When I started investigation all the allegations about the Dervaes trademarks at Urban Homesteading Trademark Controversy, it was a real eye opener. I had to educate myself on trademark law which was a real challenge. But as I was researching, I kept wondering why there was so much anger about the trademarks. Some of it could have come from the (intentionally?) wrong information put out there to make the Dervaes Institute sound like an irrational beast. As I was researching the various allegations and parties involved, I found out that Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne had a very strange back story with the Dervaes family.
Here is a brief synopsis of what I found out, most of it documented at the above Facebook page:
1. Erik and Kelly’s attorneys said that they had” long known” the Dervaeses (see #24 on EFF Petition to Cancel). Both Erik and Kelly and the Dervaes live in Los Angeles area.
2. Erik and Kelly had used urban homestead and urban homesteading on their blog Survivela.com for the first time around July 2006 when they first started the blog. The Dervaes first use of the terms, according to proof on my Facebook page and the USPTO, was circa 2002.
Please note the July 16 entry on the blog of Erik and Kelly (Survive LA) the Homegrown Revolution Thong pictured here that they were selling using the Dervaes then common law trademark Homegrown Revolution.
Notice these excerpts: Due to a set of circumstances too ridiculous to describe, we’ve got to change the name of our website yet again. We’re dropping the “R” and the overused and no longer meaningful word “Revolution” to become Homegrown Evolution.
[My comment: This sounds like what they said later about changing their name to Root Simple. They never seem to give the real reason.]
Also, notice the comments: [From Reader] I’ve been wondering how you’d resolve the fact that you weren’t the only urban homesteading entity claiming that name. Congratulations on choosing a great new name! [My comment: That reader was probably referring to the title of the Dervaes film Homegrown Revolution which is a federal trademark.]
[Erik’s comment] We’ve discovered that this urban sustainability/green whatever movement is as cut-throat as a used car lot. Some folks are apparently proprietary about things like vegetable gardening and keeping poultry. And, in spite of the fact that it’s in the title of our book, we’ve wanted to jettison the word “homestead” for a while. What we do doesn’t match the dictionary definition and we associate the word with the aesthetics of Little House on the Prairie and Hummel figurines. To be honest, we’re cynical, aging art-damaged types.
My comment: Why would a person use a term he didn’t like? I am sure that all authors of books are “proprietary” about their copyright as are trademarks owners about their marks which represent their particular goods and services. That is the purpose of Intellectual Property. It shows ignorance to say people are “proprietary” about veggie gardening and keeping poultry–no one can “own” the activity or idea under the law.
Continuing on from the blog: A publisher, the bold and creative Process Media, spotted us and asked us to write a book, The Urban Homestead, thus beginning an unexpected course, which has forced us to consider things such as branding and marketing.
HUH???? “branding and marketing” Note: “Branding” means trademarking. By all means, go for it to protect your hard work, i.e., in this day, with the internet, all info should be protected to prevent someone cashing in on someone else’s hard work and popularity which is a form of theft. Trademarks also help prevent confusion in the marketplace.
Perhaps Erik and Kelly or Process Media gave up the idea since many of the Dervaeses’ trademark applications were pending at the time. Here is a video uploaded in 2011 by a branding and marketing company which featured, among others, Erik and his book. The cover of his book was from the first edition in 2008 (cover changed in 2010 in second edition). This coincides with the comment from Erik’s blog regarding how they were considering “branding and marketing” with their launch of the book. Now, they claim they are against trademarks! They should have gotten protection in order to properly market their book.
[UPDATE 2013: “URBAN HOMESTEADER” trademark application at USPTO]
In 2011, Kelly changes her tune about branding. Notice this blog post about their Petition to Cancel the Trademarks: We hope that this petition will prevail for everybody’s sake. It goes without saying that these trademark registrations are ridiculous and hurtful and an insult to the generosity of spirit which is integral to this movement. We help each other–we don’t hold each other back.
Now, branding is “ridiculous and hurtful and an insult to the generosity of spirit which is integral to this movement.”
Why, then, wasn’t it considered as such when they were wanting to brand and market? The truth is: they should have. But, under the law, the Dervaes had prior use of the terms which made the Dervaes senior users of the term.
In an interview Knutzen and Coyne have apparently changed their position from the “branding and marketing” concept to “open source” after the Dervaes Info letter.
I reached out to Knutzen and Coyne who pointed out that this kind of action goes against a key part of the homesteading movement. “Erik and I strongly believe that this movement must be open-source and accessible to all,” says Coyne. “Once upon a time we would have learned homesteading skills at our mother’s knee, but now we have to teach each other, share what we know, and help each other along. Generosity of spirit is an essential characteristic of the ‘modern homesteader’—and I see this spirit everywhere we go.”
We do know why they changed their name to Root Simple as they had gotten the Dervaes Institute Info letter. See this entry:
When I began this blog on a whim one afternoon in 2006, I registered “survivela.com.” Our first publisher, correctly, thought that was too Los Angeles-centric and asked that we make it more universal so that we could expand our readership. Thus began the second painful search for an unused URL, followed by a third painful search due to a comedy of errors too tedious to describe.
In the above interview, it also states:
Knutzen and Coyne recently changed the name of their blog from Homegrown Evolution to Root Simple. They give a smart reason for the shift. “The publishing and blogging world is getting a bit crowded in the ‘urban homesteading’ category,” Coyne says. “It’s time to expand the conversation and explore some new home ec related topics.” Maybe they’re right. This name change came right after they received the Dervaes INFO letter.
5. It appears here that the Dervaes and Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne had issues before the trademark controversy.
6. Erik and Kelly still use the trademark terms of the Dervaes on their book and in their description about their blog at Amazon. See second website reference on “About the Author” to homegrownrevolution.com which belongs to the Dervaes. [Note: Homegrown Revolution is the Dervaes Institute’s federally registered trademark.].
I also showed on my Facebook page how Process Media had an article about the Dervaes as early as 2007 on its blog. Erik and Kelly also had a link on their blog to the Dervaes website Path to Freedom early on but it was removed later. More links to the Dervaes websites in 2006 are found here and here.
Here is an aerial shot of the Dervaes homestead. Now look here at Erik and Kelly’s homestead. (The solar panels belong to their neighbor’s house.) I have not read Erik and Kelly’s book. But from the aerial shot I can better understand why some of the criticism of their book was that it was more of an “idea” book than a “how to” book.” Also, there are not any photos as I understand it from one comment.
The Dervaes pictures are worth a thousand words and obviously they have invested years of hard work into their homestead by actually doing it. There is no comparison between the two homes. Please realize that I am not diminishing anyone’s yard or effort that doesn’t compare with the Dervaes. While it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there is another truism that I found here:
Time and talent are a Copycat’s greatest foes. They haven’t invested in the first, nor have they been given the true gift of the latter.