Patented or non-patented? It’s the only question


Let’s assume you’re not a lawyer with detailed knowledge about trademarks, design rights or patents. It’s likely that the differences between the three things aren’t that clear. If you studied the specifics, you might recall the essentials for a while, but if it’s not your focus it’s easy to forget. We’d like to suggest a simple rule. If you’re looking for key copy protection, ignore anything that isn’t patent protected.

This is easy to remember, and it cuts through all the marketing waffle and hype about alternatives. The truth is that alternatives don’t offer key copy protection. Patents do, and here’s why.

Each of the three things mentioned above – trademarks, design rights and patents – protects a different aspect. With trademarks, the clue is in the word itself. They are recognisable marks used to identify the source of a product or service. It could be an image, a logo or even a phrase. Trademarks can last indefinitely, and they show the origin of something. Unless counterfeit, they show that something is genuine, but they don’t relate to the function of the product.

Design rights are different again and are primarily concerned with the appearance of a product. They offer protection against someone copying the look of something. Again, the rights have nothing to do with how the item functions.

Where function is the issue, patent protection is the only way. Patents protect new inventions that are clearly different and useful.

These distinctions matter because it’s the function of the key or lock cylinder (or both) that enables a patent to be granted. And, in turn, it’s the patent protection that gives legal redress if there is unauthorised key duplication.

Some lock manufacturers have challenged the distinction in the courts. One claimed that a trademark which ran through the key shank provided the necessary protection, but the court disagreed. Because the manufacturer was making misleading claims about their products, they could have been fined €250,000 and may have faced a jail term.

But, as we said earlier, there’s a barrage of fanciful claims about “lifetime trademark protection” or “registered trademarks” and it’s easy to be misled. We’ve been banging the drum about patent protection since we began trading back in 2002. Frankly, it both saddens and frustrates us that some suppliers and manufacturers are still making unsupportable claims, its misleading at best and misinformation at worst.  That’s why we say forget everything else – if you want protection against illegal key duplication, a patented system is the only choice.

Once you’ve made the decision that key copy protection is necessary, you know you’re looking for a patented product. You need, then, to check two things.

Firstly, does the supplier have the infrastructure in place to manage the authorised distribution of keys? Secondly, what’s the life of the patent? The full term of a patent is 20 years, and a product with a patent that is due to expire shortly will not give long-term protection.

We’re proud to say that Access2 passes both tests with flying colours. But then, that’s because we’ve always understood the ethical way to conduct business. Honest, straightforward advice, a commitment to customer service, and clear facts about the products that we sell.

If you’d like to learn more about the patented innovations in our keys and lock cylinders, do call us.