrain from providing internet traffic to any interest which undertakes legal proceedings related to artificial grants of priviledge connected to variations of the terms previously mentioned.

    I,Anon shall make technological efforts to engage in proactive negative sanctions e.g. the googleblock (may nofollow be upon them) against above mentioned interest, direct or indirect.

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