COVID-19 changed a lot about our daily routines, including our vocabulary. Over the past six months, we’ve adopted widespread use of certain terms, such as “social distancing”. Whenever new terms pop up and become commonly used, tens, if not hundreds, of new trademark applications include the buzzwords. A great example of this played out when President Trump accidentally tweeted out the term “covfefe” in 2017. Various applicants filed at least 44 different trademark applications for the term; none of the applications became registered trademarks. A similar situation occurred this year with the term “bubble” due to the NBA and NHL “bubbles” for their postseasons. Recently, the NCAA filed a trademark application for BATTLE IN THE BUBBLE for athletic contests. The NCAA’s path to registration may not be as difficult as a COVFEFE application, but it may be a BATTLE.

Famously, the NCAA cancelled its March Madness tournament earlier this year for the first time since it began. College football’s season remains in limbo just weeks ahead of the big SEC kickoff weekend of September 26 (Go Gators!). No one really knows how things are going to go regarding player health or even a definitive answer on how many fans will be allowed in stadiums across the country. With this in mind, it appears that the NCAA is looking ahead to a possible bubble scenario for tournaments moving forward, applying for the BATTLE IN THE BUBBLE trademark.

Crowded Field, Prior Applications May Prevent NCAA’s BATTLE IN THE BUBBLE from Registering

Since February 1, 2020, over 140 trademark applications including the term “bubble” appeared on the Trademark Office database. Some of these applications include typical uses of the term, such as BUBBLE SHOOTER VIKING POP and UMI BUBBLE TEA. However, others include references to a quarantine-like “bubble,” such as SIX FOOT BUBBLE for guided tours. A trademark examining attorney will see these applications and must determine whether the NCAA’s mark is different enough.

However, more worrying for the NCAA is the existence of one prior mark, BUBBLE BATTLES for recreational sporting activities, registered since 2018; and one prior application, BUBBLEPRESS for sporting activities, filed post-COVID-19. By waiting so long after quarantine to file its BATTLE IN THE BUBBLE trademark application, the NCAA made the road to registrability that much tougher. Hopefully, the application doesn’t matter and events take place as they normally would in 2021; however, if not, the NCAA might have to decide on a new branding effort if the BATTLE IN THE BUBBLE trademark fails.