Ca-Ching!!! Dervaes Cashes in by Owning the Term "Urban Homesteaders"

From The Ineffable Crunchy Chicken:

There's a bit of hub-bub going on on Facebook right now about how the Dervaes family (of Path to Freedom fame) has successfully trademarked the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" and is forcing Facebook to shut down pages that use the term and sending legal notifications to businesses with the term "urban homesteading" in it.

I don't know where this is all going or how much of this is true, but if it is, I'm going to be seriously disappointed in the narrow-mindedness of their actions. I do hope they clarify what they are up to. I can't see how they could possibly take ownership up the concept of urban homesteading since it's a common term.

At the bottom of their website it states:

Path to Freedom, Urban Homestead, Urban Homesteading, Grow the Future, Homegrown Revolution (and trowel/fist logo) are registered® trademarks of Dervaes Institute.

I don't know about you, but this sure doesn't sound like a path to freedom to me but rather a branding of a lifestyle that doesn't belong to them. It's like trademarking "farming".

In the comments, La Crunch has more info about their claims - It turns out that they've trademarked a lot of common terms for what a lot of us are doing. I haven't noticed the most common response being trademarked yet, but they might want to TM "You can kiss my ass" real fast, because hundreds of people seem to think it is precisely the most relevant term. Apparently they sent a cease and desist letter to the Santa Monica *public library* for running an urban homesteading class. Are these people out of their minds?!?!?

So here are the list of terms you should not, under any circumstances use ever again, no matter whether they accurately describe your experience, and no matter that these terms long predate them:


You should definitely not write anything along the lines of "Hey, moral midgets, I piss upon your non-trademarket homegrown revolution, since I've got my own and am happily working on my own path to freedom, and you can kiss my freedom garden and shove it where the solar oven don't heat up."

Consider how this might affect the 35 year old Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in New York City, for example. We definitely want to waste the time of agencies that help the poor with this kind of garbage!

I think the Dervaes family once did a service in the past to a lot of people - their model of the kind of urban food productivity that is possible has been inspiring. This, however, is utter and complete bullshit. And it is destructive bullshit - the thing is we most need people to grow food where most of the people are. If you don't care enough about other people not to undermine that effort, you deserve what you get. If you claim to be getting away from corporate control of our subsistence, and then enact those practices on ordinary people making the same attempt, you deserve the price you will pay for this when someone notices your sleazy behavior.

If you are on facebook, you can join the group "Take Back Urban Homesteading" and throw up a banner claiming the term. I personally will be removing all Dervaes links from my own work - too many good people and great sites out there to offer even occasional involuntary support to the assholes. Urban subsistence is important. These people aren't.


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Perhaps you should TM urban subsistence BDQ and then say anyone but YKW can use it free of charge.

Yes, that's exactly the way to grow the cause and get more people to do what's necessary -- sending cease and desist letters to everyone who is trying to do what they do and spread the word as well. Way to shoot themselves in the foot there! Meanwhile, me and my 'city farm' will continue doing what we're doing. They claim they did it to prevent people from using it to 'greenwash' their businesses, but those aren't exactly the people they've gone after first, it seems.

It would be interesting to know how many links to their site have been deleted in the last day. I'm guessing many.

They posted on their blog that the whole thing isn't true.

It's a hoax some mean-spirited person came up with (or someone who likes bad jokes).

Darn! From looking at the blog today (what I read was me GReader feed yesterday), it's rather muddy.



I read on their blog about what they wrote and it seems there is a bunch of mean spirited not educated people out there. Someone has set up a nasty campaign sad thing is mud sticks, nasty mean people probably upset as they did not think of it themselves.

Many things are trademarked Gaia, gardener you name it most things have been under common law trademarks.

It is a business name and many people can trademark things.…

It is true that lots of things that shouldn't be trademarked, are (someone once sent me a "cease and desist letter" for using the term "victory farmer" - to which I suggested a direction for insertion of their letter and the suggestion they should sue me and enjoy the consequent publicity - never heard from them again.

That's a fairly dumb argument in favor of the Dervaes' actions. And no, they didn't make it up - there's a copy of the cease and desist letter they sent out. Which is why this is a bigger deal - because they are trying to enforce.


It is true that lots of things that shouldn't be trademarked, are (someone once sent me a "cease and desist letter" for using the term "victory farmer" - to which I suggested a direction for insertion of their letter and the suggestion they should sue me and enjoy the consequent publicity - never heard from them again.

