Can Lebron James trademark his words?

Can Lebron James trademark his words?

When LeBron James announced that he was signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, he told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, “Nothing is given. Everything is earned.” Mr. James has now reportedly filed a trademark application for that phrase.  There is no doubt that LeBron James is an excellent basketball player and a star of the NBA.  It is highly likely that fans of Lebron James would pay a premium for a product that bears his famous phrase.  It would seem to make good business sense to register the phrase as a trademark so that other people cannot free ride on Mr. James success.

Does United States trademark law allow Lebron James to trademark the phrase “Nothing is given. Everything is earned.”?  The answer is yes, but that does not mean Mr. James owns the phrase.

A trademark is a symbol that is attached to products which distinguishes the products of one manufacturer from the products of other manufacturers.  The purpose of a trademark is to help consumers distinguish between similar products produced by different companies.  Trademark law grants the owner of a registered trademark the exclusive right to use the trademark in commerce, if another person violates that exclusive right that is known as trademark infringement.

An important thing to remember is that when a trademark is registered, the categories of goods in which the trademark will be used are noted.  A registered trademark will only be infringed if the infringing products match the product categories for which the trademark was registered.  Trademark law does not allow the user of a trademark to prevent other people from using a trademarked phrase in a conversation or use the trademark to make critical statements about a product.  It is not trademark infringement to talk about a trademark, trademark infringement is labeling counterfeit products with a trademark owned by someone else.

The trademark application for the word mark “Nothing is given. Everything is earned.” was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 2, 2017 and assigned serial number 87630975

The trademark application includes the following categories of goods –

IC 025. US 022 039. G & S: Clothing, namely, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and caps
IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Educational services, namely, providing elementary school classroom instruction

It appears that Mr. James intends to use his trademarked phrase for an education program geared toward elementary school age children.  He isn’t trying to trademark his phrase to license it to manufacturers of all sorts of different products.  Best of luck to him with his project.

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