Patent attorney, Rosie Hardy, reviews POWERVE from IVM – a revolutionary weighing device that identifies bogie wheel issues
It is known that the wearing and imbalance of bogie wheels can lead to the derailment of rail vehicles, with catastrophic consequences.
However, weighing rail vehicles can help to flag safety issues with the bogie wheelset and prevent these accidents.
With this in mind the rail company, IVM, has developed POWERVE – an innovative portable weighing system for rail vehicles.
As might be expected, IVM has taken strategic steps to protect its innovation and a European patent application – EP 2942608 – has recently been published.
Based on the patent application document, it is clear that POWERVE (1) is a lightweight and portable weighing system that can be manually located on a rail track to measure the static weight force distribution of each bogie wheel. As a result, the rail vehicle can be weighed without having to be moved off the rail track and on any section of the rail track. POWERVE includes a set of wheel detection supports (2) so that the weight of each bogie wheel can be accurately detected, along with the weight of the entire rail vehicle. Weighing can be carried out simply and quickly by rolling each bogie wheel (7) from the rail, up a respective ramp (6) and into a detection seat (4) within the support. When the bogie wheel sits in the detection seat, a load cell (5) can measure the weight force. The measured values are displayed on a control unit (10) that can be viewed by the operator onsite or remotely. Clamping support blocks (31) are used to keep the supports stationary and prevent them from slipping along the rail. A position detector (12) and end stop abutment (25) help to ensure the bogie wheel is in the correct position in the detection seat during weighing.
It will be some time before we know the outcome of the European patent application. Assuming it meets the appropriate criteria, a patent will be granted; giving IVM exclusivity over POWERVE in Europe and the wider region for a period of up to 20 years.
What happens next
Once a patent is secured, this protection will provide a valuable ringfence, preventing competitors from copying the innovation and allowing time for IVM to make the most of any commercial opportunities.
Depending on when the patent is granted, IVM may elect for the traditional European Patent and/or the new Unitary Patent. When it is launched, the unitary patent system will offer a single patent providing protection in the UK and a number of EU member states. Unitary Patent owners will also be able to litigate to defend their patent rights through one of three Unified Patent Courts and if any infringement is found, these courts will have the power to impose a pan-European injunction.
The introduction of the unitary patent system is not yet finalised, although the ratification process in the UK is underway. Ratification in Germany is also required before the unitary patent system can come into force.
Rail innovators should follow IVM’s example and seek patent protection in their geographic markets. In this way, innovators will be able to leverage any commercial advantage to the full.