That's a fairly dumb argument in favor of the Dervaes' actions. And no, they didn't make it up - there's a copy of the cease and desist letter they sent out. Which is why this is a bigger deal - because they are trying to enforce, and have done so on Facebook, and with other organizations that preceeded their use of the term.


Garbage from their sites (ignoring the "we broke down in tears" melodrama - I would imagine the loss of donations and money would do that."

"We have written and authored the online book on urban homesteading for the past 10 years and have reached millions and millions of people worldwide. Of course, urban homesteading is âoldâ but we used it in a new and unique way and that is what is registered.

We are a nonprofit group that has promoted urban homesteading and asked that people use our urban homestead example in their own lives. However, as with most any book and/or publication, and as stated on the bottom of all our websites, the information and content contained on our online book is copyrighted.

We (and anyone else for that matter) do draw the line at the unauthorized use of our logos, pictures, phrases and original ideas (i.e. the 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading), and blatant âcut and pasteâ entire portions of our website for profit and personal gain. You cannot use any information without permission from our website (or any other website) in a book without prior written consent.

These previous (and continuing) plagiarism behavior and total disregard for our urban homesteading work forced us to register trademarks to protect our intellectual property and life work."

Let's consider those claims. 1. They are one of many people who have written the "online book" on urban homesteading over the last 10 years (and 20, 30, 40, 100...) Not the only ones.

2. Their "new and unique" is deeply similar to everyone else's use - ie, growing food and reducing consumption in the city. How unique ;-P.

3. No need to trademark terms in order to copyright your language and your writing - that's totally unrelated to trademarking language. I'm sure they are the *only* people who ever thought of making a list of 10 ideas of urban homesteading.

4. None of this explains why they sent out cease and desist letters to other non-profits attempting to carry out their similar missions. I sense bullshit.

Sorry, Malva, not buying it.


"If your use of one of these phrases is not to specifically identify products or services from the Dervaes Institute, then it would be proper to use generic terms to replace the registered trademark you are using. For example, when discussing general homesteading or other peopleâs projects, they should be referred to using terms such as âmodern homesteading,â âurban sustainability projects,â or similar descriptions."

That's from their letter - apparently it would be "proper" for everyone to mince words so that they don't risk suggest people do urban homesteading. Bullshit!…

Jules says he has asked the children to put their romantic lives on hold 'until we can make a moveâ.

The move they are planning is to a larger piece of land where they can create a community of like-minded people. 'We want a couple of hundred acres and we anticipate a village of 60 families,â Jordanne says. 'We want somewhere with mates and children,â Anais says. 'And we want more bees,â Justin says. This plan isnât a mere fantasy â they have been making offers on properties for the past two years.

Jules, who has been listening to his children talk excitedly about the new venture, says he is considering buying 600 acres 'somewhere in South America, somewhere safe but isolatedâ. The financing of the project, which Jules estimates at several million dollars, will come from the 'villagersâ or future residents, who will each purchase their own individual homestead. The familyâs income is currently about $40,000 (from sales of their produce and items on their websites plus donations to the Dervaes Institute, set up in 2006 to support the Dervaesesâ mission), but not nearly enough to finance a utopian vision.

The best part about this whole fracas is how the Urban Homesteading community has mobilized and come together. My latest post details the twitter & facebook response: universally a circling of the communal wagons.

That whole "it's a lie thing" stems, as far as I can determine, from the fact Crunchy (and maybe others - not blaming La Crunch here at all!) used the term "Cease and desist" on her post - then they posted the "try and find the words "cease and desist" in our letter, it's a lie!!!" post - not realizing a letter can be termed "cease and desist" (which, or course, is the common language for such a letter) without actually having to contain the words "cease and desist".

If this was a case of protecting a commercial trademark against unfair *commercial* practices, I'd be on their side. Instead, it's about not allowing ANYONE to use those terms without referencing (and linking back to) the Dervaes web sites.

Can you say "marketing strategy"?

Actually, can you say "really bad marketing strategy that ends up kicking your ass?"

"Jules, who has been listening to his children talk excitedly about the new venture, says he is considering buying 600 acres 'somewhere in South America, somewhere safe but isolatedâ"

Did anyone else read that, and wonder if Kool-Aid will be among the necessary supplies??? Jules seems to have quite the messiah complex - read his other site (Sword of Joshua) makes me nauseous.

Unbelievable. Spend years carefully building up an image of who they are, and then rapidly destroy it using the same practices they were freeing themselves from in the first place. It's just so bizarre and such a weird lack of insight. Their audience is made up of exactly the kind of people who would not appreciate this behaviour.

I tried to google their site just now and couldn't get on it. I wonder what the backlash has been.

