New Jersey residents may know LeBron James from his time in the NBA. He has also formed a company called LBJ Trademarks that deals with trademarks such as those for inspirational quotes or sayings. While it may seem odd that someone can trademark a phrase, doing so can mean millions of dollars for the trademark holder. As it relates to simple words or phrases, a person may be able to trademark it even if he or she wasn't the first one to say it.
It is believed that LeBron James currently has 30 trademark applications pending in addition to the ones that he already owns. To trademark a phrase, it cannot be similar to other words or phrases that may have been used commercially. In other words, it shouldn't be so similar to confuse a person who may be looking to buy a good or service. Furthermore, the words must be more than a simple description of a good or service.
For example, the company Apple can trademark its name while a farmer couldn't trademark the word apple. This is why John Calipari could trademark the phrase "Refuse to Lose" despite not having originally coined it himself. As long as no one else was using it commercially or was otherwise recognized as using that phrase, there were no legal issues claiming it as his own.
Trademark disputes may occur either during the trademark search process or after it has been granted. In some cases, if a mark is not defended, it may be difficult for a person or business to claim that it was infringed upon in some way. An attorney may be helpful in both performing trademark searches or defending against those who may try to infringe upon it after it has been granted.