Best to consult with trademark attorney to best advise you on how to go about protecting and implementing your idea. This is not a type of inquiry to rely on general advice on trademark/copyright law.
Best of luck.
In addition to AVVO's disclaimer, please note that by this answer no attorney client relationship is intended mor entered into and unless there is a signed retainer agreement in place, neither me nor anyone in our office has intended to solicit clients nor reprints them. The answers are general in nature and without weighing specifics of particular query. No answer should be relied on in whole or in part, directly or otherwise to act or not to act in pursue of any of your potential claims in law or equity. You should consult with and obtain advise or representation of an attorney to protect your rights regarding your case or matter.
You could waste a bunch of time and a bit of money by playing "do it yourself" in the iffy situation you describe.
What would be the specific goods or services that would be recited in the trademark registration(s) you hypothetically would seek?
And is the goal to prevent a competitor from presenting a "customer satisfaction index" for its services? I doubt that trademark law would provide a business with that sort of exclusionary power.
Seems to me that the folks that compete with Avvo.com have created a unique hierarchy of designations, namely the AV and BV ratings, which they seem to have successfully registered with USPTO. That hasn't prevented Avvo from coming up with their own numerical ratings on a scale up to 10.0. Coincidentally, the company that gave the world the term AV, have more recently chosen to append to the alphabetical ratings such as AV a numerical designation, running from 0 to 5.0. As the German soldier on Laugh In said: verrrry interesting.
This posting is intended for general education and isn't "legal advice." It doesn't create or evidence an attorney-client relationship. You are encouraged to engage an attorney in the pertinent jurisdiction for confidential legal advice on matters of any importance. -Gerry J. Elman, J.D. Elman Technology Law, P.C. Swarthmore, PA www.elman.com
No one on Avvo can provide a definitive answer - or even whether you will succeed at obtaining a trademark registration - based on the limited information you have provided.
If this matter is important enough, retain a trademark lawyer for an hour to analyze your situation and recommend whether and how you should proceed.
This information does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
You need a better mark. But more than that, you need a better lawyer than yourself. Sorry for sounding so harsh, but you are not getting the point since you keep asking the same question and expecting a different answer. So let me try to be more blunt.
You are NOT going to get a registration for Customer Satisfaction Index, a merely descriptive term. If your competitors like that they can just adopt it and then where are you? (Out lots of money and looking foolish when you lose.) If you try to register it you will be taking a counterproductive step since you will end up having to disclaim it and that will be an admission against interest that will open it up for all your competitors to adopt. And, yet you say that is what you are intending to do. All you are really doing is showing how foolish you are to be doing this without a lawyer. You can ask a dozen questions here and you still won't know enough to do this on your own. You are as bare of trademark knowledge as your strippers are bare of clothes. JD Power tried four times to capture that term and failed. Any reasonably competent trademark lawyer would find that out quickly with what is called a TESS search.The National Marine Manufacturers Association, Inc. obtained a registration that combined CSI and a logo design and the phrase "customer satisfaction index" and the the phrase "marine industry" only after disclaiming the phrases "marine industry" and "customer satisfaction index" as generic. That actually hurt them because it now means they cannot claim any rights to the phrase "customer satisfaction index" by virtue of that registration, and the registration will serve as an admission against interest that the term "customer satisfaction index" is generic. If you continue proceeding without a lawyer, you will also hurt yourself like the NMMA did. See http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=78307142&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch.
I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
As you are now aware, this may be a big problem from a trademark perspective, and even if you could employ a nuanced strategy such as using the Supplemental Register (assuming this is possible given the context) it is probably a waste of time because the phrase is too generic and you never want to start that way as it defeats the purpose of trademark. Further the onus is on the mark holder to police their own marks and you do not want to be forever policing a mark because that takes time, energy and money and the more generic/descriptive a mark the more policing it will require.
So what to do? I think you should think a bit harder about the mark and come up with something you can invest in that is "distinctive." I will link you to a very brief but helpful tutorial on how to pick a strong mark as well as an overview of the due diligence (clearance process) below. I then suggest that you reach out to a lawyer (perhaps several) of your choosing for a free phone consult and get some specific insights and find one you can work with to successfully brand.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC on the basis of this posting.
I don't see that CSI Score describes the source of goods or services. It comes close to a certification mark, but that analysis has problems. Whether it is a business process that can be protected, I can't say.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.