A controversy in which Mr. Dervaes was involved, and references to which are being rapidly purged from his website, is noted in the following (wonder who has disputed its "neutrality"?).

I would not touch that "South American Community" idea with a pole of any length whatever. YMMV.

I checked the USPTO and they have trademarked a boatload of terms. Each trademark will list what goods or services they claim are exclusively theirs to use the trademarked term with.

I hope the formatting stays intact!

Serial Number Reg. Number Word Mark Check Status Live/Dead
4 77574809 3855377 URBAN HOMESTEAD TARR LIVE
6 77668872 3672759 FREE THE SEEDS TARR LIVE
7 77642237 3668885 PATH TO FREEDOM TARR LIVE
11 77554457 3630230 FREEDOM GARDENS TARR LIVE
12 77347399 3649358 TARR LIVE
13 77343450 3504188 PEDDLER'S WAGON TARR LIVE
16 77326567 3559738 GROW THE FUTURE TARR LIVE
18 77326559 3504141 PATH TO FREEDOM TARR LIVE

By Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified) on 17 Feb 2011 #permalink

Maybe they never used the term "cease and desist," but their efforts are clearly available in the us patent office database search for registered/protected trademarks!

And here is their problem, stated by them: "as the popularity of Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading increased and began to label everything from television productions to big agriculture products, we couldn't shake the warning bells in our minds. You tell us... who would you rather own the trademarks? Us or a big business corporation?"

One rule on trademarking is that you can't wait until world+dog is using a term generically before you apply for the trademark. You have to do it real soon or you lose control of it.

If "urban homesteading" had thousands of hits on Google, and some of them are back as far as 1984 (pre-internet book), their ability to shut down usage is slim.

And the interest of "Big Business" would be slim because they know it's not going to be trademarkable, except in certain narrow circumstances.

By Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified) on 17 Feb 2011 #permalink

Sharon, I know you're more familiar with PERMACULTURE® than I am... what's the scoop there? I was told long ago that unless and until I'd paid for their certification, I certainly would not be allowed to use the term. What goes on there?

In a sideways bit of GOOD news, which might also provide some guidance for this situation- the person in the UK responsible for the astonishingly bad idea of selling off public forests to help balance their budget - has apologized.

The entire world kind of joined in with "What an incredibly bad idea!" - and after some weeks of insisting on going ahead with it; they folded, and have withdrawn the suggestion.

Sharon is correct. In their "cease & desist" letter… they are making legal claims that are beyond the purview of established copyright/trademark law. For example, "do not paraphrase or extract portions of images or paragraphs". Do not paraphrase? That's absurd. We can all be accused of doing that without ever having read their writing. A body of writing can be copyrighted but the information per se cannot,or every writer who ever wrote could be sued for paraphrasing someone somewhere.
I don't even believe they actually copyrighted or trademarked the terms URBAN HOMESTEAD, URBAN HOMESTEADING, PATH TO FREEDOM, or HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION because they have long been everyday terms in common use millions of times (the other terms, possibly). We should all use those four terms at every opportunity and notify them of it. Give their poor lawyer some job security. Hey lawyer, sue me first!
I'm a cutting edge market grower but I'd be ashamed to claim any ideas as original (as they do), much less beg for money (as they do). Shameful. Hey, I'd like donations to pay our doctor bills!

By herb farmer (not verified) on 17 Feb 2011 #permalink

I seem to remember that in the State of the Union Address just last month, the President used the phrase GROW THE FUTURE several times. I wonder if he got a letter from them as well. THAT could be a fun battle to watch...

Hey, awesome. They ought to trademark as well the phrase "how to shoot self in foot."

I left them a message. For others wanting to drop a few words, their address is info(at)


I will add this - I don't agree with Dervaes' faith and I think it sounds like he's a little weird, but for me, the central issue is not his religious beliefs or his utopian dreams. Heck, I have a few of those myself I'd love to be able to fund - not in south America, but if I could buy enough land to help young farmers get long term leases, I'd do it in a heartbeat. So I prefer to stay on the less personal end of this.


Regarding the copyright of permaculture, it's not on the name, but on the teaching system. You can use the name and of course practice it all you want, but you're not supposed to teach it (especially using Mollison's book) without being a certified permaculture instructor. It's nothing like what the Dervaes are doing.

Agreed that we should focus on the trademarking and the impact that has and steer away from personal insults towards that family. To be honest, I almost went there in my first comment - it is so easy to let one issue lead me to thinking about every thing that has ever bugged me them. But then of course that dilutes the argument against what is really bugging me - the abuse of trademarking.

