Berin Gilfillan And Good Shepherd Ministries To Sue Eric July And Rippaverse, Claim ‘Isom’ Comic Book Series Is A Trademark Infringement

Isom #1 (2022), Rippaverse

Dr. Berin Gilfillan announced that he and Good Shepherd Ministries plan to sue Eric July and the Rippaverse over what they see as a trademark infringement over the graphic novel series Isom.

Isom Poster

In a lengthy post to social media website X, Gilfallan, who is the founder of the International School of Ministry (ISOM), explained why he plans to go ahead and sue July and Rippaverse.

He stated, “It is with deep sadness that Good Shepherd Ministries, International  announces that its efforts to reasonably settle its ISOM trademark dispute with Mr. Eric July and his business Rippaverse LLC have been unsuccessful. Good Shepherd had hoped to avoid the time, effort, expense, and uncertainty associated with litigation, but settlement negotiations have reached an impasse.”

Isom #1 (2022), Rippaverse

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“Good Shepherd will now serve its lawsuit on Mr. July’s company, and seek relief in court. With the serving of this lawsuit, all previous settlement offers are off the table,” he continued. “Good Shepherd intends to defend, with everything it has, its good ISOM name. We created that name over 25 years ago and have grown it prolifically, on a global scale, in the ensuing decades. We are at peace knowing that we tried hard to resolve this out of court through a simple settlement. Even though we failed, we are confident that a jury trial and the legal system will bring a just resolution to this matter.”

Next, Gilfillan explain his main dispute with July and Rippaverse, “The CORE issue in this dispute is Trademark infringement. A basic test for trademark infringement is whether consumers are likely to be confused as to the source of the trademarked things – in other words, are consumers likely to think there is a connection between (1) Good Shepherd’s decades of using its ISOM trademark and Good Shepherd’s U.S. Registration of its ISOM trademark, and (2) Mr. July and his company starting a little over a year ago to use ISOM as the name of a graphic serial novel character.”

“As mentioned below, we already are far past a ‘likelihood of confusion.’ We have evidence that Mr. July and his company have caused actual confusion,” he declared.

Isom #1 (2022), Rippaverse

Gilfillan elaborated, “Mr. July and his company used our ISOM trademark as a character name and title to launch their Rippaverse company. They found a receptive audience, and every month their infringing use of our ISOM Trademark has been increasing.”

“This is being accomplished through search engine optimization (SEO), social media posts, and other online postings that highlight our trademarked ISOM name,” he stated. “As a result, their infringement of our ISOM Trademark is now at a point where it is colliding with our customers and our organizational use and cannot be ignored.”

“The recent lawsuit controversy over their infringement has only amplified everything and resulted in extensive coverage of ISOM on podcasts, blogs, vlogs, X, and YouTube channels. These are only adding to the confusion,” Gilfillan asserted.

Isom #2 (2023), Rippaverse

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Gilfillan then listed a number of reasons that he believes are causing confusion between the two entities:

  • Both organizations spell the ISOM name in the exact same way
  • As a result, Internet searches of the word ISOM bring up both organizations and products side by side. Under “images” and on YouTube this confusion is amplified
  • Social media hashtags including “ISOM” are similarly confusing especially #ISOM
  • Both organizations pronounce the ISOM name in the exact same way
  • Both organizations are engaged in the online sales of publishing content
  • Both organizations have products that have a Christian theme or mark (i.e., Mr. July included a cross on his character’s belt)
  • Both organizations have overlapping conservative Christian audiences
  • Both organizations are involved in charity work
  • Both organizations have merch products that look very similar

Gilfillan then cites two emails as evidence that that there is “actual confusion.” After citing these two emails, he calls into question their validity while noting it does not matter.

He states, “Regardless of the validity of the accusations contained in the above emails, it is easy to see how Good Shepherd can get discredited by every controversy generated or faced by Mr. July and his ISOM comic book brand.”

Isom #2 Cover B by Ethan Van Sciver (2023), Rippaverse

Next, he asserts that July and Rippaverse are affecting potential donations to his ministry, “Good Shepherd is a Christian ministry. It is 100% a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is significantly sustained through donations. These donations depend massively on public trust and financial and organisational integrity. The damage to our charity’s reputation by Mr. July’s use of our Trademarked ISOM name is extremely real and significant.”

Furthermore, he posits that July’s beliefs are damaging Good Shepherd, “Mr. July is not shy about his personally held beliefs and has a significant audience, especially on YouTube. While he is certainly entitled to his own beliefs, we do not want his beliefs, statements, and actions to be wrongly attributed to Good Shepherd because of Mr. July’s use of our registered trademark ISOM.”

“Specifically, and among other things, Good Shepherd is concerned about Mr. July’s prolific use of unacceptable swear words. Being associated with that usage is deeply troubling to us, and even more disturbing is when Mr. July uses the name of Jesus Christ in vain. This is, to us, completely unacceptable for someone claiming to represent the Christian faith,” he added. ” We have gathered evidence of these unacceptable verbal usages and our board of directors does NOT want our ISOM brand to be confused with, or associated with, Mr. July or his ISOM brand.”

Isom #1 (2022), Rippaverse

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Gilfillan then concluded, “For these reasons, and many more, we are serving our lawsuit. Despite our efforts, Mr. July and his company refuse to acknowledge that they have, in any way, infringed on our ISOM Trademark rights. This infringement matter is central to everything else. Unfortunately, it appears, the legal system is needed to resolve this core issue. Only after Trademark infringement has been confirmed can any further negotiation be meaningful.”

What do you make of Gilfillan and Good Shepherd Ministries suing Eric July?

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