Hexemaus Farms

Adventures in Homesteading

Hexemaus Farms - Adventures in Homesteading

The Most Embarrassing Family in Homesteading History

Imagine my surprise yesterday, when a fellow writer brought it to my attention that some self-rightious family in Pasadena has trademarked the terms “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading!”

What?? Are you serious? How can you trademark a lifestyle term? That’s like trying to trademark terms like “running water” or “urban sprawl.”

So, I did some digging, like dozens of other bloggers yesterday. Yup, these people registered trademarks for “urban homestead” in Sept. 2008, and “urban homesteading” in Nov. 2007.

How do you trademark a phrase that has been in use, in local, regional, and national publications since the mid 1970s that I know of? Mother Earth News talked about urban homesteading in 1976! The Rotarian talked about examples of an urban homestead in 1978! (Thanks to the folks who commented on other blogs and articles…ya’ll helped me find the references I needed!) Where do these people get off trying to convince the world they are the “original modern urban homestead?”

Yeah, so the Dervaes family are owners of the Dervaes Institute, and trademark holders of terms like urban homestead, urban homesteading, and get this…Freedom Gardens!?! (Really, they now own the trademark to something started during World War II? I’m sure the guys who fought and died for American freedom, whose wives, mothers, sisters, and sweethearts were over here planting freedom gardens would be real proud.) Yeah. They’re definitely a shoe-in for the Absolute Most Embarrassing Homesteading Family on the Planet! Shame, shame, shame on you Dervaes!

This is an organization that was not formed until 2006? (The Derveas Institute was, according to the Derveas family, formed in 2006.) But they’re the “original” urban homestead? Um, I don’t think so. These folks were still in diapers when the ORIGINAL urban homesteads began.

The outrage over the selfishness of trying such a greedy move isn’t so much over the words themselves, but the way in which the family has taken to expecting anyone using the terms to cite THEM and THEIR works as the source.

The source of what? The single biggest example of grass roots corporate-style GREED and getting too damn big for your own britches I’ve seen in years?

Here’s the “family’s” own words regarding using the terms urban homestead and urban homesteading:

Please find the “cease & desist”  phrase in this normal, professional and informative letter.   It’s a false, made up claim that people are jumping over themselves to make us look bad.

Jules Dervaes, Presiding Officer
631 Cypress Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 795-8400

To Whom It May Concern:

This notice is to inform you of important matters regarding the published works and/or brand names of Jules Dervaes and Dervaes Institute. We are extremely supportive of members of our online communities; fans of our websites, writings and photographs; and others who help to spread information regarding sustainable living. However, we must also guard against the unauthorized use or exploitation of our intellectual property for commercial gain. From the beginning, our work published online and in other media has been copyrighted and trademarked. We have now secured registered trademarks for certain unique names and images. By protecting our intellectual property we are better able to ensure that our work is presented accurately and contributes to our sustainable living projects and educational initiatives.

As you may know, the Dervaes family has been practicing sustainable living in Pasadena, Calif., since 1985. Our work has been documented and shared online at www.urbanhomestead.org and other websites since 2001, receiving national and international media attention. Additionally, we produced an award-winning short documentary film about our project, called Homegrown Revolution, which has been featured at film festivals around the world and on Oprah’s 2009 Earth Day television special. Over the last 25 years, our family has created a wealth of intellectual property in the field of sustainable living. Through the Dervaes Institute, we have been committed to freely educating others about the practices and benefits of self-sufficiency.

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 websites and articles 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.

When using Dervaes materials, the proper way to go about it is as follows:

  • Only use a small sample of our work in any single instance;
  • Copy the portion used in its entirety – do not paraphrase or extract portions of images or paragraphs;
  • Make it clear – by using quotation marks or different font size or color – that the Dervaes materials referenced are from another source;
  • Include a prominent link or reference to the original source of the content used on a Dervaes website.

In addition, Dervaes Institute owns numerous trademarks which should be properly acknowledged if used. These protected names and images include the following registered trademarks:

  • Also, THE TEN ELEMENTS OF URBAN HOMSTEADING copyright has been filed with the Library of Congress.

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 people’s projects, they should be referred to using terms such as ‘modern homesteading,’ ‘urban sustainability projects,’ or similar descriptions.

When using a phrase listed above to refer to the work of the Dervaes Institute, proper trademark usage should include the proper trademark notice [®], use the protected phrase in all capital letters, and note in close proximity that the term is a protected trademark of Dervaes Institute.

Thank you in advance for respecting our legally protected intellectual property rights. If you have been supportive of our ten-year online work in the past, we appreciate very much your continued support.

If you have any questions regarding the use of Dervaes materials or trademarks, please contact us at (626) 795-8400. We would be glad to provide you with more details.


Jules Dervaes
Dervaes Institute

Here are just a few of the blog posts and news stories written in the last day or so since the issue exploded:




You can follow the #urbanhomestead hashtag on Twitter and you’ll see even more outrage.

There’s now even a Take Back Urban Homesteading page on Facebook. They’ve got a cool little graphic for my city-dwelling, urban homestead enthusiast friends, free to share amongst the urban homesteader community.

Anyone who knows me, who knows I’m a professional writer, knows I have the utmost respect for intellectual property rights – copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc. I don’t even like to use free images without letting the photographer know and giving credit. It’s a professional integrity thing.

But these folks? This is nothing but flat out, unadulterated greed.

These are some the quotes from the Devreas family’s website. (I’m not linking to anything they have online…they ain’t getting none of my link juice, thank you very much!)

If you aren’t using it to make money and are simply documenting your life or sharing your information, this would only require that you update  your websites and articles to properly cite our works and properly acknowledge if used. 

