When is a VA flowmeter not a Rotameter?

A long time ago, in 2007, a press release from Emerson mentioned that Rotameters would now be sold alongside Brooks VA meters, an interesting twist in the trade name use on this style of product – this article looks at the use and possible histories of this VA meter trade name.

The use of the Rotameter trademark for the VA (variable area, typically glass tube) flowmeters has been fiercely defended in the UK by KDG Instruments, later KDG Mobrey, for many years. Following various acquisitions, this trade mark is now owned by Emerson Process Management.

The first variable area meter with rotating float was invented by Karl Kueppers in Aachen in 1908. This is described in the German patent 215225. Felix Meyer founded “Deutsche Rotawerke GmbH” in Aachen, recognizing the fundamental importance of this invention: this later became known as “Rota”. They improved the device with new shapes of the float and of the glass tube. Kueppers invented the special shape for the inside of the glass tube that realized a symmetrical flow scale. The meter was called a Rotamesser, and at some point they registered the trade name, presumably in Germany, as a Rotamesser, and maybe even a Rotameter.

As the original glass tube VA meter manufacturer in the UK, the GEC Rotameter company in Crawley called their product a Rotameter, and registered the name as a trademark in the UK.

The name Rotameter almost achieved the same status as the ‘Hoover’, with the German company calling themselves Rota, and supplying the Rotamesser, and the UK company supplying Rotameters.

Yokogawa acquired the Rota company, and quote the names Rotameter and ‘Rotamesser – das original’ on their German webpages: the instruments are still manufactured in Wehr, in Germany, and the company is called Rota Yokogawa GmbH & Co. KG. Recent communications suggest that their view is that Rotameter is a trademark of Rota Yokogawa GmbH and that in the United Kingdom Rotameter is a trademark of Emerson.

The brand name Rotameter was registered as a trademark in Britain by the British company GEC Rotameter Co, in Crawley, and still exists, having been passed down through the acquisition chain: KDG Instruments, Solartron Mobrey, and Emerson Process Management.

Other companies manufacturing and selling VA flowmeters

Gilbert Platon, who worked in the original GEC Rotameter company in Crawley, South London, then split away and started his own company G.A.Platon, (later Platon Flowbits and now Roxspur). Because of the trademark issues, Platon had to adopt a new name, the ‘GAPmeter’ for the VA glass tube flowmeters, later manufactured in Basingstoke. Acquired by Roxspur, production then moved to Sheffield in around 1999: http://www.roxspur.com.

Brooks, in the USA, in the past regularly used the trademarked Rotameter name accidentally, maybe on purpose, and had to withdraw the offending sales leaflets on several occasions.

Siemens is very careful to describe their VA meters as VA meters, but selling what appear to be the same things in the UK  in 2007,  icenta controls were seen to be calling this product a ‘Rotameter’: interestingly they also do feature some true Rotameters, made by the KDG part of Mobrey, on the same website! http://www.icenta.co.uk.

Emerson dual presence!

After several successive acquisitions, Emerson found themselves with both Brooks VA flowmeters, and Mobrey ‘Rotameters’ in their portfolio, and maintain the distinction of trade names. As commented on back in 2007, selling glass tube VA flowmeters is a totally different business and image to that of the mainstream Emerson Process Management market presence. They had sorted this out after the Brooks acquisition by spinning off the UK sales operation into an independent company, Flotech Solutions, to sell the Brooks VA flowmeter and some other flow products. When Emerson acquired Mobrey, the KDG Rotameter range was sold via Flotech Solutions in the same way.

So this was an opportunity for Bob Wrigley and his colleagues at Flotech Solutions, the independent UK flowmeter distributor, selling both the Brooks VA meters and the Mobrey Rotameters, to really mix up the trade names and generic names. See http://www.processingtalk.com/news/sla/sla129.html. Flotech was then acquired by the MJ Wilson Group in June 2010.

Emerson then solved this problem by selling off Brooks Instrument in January 2008, to American Industrial Partners – see http://www.brooksinstrument.com. But they retain the Rotameter trade mark for the UK!

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