Surprised to see that their website doesn't spell out URBAN HOMESTEAD® with the little ® inserted everywhere...

So they want to trademark the terms Urban Homestead and then totally separate themselves from urban areas? On one of their little websites, can't recall the name, you don't really "qualify" as a member unless your land is under a certain size. There is this huge emphasis on urban and how they define it. What is the point of trying to own these terms and do something else instead?

Also these "kids" are in their late 20's and early 30's and their father is "asking" them to put romance on hold for an indefinite period of time till they get land? Does anyone know where their mother is? I've wondered before and could never get any information. I'll have to check out the Sword of Joshua site if I can find it because I always thought I could smell some Protestant Patriarchy in there.

Why does the movie, "Mosquito Coast" ring a bell?

They deny that they have issued the cease-and-desist lawsuits and say that it's a hoax.

Stop the Hoax!

Not in Our Name
To who it may concern.
There are accounts that bloggers are receiving âstop or pay upâ letters regarding the trademarks. This is a hoax and the demand is not being made by us.
Tweet this! Dervaes Family Has Done no Harm. Seek truth, blogging is not reporting. Stop being a victim of Rumor Mill.

Also on Twitter:
Not in our name! Recent "pay up & stop" letters are not, we repeat NOT, from us. Stop spreading lies. about 1 hour ago via web

Certainly a mean-spirited and elaborate trick, if that's what it is.

I live just a few blocks from the Dervaes family. I admire what they have done, in terms of urban agriculture and a sustainable lifestyle. That said, I don't think that they think of their endeavors in the same way that many of the rest of us do in terms of building community. I am active in the urban farming community here in Pasadena/Altadena and it has been quite clear that the Dervaes family - who clearly has a great deal of valuable experience to potentially share - is only willing to do so when on their "turf". They don't attend the local farmer's markets, produce exchanges, blogger meetups, agriculture symposiums, etc. They don't answer email with any specifics. All of their events require a donation. This trademarking issue appears to me to be, sadly, just par for the course for their "strategy". I can't say I understand it and I hope that perhaps they will see the error of their ways and participate in building community and exchanging ideas, rather than trying to be the self-appointed leaders of one.

The letters sent out is not from the family it is clearly stated on their blogs as being fake. This is a separate issue to the trademark and I am sure people are able to sort this out correctly without starting more gossip and hateful rumors.

Stop the Hoax!

Not in Our Name
To who it may concern.
There are accounts that bloggers are receiving âstop or pay upâ letters regarding the trademarks. This is a hoax and the demand is not being made by us.
Tweet this! Dervaes Family Has Done no Harm. Seek truth, blogging is not reporting. Stop being a victim of Rumor Mill."

It is available on their blog. If this is not true then take legal action instead of spreading gossip and rumors. No need for any type of hater in this world or targeting people.

Clare, it's pretty clear - based on what they posted on their own website - that they sent out, or had sent out on their behalf, letters which asserted legal rights to the terms Urban Homestead and Urban Homesteading. It's clear from other sources that they asserted these same rights to Facebook, which then took action to shut down pages belonging to other urban homesteaders. It's also clear from other sources that a public library received a similar letter. It's completely immaterial whether or not those letters contained the words "cease and desist" or "stop or pay." The fact is that the Dervaes family is acting exactly like the corporations they claim to oppose, in privatizing part of the commons, and then taking action to protect their newly awarded legal rights by going after other people who have every moral right to use the terms. If it's a hoax, then the Dervaes family should just come out and say that the letters they posted on their own site were fakes, that they never asserted any rights to Facebook, and that they will never try to assert any rights over these terms, other than in the case of evil corporations. Let them disavow those things, and then maybe they'll get a hearing among the community they've alienated.

It's pretty clear to me that the Dervaeses are seizing on specific phrases that they can truthfully claim not to have used, while ignoring the larger issue. They also whine that no one verified with them what had actually happened, and yet they systematically shut down all avenues of communication. I posted a polite message about this on their Freedom Gardens website which was never answered. The site has been shut down for "database upgrades" for two days now. People did ask, the Dervaeses just didn't listen or answer. Now they cling to the claim that only a few people are upset about what they've done. That might have been arguable in the first 12 hours. It's a mighty big stretch at this point.

I think Kate's got it exactly - the reality is a cease and desist letter doesn't have to have the words "cease and desist" in it. Claiming that it would be "proper" for a library or a 35 year old organization to stop using a term they have trademarked is just plain inappropriate.

