Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Drama of Homesteading

posted by Melissa Baumgart
growing my own food.
When I first picked this topic, Urban Homesteading, for one of our months, I didn't know much about what it would entail.  I knew it meant to be more self-reliant, but I didn't really have a detailed picture of all the things I could do to make that happen, living in an apartment in the city.  So, I went to my trusty computer and Googled "Urban Homesteading."

The first thing that comes up is a link, Urban Homestead ® - Path to Freedom.  When I was researching the idea, there wasn't that little ® after the words Urban Homestead.  I looked through their website and found their list of 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading.  Their list follows:

  1. Grow your own FOOD on your city lot.
  2. Use alternative ENERGY sources.
  3. Use alternative FUELS & TRANSPORTATION.
  4. Keep farm ANIMALS for manure and food.
  5. Practice WASTE REDUCTION.
  6. Reclaim GREYWATER and collect RAINWATER.
  7. Live SIMPLY.
  8. Do the work YOURSELF.
  9. Work at HOME.
  10. Be a good NEIGHBOR.
I thought that it seemed like a great place to start.  Most of them I could work towards, and some I knew would be out of reach, like keeping animals.  My plan was to check back in with the website as it got closer to Urban Homesteading month.  But before that happened that little ® showed up.  I first head about it through a Facebook page called "Take Back Urban Homesteading."  

It turns out that the Dervaes family, the one that owns the website and I mentioned earlier, Urban Homestead® - Path to Freedom, decided in 2010 to trademark the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading."  Then in February of this year, they wrote letters to bloggers, authors and other organizations using those terms requesting they stop doing so without permission or attribution.

The Take Back Urban Homesteading Facebook page arose as a way to gather forces and keep people who are against this kind of trademarking informed on what is happening.  There have been petitions filed by at least three groups requesting that the trademark be canceled.  

Now I don't feel so great about the website I once thought was so cute and inspiring.  I don't know why they decided to trademark these terms, it seems I can't find any interviews with the Dervaes family since the controversy occurred.  Perhaps their lawyers say it is ill advised to speak about it publicly.  It seems odd to me to think of this urban homestead with lawyers advising them on trademark rights and issues.  

If they truly are into simple living and being good neighbors, then what does it matter if other people use the term urban homesteading?  Why do they care?  Unless they have something to gain?  

What are your thoughts on the topic?  Am I missing something here?  Are they more innocent than the people against them say they are?  I mean, as the Dervaes family says on their website (and yes, this is a direct quote, I am giving attribution, please don't sue me):

"Please note that this is a noncommercial, family-operated venture.  We're not a huge organization nor are we backed by one.  It's just us four with a desire to make our world better.   This website is written, created, developed and run by the Dervaes "kids" because -- let's face it -- Dad (Jules Dervaes) is a luddite at heart and hates computers. 

We devote countless hours to this site, and, despite the opportunity for profit, we remain committed to keeping it an advertisement-free forum. We do this because we believe in giving freely to others, a value upon which strong, healthy communities are built. We hope you will take this principle to heart, and will view this site not just as a place to “take” (answers, ideas, inspiration), but as an opportunity to “give” as well. Whatever you may gain by reading about our journey, please remember to “pay it forward” to others in some fashion."
But maybe these other people just started homesteading all on their own, with the help of the Dervaes family or their website.  Don't they deserve to use these words too?  The book titled The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Eric Knutzen was published in 2008, three years before their trademark.  Why did they get a letter asking them to stop using that term?  

If I could trademark a term, would I?  Should I see if "Good Luck With That!" is trademarked by anyone?  And then could I get a little something every time I heard someone using it?  

"Oh no you didn't!  Those words are mine!  Pay up or give me attribution."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's crazy. Are they actively suing(did I spell that right?) people? Sounds likes they are hypocrites. Weird.