Fox Rothschild LLP

In the COVID-19 era, sports leagues have had to come up with creative ways to move forward with their seasons in a safe and stable environment. The solution for multiple leagues has been to create a “bubble,” in which athletes only interact with other athletes and approved team and league personnel. Essentially, how it works is upon entering the bubble—an area equipped to host multiple games and house multiple athletes—each athlete and participating team and league personnel are tested for COVID-19. Any athletes that test negative can enter the bubble, but continue to be tested regularly to be safe. Any athletes that test positive for COVID-19, however, must quarantine for at least two weeks after testing positive, and afterwards must receive two negative tests in a row to enter the bubble. To date, leagues that have taken this approach have experienced a fair amount of success, have avoided any COVID-19 outbreaks, and have been able to continue on with their seasons.

Of course, the introduction of sports bubbles in the COVID-19 era has gone hand in hand with entities and individuals attempting to trademark different terms and phrases that in some way relate to these bubbles. In late July, the Women’s National Basketball Association started its season in a bubble located in Orlando Florida. Quickly, WNBA players began using the term “Wubble” to refer to their league’s bubble. Shortly thereafter, the WNBA filed for a trademark for the term “Wubble.” Similarly, although it is not yet confirmed, the NCAA is considering hosting their yearly March Madness tournament in a bubble. Considering this a likely possibility, the NCAA recently applied to trademark the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.

Seeking trademarks related to COVID-19 isn’t referenced just for leagues, however. Individual athletes as well have sought to trademark terms or phrases related in some way to the events surrounding their league’s bubble. The NBA—which finished out the second half of their season and their playoffs in a bubble—has had multiple players file for bubble related trademarks. For instance, Miami Heat player Jimmy Butler has filed for three trademarks related to a grassroots coffee business he started from his own hotel room. Further, Los Angeles Clippers player Lou Williams filed for the trademark “Lemon Pepper Lou,” after he received criticism and was forced to quarantine after leaving the NBA bubble to purchase chicken wings.

Presumably, no matter what new situations present themselves in the world, there will always be those seeking to capitalize by connecting a trademark to those situations’ most unique aspects.

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