Can the generic term “Urban Homestead” be trademarked? Yes!
But it isn’t always a good idea.
Recently, a family (who shall not be named) TM’ed this generic term along with “Urban Homesteading” and then proceeded to let others know they were infringing on their rights. Facebook was informed of the TM and Facebook responded by taking down any pages that had the terms as part of their page title. Letters were sent to small businesses and organizations explaining what terms might be more appropriate for said business to use as its business name. Google was asked to remove a link to a book entitled “The Urban Homestead,” written by Kelly Coyne before the term was TM’ed.
The family (who shall not be named) has requested that all use of the terms urban homestead and urban homesteading be credited to them. Really? I never heard of this family before Thursday, February 17.
Don’t believe me? How can a part of speech be trademarked, then limited? It’s true. The “not-a-cease-and-desist-letter” can be found here: http://chillingeffects.org/N/58166
More information can be found here: http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/blogs/california-family-leaves-unwanted-mark-on-urban-agricultur
Of course, these events have caused a huge uproar among the many urban homesteaders who quietly live their lives, living the way people have for centuries. Today is “Take Back Urban Homesteading” day. The day when bloggers, urban homesteaders, co-ops, institutes and many more use the term freely and without accreditation.
Other legal actions are pending.
What I see about this type of TM is more insidious than just one family trying to co-op a generic term for financial gain. I see the future incorporation of the English language and the legal limiting of free speech. The family (who shall not be named) explained that they were trying to register the mark before a corporation did. Does anyone see the irony in that?
This is a wake up call not only for the urban homesteading community, but also for all of us. What is going on at the Patent Trademark Office that they would approve a mark for generic language? Will it happen again? It very likely could, and that may affect a completely different genre of people and businesses. I’m glad to see the urban homesteading community banding together the way it is. Let’s hope this issue resolves itself so that it may not rear its ugly head again.
Latest update by the Electronic Frontier Foundation: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/02/riding-fences-urban-homestead-trademark-complaints