Urban Homesteaders Fight Baseless Legal Claims Over Generic, Descriptive Term
San Francisco - Activists in the urban homesteading movement petitioned today to cancel the registration of bogus trademarks for the terms "urban homesteading" and "urban homestead" -- trademarks that have been used to threaten other urban homesteaders and remove online content and discussion.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has teamed up with the law firm of Winston & Strawn to represent Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, authors of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, as well as their publisher, Process Media. The book, published in 2008, was the culmination of years of participation in the global urban homesteading movement, which supports sustainable living techniques in urban areas. Urban homesteading includes growing food, raising livestock, and producing simple food products.
Despite the fact that "urban homesteading" and "urban homestead" have been used as generic descriptions for decades, a group called the Dervaes Institute managed to register the terms as trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for "educational services" like blogging. Dervaes has used the trademark registrations to claim broad ownership rights and threaten urban homesteaders who use the term online.
"Dervaes got Facebook to take down pages that talk about urban homesteading and help publicize our book, and Facebook won't put those pages back up because of the bogus trademarks," said Ms. Coyne. "This doesn't just hurt our business and our book sales, it hurts the whole urban homesteading community -- a group of people who are dedicated to sharing information about sustainable living."
The Dervaes Institute has submitted similar complaints to Facebook and other online services causing a variety of online content to be taken down, including the Facebook page of a Denver farmer's market.
"For years, the bedrock of the urban homesteading community is the sharing of information -- spreading the word about how to become self-sustaining in food and energy production," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "The Dervaes Institute is trying to shut down this thriving community with its outrageous trademark complaints. The USPTO should cancel the trademark, so urban homesteaders can get back to work free of threats."
"The efforts to control all use of these generic and descriptive terms is a classic example of trademark bullying," said Winston & Strawn Partner Jennifer Golinveaux. "We're glad to help push back against these unreasonable demands."
For the full petition to cancel:
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Jennifer A. Golinveaux
Winston & Strawn LLP