Feb 18, 2011

We are all urban homesteaders now

The Dervaes family has garnered a good deal of favorable press for their family farm in Northwest Pasadena. But in 2006, the family farm, and its sustainable-living model, became The Dervaes Institute, and the "presiding officer," father Jules Dervaes, got trademark happy. Now the family is garnering bad press for the legal threat letters sent to anyone who uses "urban homestead" or "urban homesteading" without adding a registered trademark symbol - the circled R - and acknowledging the phrases are the institute's intellectual property.

Which is a bizarre tactic for a non-profit that wants good attention. Nevertheless, the institute has sent out 16 such letters, according to its own press release. Here's a key paragraphs from the letter sent to KCRW's Evan Kleiman, host of Good Food:
We realize that your use of Dervaes published words and/or trademarks may have been inadvertent. We are generally able to resolve any such uses without involving our legal counsel. This would require that you update your ____[webpage]____ to properly cite our works. For example, the writings of Jules Dervaes about sustainable living are original protected works in which Dervaes owns exclusive rights. Content from the Dervaes websites, including text and photographs, are also protected works.
To threaten a public radio show - a fellow nonprofit - for using the term "urban homestead" in a blog post promoting a free event seems, frankly, dumb (Good Food did comply and deleted the phrase). Dervaes has argued that these aren't cease and desist letters, but mentioning the possibility of legal action makes them so.

Of course, a Facebook page has sprung up to protest the attempt at word control.

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