Assa Abloy brand UNION has launched a new guide to highlight the issue of misleading claims around key copy protection, advising merchants to be vigilant against such claims to avoid the fallout that can result from misusing trademarks.
The guide warns that claims made by some suppliers of cylinder locks to promote their products – such as “unlimited trademark protection” and “lifetime trademark protection” – are misleading. This is because they imply that the keys are legally protected from unauthorised copying, when in fact a trademark cannot protect a functional element of a product, such as the cross-section of a key.
According to UNION, the only true guarantee against keys being legally copied is patent protection, which is wholly concerned with the functional aspect of a product or process. This is in contrast to trademark protections – which only cover non-functional elements of a product, such as words, phrases, or logos – and design registrations, which again cannot be registered if the features of the shape are purely functional, as with a key.
The new guide coincides with the launch of UNION’s master key cylinder range, keyMASTER, which provides building managers with complete control of who can access different areas of their buildings and has a patented design that ensures only authorised partners can supply replacement keys.
Craig Birch, Head of Product Management at UNION, comments: “The idea of ‘copyright protection’ or ‘lifetime trademark protection’ has long been a myth in our industry, and one that only someone with a good knowledge of trademark law is likely to see through. That’s why we’re spreading awareness about this issue with our new guide, which highlights the fact that the only way to validate whether a key and cylinder system is safe from key copying is if it is subject to a current patent, like our new keyMASTER range.
“The risk of being taken in by these false claims is significant, with the potential fallout from selling products that misuse trademarks including litigation, orders to remove misleading claims, large fines and even imprisonment. It is therefore vital that this message is understood throughout the industry and that only claims of patent protection are given any credence when it comes to key copy protection.”UNIONKeyMASTERKeyProtectionGuide