When using these trademarked terms, the proper way to go about it is as follows:

Proper trademark usage should include the proper trademark notice [®],  and note in close proximity that the term is a protected trademark of Dervaes Institute or link to the site.



That’s it!  If you want to label a for-profit endeavor with the term, we ask that you contact us first. 

Thank you in advance for respecting our legally protected intellectual  property rights. If you have been supportive of our ten-year online work in  the past, we appreciate very much your continued support.

If you have any questions regarding the use of Dervaes materials or trademarks, please contact us at (626) 795-8400. We would be glad to provide you with more details.

So, let me get this straight…if I want to use the terms urban homestead or urban homesteading, I have to cite these people, tell the world it’s their trademark, and/or link to their site?

Yeah. Right. Like that’s going to happen. NOT!!

I got news for them…I will use the terms urban homestead and urban homesteading any doggone time I feel like it, just like everyone has since the movement first began decades and decades ago. I will NOT cite any greedy little gooberhead who thinks they own the words or concept, nor give them credit for a darn thing. You cannot…I repeat CANNOT trademark a lifestyle!!!

Sue me! I dare ya! Sue me, please! I really, really want you to sue me. Send me cease and desist letters. I’d love to get you folks in front of a judge and see what he or she has to say about this trademark nonsense! 

Geez. The whole thing just goes against everything homesteading (urban or rural) stands for in the eyes of so many, for so many years. I’m tempted to rename my blog Urban Homesteading for Urban Homestead Owners, even though we’re out in the country. Their arrogance just steams me that much!

How dare they?!? They give us all a bad name with this kind of behavior. They even had the nerve to post this as part of their explanation for why they trademarked the terms:

You tell us. . . . Who would you rather own the trademarks? Us or a big business corporation?

They’ve since taken that little statement out of their site copy. Guess they didn’t like so many folks telling them what they thought about the whole sordid mess.

  • sandijohnson1 says:

    New at Hexemaus Farms The Most Embarrassing Family in Homesteading History http://hexemausfarms.com/the-most-embarr

    February 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm
  • Regina says:

    They are just full of it and trying to get something for nothing.

    February 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm
    • sandi
      Twitter: sandijohnson1

      They’ve been all over, hammin’ it up about working so hard for the last 10 years, blah, blah, blah.

      I guess the rest of us homesteaders are just sittin’ out back, sippin’ lemonade.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm
  • meg- grow & resist says:

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful post! I’m so happy to see others writing about it and see the collective outrage at the ridiculousness of their scheme. I’ve been disgusted by this since I first heard about it and keeping up on twitter/facebook. Now I am seeing what fellow bloggers are saying. Nice!

    February 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm
  • Johnny says:

    i’m kind of back and forth on this. I don’t like the sensationalism that is being spread as a result of this. i don’t agree with them trademarking these terms. It goes completely against the idea of spreading their ideals. I noticed that they copyright everything on their website, which is fine, but a creative commons license would be more in line with the culture of sharing they purport to foster.

    But, the fact of the matter is they do own the trademarks and they did nothing wrong by informing others about their ownership. Whether or not they should own them is a different matter.

    I’m disappointed because the Dervaes’s homestead is an amazing and inspiring feat that anyone living in an urban or rural environment should aspire to. It’s a shame that this misguided decision is diminishing their other significant contributions to this movement.

    February 19, 2011 at 12:34 am
    • Cat says:

      I completely agree with the back and forth of your thoughts.

      They were my bench mark for a small urban homestead. I have tried to emulate their self reliance. Now this? It diminishes their work so that we foolishly dismiss the wonderful accomplishments because of a trademark battle which yes I agree should not trademarkable (is that a word??) And it diminishes the work of the people who came before them.
      Cat recently posted..4-15-11 Foodland

      April 18, 2011 at 2:26 am
  • spinningkat says:

    I agree with your blog 100%. I have dealt with these issues and I would like to add 2 points. Under copyright laws-in order to prosecute someone for using your “intellectual property” you have to prove that the defendant had not used it prior to the copyright date and would have reasonable knowledge that of ownership by said company. Common use terms like “urban homesteading” and let us add “community supported agriculture” would be very difficult to protect and expensive.
    My second point is that companies who go after fellow farmers/homesteaders -a noble profession are predatory and goes against the community spirit of homesteading and farming and I for one would not want to be their customer.

    February 19, 2011 at 12:17 pm
  • Linda McCleary says:

    I am applying for a patent for the moustache. Yes, I know facial hair is a natural phenomenon, but the artistic fashioning of it is a creation of the human mind. I am also going to copyright the word “moustache”. That way anything sold in connection with moustaches will have to pay me a royalty, or use other terms. What do we learn from this kind of nonesense?

    That non-profit/not-for-profit corporation is an oxymoron.

    That Corporate Capitalism is the New Communism.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm
  • FLFarmer says:

    Actually, Johnny, they did do something wrong, as their trademark was granted in the supplemental record, not primary. They have no business going around telling (for instance) a library in Santa Monica that they can’t teach classes in urban homesteading, or telling Facebook to take down the Denver Urban Homesteading page (which Facebook did). Their actions, as a whole, are wrong in attempting to enforce this. It’s also hugely ironic that they whined about “plagiarism” (since it seems they couldn’t distinguish between trademarks and copyrights) in a blog post that itself is plagiarized in its entirety from another site, while being caught copying – without attribution – from yet another site on their freedom gardens about page.

    Like others, I categorically refuse to insert trademark symbols or cite them for anything other than being money grubbing hypocrites.
    FLFarmer recently posted..Irony and hypocrisy- thy name is Dervaes

    March 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm

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