I will add this - I don't agree with Dervaes' faith and I think it sounds like he's a little weird, but for me, the central issue is not his religious beliefs or his utopian dreams. Heck, I have a few of those myself I'd love to be able to fund - not in south America, but if I could buy enough land to help young farmers get long term leases, I'd do it in a heartbeat. So I prefer to stay on the less personal end of this.

I understand that, and as tempting as it is, I'll avoid the low-hanging fruit. However: the important part of Dervaes' message (to me, anyway) has been that it's possible to live - and thrive - sustainably in a heavily urbanized area; that such a lifestyle is compatible with access to schools and hospitals and public utilities and being able to walk to work and all the other reasons people want to live in urban areas. If their long term goal is really to escape the city and seal themselves off from society, that bothers me for a lot of reasons.

That being said (from the article):

As the Dervaeses and their animals enjoy robust good health, they have little need of vets or doctors â just as well, since the family avoids vaccines and medical drugs, believing they do more harm than good. The Dervaes children have no dental fillings and if they get sick they 'tough it outâ with a homebrew of Swedish bitters prepared by Anais.

If they don't vaccinate, we're all probably better off if they move somewhere less heavily populated. :P

By mad the swine (not verified) on 18 Feb 2011 #permalink

And maybe getting myself a little closer to on-topic: I like 'urban homesteading' as a general idea, for lots of reasons, but the Dervaes' website always bothered me. Too slick, too professional, a vague 'hard-sell' feeling; it seemed to me like their 'sustainable' lifestyle was really supported by advertising itself to other people, and the actual farming was part of the image they were marketing.

(It's like those ebay guides: 'Learn how to make $500 a day, working from home!' The guide 'teaches' you how to sell 'Learn how to make $500 a day' guides online.)

So thinking on it, I'm not really surprised at the trademarking and the cease-and-desisting; they've seemed to me to be more like an agent pushing a celebrity model than an advocate group supporting a community.

By mad the swine (not verified) on 18 Feb 2011 #permalink

@MM - The mother's name is Mignon Rubio and she has a page on Facebook. She lists herself as "Assistant" to her ex-husband, and it seems like she lives close. I read a really mind-boggling letter on The Hidden Years site from her where she said "I had squandered, and then eventually, lost my position as his wife" - apparently because she wasn't submissive enough. The only official mention I've seen about her was that Jules said after the divorce he wanted the kids and she didn't argue. There's also a son named Jeremy who left the family in 2004 "for personal reasons" and he's never mentioned - Jules is always listed as having "three children".

There are many layers of weirdness going on.

Let's copyright "darvaes" and make 'em pay us a million bucks to use it. Are we all that sure they're not some branch of the Bush family?

By Alex Carter (not verified) on 20 Feb 2011 #permalink

So Google has 443,000 hits on "urban homesteading." I think these Dervais folks may have some real fights on their hands. Somebody with cajones will take them down financially, I'm sure.

By MissMercy (not verified) on 23 Feb 2011 #permalink

Since many people have a question about Dervaes rights on the generic phrase "urban homesteading" I decided to place summary of information on the trademark like Dervaes have to let everybody know that Dervaes have no rights to send request like they do and shut down Facebook pages.
Urban Homesteading trademark was registered in Supplemental Register. It means that it is merely descriptive.
Descriptive marks (or more properly, "merely descriptive marks") are devices which merely describe the services or goods on which the mark is used. If a device is merely descriptive, it is not a mark at all, since it does not serve to identify the source of the goods or services. No trademark rights are granted to merely descriptive marks. No secondary meaning was developed by Dervaes to make it a protectable trademark. Most of people believe and there is sufficient proof in the internet that Urban Homesteading is generic phrase and therefore is incapable of functioning as a trademark
The benefits that apply to Supplemental Registrations are:
1)the mark will appear in trademark searches, and that the registrant is given the right to use the ® symbol in connection with the mark.
2)In addition, having a mark registered on the Supplemental register will assist in achieving registration of the mark in certain foreign countries.
3)Finally, Supplement Registrations can be used to help prove exclusive use of a mark for a five year period, which is one of the ways in which secondary meaning may be proved to the U.S.P.T.O.
Even if no opposition is filed, and the application becomes registered, it is still possible for a third-party to object to the registration of a particular mark. This objection is usually made through a cancellation proceeding, which is similar to an opposition proceeding except that it takes place after registration.
You can find more information on:

Dervaes lies that they don't harm anybody - farmers of our Denver Urban Homesteading market are still harmed because Dervaes shut down our Facebook page the only way of communication of small local farmers who doesn't have their own website. We must cansel urban homesteading trademark - let's do it together.