I may be taking just a wee bit too much pleasure in this whole Dervaes trademark fiasco. But then for us the shine wore off their halos some time ago and frankly, a healthy dose of reality might be just what they needed. Never pays to believe your own press, especially when a lot of it is self-generated.
The short story is that the Dervaes of Pasedena have trademarked several phrases including the widely used term Urban Homestead. While people are willing to concede that things like Path to Freedom and Little Homestead in the City are unique to the Dervaes, they most certainly are not willing to give up a phrase that captures the spirit of an entire movement and has been around for decades before the Dervaes started including it in their press releases.
When the family sent out 16 what they insist are not cease and desist letters (that sounded an awful lot like cease and desist letters) the perverbial crap hit the Facebook fan. Their hubris in insisting that they had used the phrase in a 'new and unique way' and therefore were entitled to protect their intellectual property was followed by a hailstorm of criticism and an entire Facebook page dedicated to Taking Back Urban Homesteading.
And here is where I find myself slightly tickled by their plight. There are those of us who for years have been wary of the Dervaes constant self-promotion and marketing but were hesitant to criticize one of the most recognizable faces of the sustainability movement. Now that the floodgates have opened we find ourselves in very good company and able to finally express our misgivings. It seems obvious to us all that the emperor has no clothes….and never did.
Though their website shares their adventures in growing most of their own food, running a household with minimal energy, making biodiesel from used cooking oil, and keeping chickens and goats, it is not the first to do so and it is hardly unique. The main difference as far as I can tell between their website and others is the appalling lack of helpful instruction. They have become so enamored of their image that touting how amazing they are has taken precedence over sharing any kind of meaningful information.
But even I am surprised by how poorly they have handled the fall-out from their initial misstep. Playing the victim, shutting down their Facebook pages and closing comments on their website has only served to make them look surly and childish. They’ve gone so far as to accuse their detractors of harassing and threatening them (without proof). To paint everyone who had a complaint with the same broad stroke is unconscionable. Many who felt they deserved an explanation for their actions were huge supporters of the family and it’s endeavours. Was it fair to lump them all into a mob of unruly, ignorant, thugs? Me thinks thou does protest too much.
If you are truly being abused (seriously?) how about using comment moderation to weed out the nutcases and allow for a civil discussion with your readership. Slamming the door in our faces doesn’t exactly help your cause…and it’s not a good business move. All those nice folks who buy your seeds and donate to your website will likely take their money elsewhere now that they’ve seen how poorly you play with others.
The Urban Homestead community is a big one, and as it turns out an articulate and intelligent one at that. This diverse group of individuals has become a force to be reckoned with because of the Dervaes blunder. What could have divided a community has actually helped to bind it more solidly. The Facebook page Take back Urban Homesteading is close to 4000 likes as I write this. Not since Monsanto did....anything.... has a community rallied behind a cause with such fervor. I think I love these people.