An online trade mark advice and registration service has been told to stop describing itself as the ‘UK’s number one trade mark service’. According to a ruling posted by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today, Trade Mark Direct (TMD) made the claim because it believed it had registered more applications than any other firm in the past three years.

The company’s website also claimed it was ‘the UK’s leading trade mark advice and registration company’ and ‘The no.1 firm in the UK’. An accompanying text read: ‘We file and register more UK trade mark applications than any other firm as we have done in each of the last three years. This makes us the no.1 firm in the UK’.

But the ASA said the company must stop describing itself in those terms unless it can provide evidence that it had registered more trade marks than any other business.

A complaint against TMD was made by intellectual property firm Stobbs IP, which asked whether the claims were misleading and could be substantiated.

In its ruling, the ASA said consumers would interpret the claims to mean that TMD had filed and registered more trademarks than any other company in the UK.

In response, TMD said some rankings of registrations, including one by the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, did not put it top because they relied on all companies providing their own name under a part of the application titled ‘address for service’. TMD said it only filled in this part of the form on a small portion of filings.

However, the ASA accepted that although it was likely that most firms put their names under ‘address for service’, it had not seen any evidence to prove that the everyone followed this practice.

The ASA added that even TMD’s website ‘appeared to receive’ more visitors than its closest competitors the difference was not sufficient to infer that TMD had registered more trade marks. ‘Because the evidence provided by TMD was not adequate to substantiate the claim that they had registered the most trademarks in the UK, we concluded that the ad was misleading,’ the ASA wrote.