Urban farming family who trademarked "Urban Homesteading" accused of plagiarism

Remember the Dervaeses, the family from Pasadena, CA who decided to trademark "Urban Homestead," a term that has been in common use for decades? Well, a fellow by the name of Michael Nolan (co-author of a book called I Garden: Urban Style) says the Dervaes Family has been plagiarizing material from his website.
Under ordinary circumstances I might have chosen to contact the Dervaes Family and quietly attempt to settle the matter but given their penchant for threatening letters and frivolous trademark registrations as well as their reputation for being terribly difficult to deal with directly, I made the decision to bring this problem to the public so that everyone might see just what this family will do when they think no one is watching.

The evidence is pretty damning!

Bonus: Here's an interesting tid bit for people who like to catch hypocrites and for people who enjoy being apologists for hypocrites: a member of the Dervaes family recently wrote a schoolmarmish post about the naughtiness of plagiarism.

Michael Nolan: How the Dervaes Family Stole My Victory Garden ((Submitterated by badger510)


    1. That Twitter account also hasn’t been updated since February 18th. Radio silence since then.

    2. One of the things that’s going on is they don’t seem to be working with lawyers. They filed the copyright with a robo-lawyer and are sending the letters themselves. So because they haven’t used the words “takedown” or “cease and desist” they deny that’s what they’ve done. Also, noone accused them of suing bloggers (pursuing them for money) but their actions to protect their trademarks have materially injured others working on the same kinds of projects — for example Denver Urban Homesteading lost its Facebook page and the 2000+ contacts they had there.

  1. Instead of going public wouldn’t a DMCA take down notice have a swifter result?

    (slightly off topic, I think this is day 8 of godhatesfags.com being offline)

  2. It’s funny because the content of that plagiarism post is copied verbatim from http://www.plagiarism.org/plag_article_what_is_plagiarism.html. According to a commenter on Nolan’s site, they only recently added an attribution: “Edited March 4, 2011: We appreciate that the inadvertent omission of proper quotation punctuation and source citation has been called to our attention so that we had the opportunity to rectify this oversight.” This message no longer appears on the site, but there is now a link to the original source at plagiarism.org.

  3. Are the Dervaes Institute and Cooks Source Magazine owned by the same parent company?

  4. Wrong, wrong, and wrong, bobster.

    1. No other blog uses “boing boing” as its title, and we have not gone after the businesses that call itself Boing Boing (e.g., a kid clothes store and a design company, both of which started after Boing Boing was founded in 1988). Your “100% certainty” is 100% dead wrong.

    2. We link to the URLS of the webpages we are writing about. The excerpts are from the websites we are linking to. You are the first person out of millions of readers to have expressed confusion about the way we attribute our excerpts. I’m sorry if it confuses you, but you are wrong.

    3. Why would I delete this post? For the third time bobster, you are wrong.

    4. Deleting a post on Boing Boing has nothing to do with the first amendment. If Boing Boing did a DDOS attack on *your* blog, you might have a point. But we didn’t, and you are wrong again.

    All four of your claims were wrong. I got really bored replying to you. Next time, at least try to be funny.

    1. Since that’s sock puppet number 12 or so, all next times (as well as all this times and all last times) will be mopped up and flushed.

  5. bobster, how could it be more clear that the material quoted on this site is quoted? The grey quotation marks are huge, the block quotes are indented, and the background of the entire quote is a different color from that of the surrounding text. What exactly are you advocating here? A huge blinking banner that says “WARNING: QUOTE COMING UP”? MLA-style citations for every linked source?

  6. “And it’s pretty bush league to pick on the Urban Homesteaders. I’m sure you shop at Urban Outfitters and everyone at BoingBoing would be happy to have Urban Outfitters
    stock your books. I’m pretty sure I saw a copy of Cory’s book there a few years ago. Why don’t you pick on them too?”

    Have you not been following this at all? You are either ignorant or a troll. If you are ignorant read the other posts about this. If you are a troll, try harder.

  7. Could you please use either bobster or FrankWatson as your handle? We don’t allow sockpuppeting on Boing Boing. That will get you banned.

    “Can I start up boingboingmusic.com and you’ll be cool with it?” If you try to capitalize on what Boing Boing has done, no. If it is a different kind of business and there is no confusion, then how could I stop you?

    This is a very different situation from what the Dervaes did. Since you have been following and are a trademark lawyer, then tell me what you think of the Dervaes trying to stop the sale of The Urban Homestead, a book that came out before the Dervaes registered “Urban Homestead.”

  8. I’m guessing that a lot just happened in this comment thread, and I’m going to back away quietly and let Antinous keep wielding the Awesome Mop.

  9. Good riddance, I guess.
    But this thread is useless without boobsters trolling.
    The sock puppet smackdown could have been an entertaining read?

    Robert Dervaes seems to be a not uncommon name.

    Non-pastoral homesteading. Over half the worlds population lives urban.

  10. The remains of a trolled thread make for strange reading. Was this bobster one of the Dervaes or just some random fool?

    1. More like a recurring fool, a troll and sock puppet who pops up on any post about plagiarism to accuse BB of the same.

  11. If you’re as familiar with trademark law as you claim to be, you’d understand that there are four potential categories of trademarks, see A.J. Canfield Co v Honickman, 808 F2d 291, 296 (3d Cir 1986):

    1. Fanciful and arbitrary terms. These include made up words like Kodak, Kleenex, Xerox, and Reebok, as well as words or names in common linguistic use which, when used in connection with goods or services, do not describe those goods or services—think Apple Computers or Grey Goose Vodka.

    2. Suggestive: marks that suggest something about a product—for example, Business Week, Head & Shoulders, People Magazine, Mr. Clean, Roach Motel.

    3. Descriptive: words that describe the purpose, function, or characteristics of a product—think TV Guide, Vision Center, etc.

    4. Generic: terms that describe an entire product class.

    You would also know that the extent of trademark protection depends on what category you place a mark in. You’d know that generic terms can never serve as trademarks while descriptive marks may be protected if the mark’s primary significance is the producer of the product. And you’d know that if a party does have a trademark on a descriptive mark, this will not prevent other parties from using the mark in their own products so long as they’re using it descriptively. See ET Browne Drug Co v Cococare Products, Inc, 538 F3d 185 (3d Cir 2008). Finally, you’d know that trademark protection is typically very strong for marks characterized as fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive.

    Now, in light of the above, I ask you: what kind of a mark is “Urban Homestead,” as applied to material pertaining to farming in an urban environment? There is at least a strong cases to be made that it is descriptive. And what kind of mark is “BoingBoing,” as applied to a tech/pop culture blog? Because it seems pretty arbitrary to me.

  12. I kind of understand your point, but what about people like me who would never go to USA Today’s site on my own? If I see one of their stories linked on BoingBoing, there is a chance that I will go there and read the entire article. This is a net gain for them. Now if people who would normally read USA Today are using BoingBoing’s summaries of their stories as substitutes, that is a net loss for the newspaper. But I’m very skeptical that these readers outnumber those who go on to read the original article baed on the BoingBoing link. At any rate, there is a real answer to this question, so it is kind of pointless to argue about it based on incomplete information. Someone with access to traffic stats should just tell us: does repeated linking from high traffic aggregation sites seem to correlate with more or fewer page impressions?

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