Key security (for mechanical keys ) is given if suitable measures are taken to ensure that a key cannot be copied without authorization.
The use of special profiles is intended to prevent the key from being reproduced using commercially available key blanks ( locksmith ). In order to legally purchase copies, the additional key must be ordered from the manufacturer of the lock cylinder . Authorization must be proven by security cards, signature or similar. This only provides relative protection, however, because a key that is coded purely mechanically can be copied by molding if it gets into unauthorized hands, even for a short time. Correct handling of the keys is therefore part of key security. In addition, other codings can be used, for example in the form of transponder chips , such as those used for B. to control the immobilizer in motor vehicles can be integrated into the ignition key.
Contrary to the opinion of many, the keys of a locking system are not particularly protected unless there is patent or trademark protection (see below). In principle, in the absence of such protection, no locksmith can be legally prosecuted for copying a key to a locking system . In the case of patent protection, on the other hand, in addition to the submission of a corresponding declaration of cease and desist, the locksmiths regularly have to reimburse the legal fees incurred by the owners of the property rights.
Depending on the complexity of the milling of keys in complex locking systems, the production of locking system keys exceeds the capabilities of most locksmiths anyway, as special machines are often required for this.
Protection against unlawful key copies is propagated by the manufacturers with various measures described below.
The security card is supplied with every locking system. This card, in credit card format (ISO 7810), embossed with all the data necessary to clearly identify the system. With the card, a user is supposed to identify himself to a locksmith as the legitimate owner of the relevant locking system, for example in order to be able to order additional cylinders for this system or to have keys made. In fact, however, every locksmith can produce a key without the security card if it is technically able to do so. The protection is based only on a kind of code of honor of the locksmiths, no system keys are made without presentation of the security card. Only the procurement of certain key blanks is a problem insofar as these are only delivered by the respective manufacturer of the locking system to authorized specialist dealers on presentation of the security card. However, various special blanks are also available from independent suppliers. These blanks have a slightly different shape from the original and are therefore no longer protected by patent or trademark law.
A patent protection of the keys without technical copy protection is almost pointless. In any case, patent law only develops its protective effect in commercial trade. Technical copy protection is the basic requirement. This technical copy protection can only last for a long time, provided that a protective effect can be derived from a patent for the elements that justify the technical copy protection. The term of the relevant patents is limited to 20 years. In practice, it usually takes two years from registration to market launch. Technical innovations on the key or in the lock cylinder are protected.
Since the lock cylinder was invented as early as 1865 and has been continuously developed since then, it is almost impossible to develop real "technical innovations" in conventional single-row pin systems. Since a locking system would hardly find buyers without legal copy protection, manufacturers of locking systems can also register patents for simple cylinder systems, the meaning of which is controversial. Here the patent is mostly directed to a locking device consisting of a key and a lock cylinder. An effective legal copy protection of the keys cannot usually be derived from this. In some cases, the alleged patent sense is even wrong.
A blank milling machine, the so-called "EasyEntrie", has been on the market since 2001, which can reproduce many allegedly protected blanks without infringing the patents claimed by manufacturers. Manufacturers have tried to take legal action against the machine manufacturer, but to date with no tangible success.
As a rule, only systems with more than one row of tumblers can possibly offer sustainable patent protection in the sense of copy protection of the keys. Usually a movable element is attached in or on the key, the movable function of which is necessary to lock.
Various manufacturers can register a certain profile shape as a figurative mark in order to protect the key from unlawful copies. The respective company logo can be read via a special side profile at the tip of the key , with which the profile can then be protected under trademark law for an unlimited period of time. When blank copies are made by third-party manufacturers, omitting profile elements that are not required for the locking process makes the manufacturer's logo unrecognizable and the key blank is no longer protected.
Technical copy protection
From a technical point of view, a technical copy protection is assumed , provided that the production of a key copy cannot be accomplished with commercially available milling machines. Here, too, there are only a few systems that actually have technical copy protection. As a rule, the technical copy protection can be recognized by a movable element on or in the key blank, which is necessary for the locking process. Usually this movable element is or was the content of a patent application. As long as the patent is still valid, one can speak of optimal copy protection. If the patent has expired, there is usually a relatively high level of protection against copying, since the blanks are usually neither commercially available nor can they be easily produced with commercially available automatic milling machines.
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