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“Urban Homesteading” – Should one be able to trademark an activity?

Listen to the show here.

Food Chain Radio Show looks at the subject

Interview with: K. Ruby Blume, Director of the Institute of Urban Homesteading, and Patrick Reilly, Intellectual Property Attorney

A Property Impropriety?
By Michael Olson
Food Chain Radio Show #721
March 26, 2011

City folk have been “urban homesteading” since the early 1980s. But then the Dervaes family trademarked the term, and now no one else may play. This leads us to ask… Should one be able to trademark an activity?

Topics include a look into the activity of urban homesteading; how this activity came to be the intellectual property of a family in Pasadena; and whether this ownership is, or is not, a property impropriety.

Given the chaos and uncertainty of the modern food chain, taking care to feed ones self and family is becoming an ever more popular activity.
Few have been more active in championing urban homesteading than the Dervaese family of Pasadena, California, who have turned their suburban home and grounds into The Path to Freedom Urban Homestead, where they generate income by giving tours, filming, and selling their organic produce.

Many others around the nation have also become urban homesteaders, and some, like K. Ruby Blume, have started their own urban homesteading enterprises, like Ruby’s Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland, California. All was well in the world of urban homesteading, but then…

The Dervaese family trademarked urban homesteading, and went on the attack with cease and desist letters to authors, bloggers, libraries, and website owners who use, carry, display or think of the words urban homesteading.

The Dervaese family’s assault on the urban homesteading community has been met with a counteroffensive of Facebook groups and Twitter missives asking the family to, well, take a hike.

This internecine warfare leads us to ask…

Should one be able to trademark a popular activity?

Listen to the show here.


1 Carol McIntyre { 03.29.11 at 9:00 am }

Get real! This kind of greed and hubris is exactly why folks have turned to home gardens, again! Monopoly perpetrators want to own, control, and exploit and overpower. Did Nature not teach the Dervaese family anything? Who do they think they are? A little respect and humility – not to mention look into history for a reality check – is called for here. Get some perspective!
When gimme overtakes give-back, there’s trouble. Just cuz you can, doesn’t make it right. Duh!
Too bad. The contribution you Dervaese folks could make is undermined by your hubris and greed.

2 Gene L { 03.29.11 at 10:01 am }

It is important that people are able to maintain rights to their intellectual property. The Dervaese family has been moderately successful in promoting the important concept of growing food anywhere. They deserve to be rewarded for their success.

However, personally, I do not think that a registered trademark of a common sounding phrase would be the best way for them to profit from their fame.

They do not need a trademark. They can sell books, tapes, and lectures. And they can sell paid tours of their farm. They can sell their farm products. Those initiatives would be the best way for them to be rewarded for their marketing success.

However, if the government registers their trademark, which I do not think will be possible, then they should be allowed to use it for the purposes that they intended.

Even if they get the registration, it would not stop the progress of those who are promoting the growing of food wherever there is available space in urban areas.

3 Diego R Sanchez { 03.29.11 at 8:28 pm }

Guilty until innocent?! Facebook is sh!t.