Who Owns the Ubiquitous Rotameter Name?

Dec. 8, 2010
Rotameter is a Carefully Trade-Marked Word

The word rotameter is assumed to be a generic name for a variable area flow meter, describing a freely rotating float visible in a glass tube. However Rotameter is a fairly carefully trade-marked word, for gas or liquid flow meters, and Rota in Germany, the flow center of excellence within the Yokogawa group, has started a promotional campaign around the 100th anniversary of the founding of Deutsche Rotawerke in Aachen, Germany, in October 2009, which strongly promotes the Rotameter name for its family of VA flow meters. The Rota company joined the Yokogawa group in 1995. Rota Yokogawa claims to be one of the main suppliers of Rotameters in Europe, and also produces the Rotamass Coriolis based flowmeter.

An editorial item presented by Simon Hatch of Yokogawa UK in the Process Industry Informer September issue, titled "Rotameter®: a Successful Brand Celebrates Its Centenary" comments that Rota Yokogawa own the rights to the Rotameter name in Germany and "other European countries." This does not include the UK, as was specified on the footnotes to the Yokogawa Rotameter sales literature dating from 2004, quoting the UK owners as Roxboro Group. This was the holding company for KDG Instruments and Mobrey, where KDG had inherited the UK rights from the GEC Rotameter Company in Crawley.

This company is now called Mobrey Measurement and is an operating unit within Emerson Process Management. Early in 2008 Emerson appointed Flotech Solutions in Stockport, UK, as exclusive distributors for the old KDG Rotameter products – Flotech also represents Brooks Instrument of the USA for their VA flow meters. Perhaps this tenuous UK history led to the design of the Yokogawa advertisements, which stress Rota as a solid, stable foundation in the flow business, while "other suppliers have come and gone."

Rotameters in the U.S.

What about the United States in this checkered history? Well. a simple search there shows the trade name as first used in 1946, when Stephen A. Brooks started his Brooks Rotameter Company in Lansdale, Pa. The name was registered as a trademark by Brooks Instrument in 1955 and is still a valid mark. Interestingly, the Brooks website currently only seems to use the word "rotameter" in the lower case, as a generic term. At the end of 2007 Brooks Instrument left the Emerson Group, effectively to become independent. In August of this year it opened a new European subsidiary and sales office in Dresden, Germany.

And the answer is?

So if a ".com" (i.e. U.S.-listed) website uses a trademark not valid in the United States, but valid in Germany, and is then read in the UK, where there is another (different) trademark allocation, who should say what, to whom, and where? Or does the Internet mean that separated geographic ownership of such generic trade names is now impossible?

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