Passive house and the public domain

Because we’ve been getting questions that indicate there is a perception that PHIUS and PHI are in some sort of legal proceedings, it’s worth setting the record straight.

When PHI cancelled operating agreements with PHIUS in 2011 it was unfortunate, but there were no legal actions associated with the split. PHI and PHIUS each had the right to cancel the agreements regarding project certification, PHPP distribution, etc.

In 2012, Dr. Wolfgang Feist filed an application to register a trademark and claim exclusive rights in the term “Certified Passive House.” In his application, Dr. Feist also claimed that he had the exclusive right to use the terminology “Passive House” in the United States. Meaning that anyone using passive house in their business name, credentials, etc., would have reason to be concerned.

PHIUS has trained nearly 2,000 professionals and, since the start of 2012, has certified 120 projects with that many more projects in the pipeline. That’s a sizeable constituency that would not be well-served by any entity owning the term “Certified Passive House” or “Passive House.”

We’ve written here before about the origins of the passive house term—it was not first used in Darmstadt. And about the scientific disagreement about whether there should be a single standard (PHIUS’ work with Building Science Corporation will yield a climate-specific set of standards). And that passive house refers to a set of design principles and a performance goal, but not a rigid single metric for all climates.

Therefore, we felt compelled to challenge the application for trademark. We made our argument in this notice of opposition.

Dr. Feist didn’t dispute our claims and the Trademark Office entered judgment for PHIUS and denied the application. As a result, the terms “certified passive house” and “passive house” remain in the public domain.

The bottom line is that we’re happy to report that while philosophical and scientific differences remain, PHI and PHIUS are not in any legal proceedings.