Protected Key Technology: Beware Of False Prophets

Protected key technology is important to many property owners and facilities managers – and with good reason. But some might be receiving inaccurate advice about how some brands protect their work. We explain here

We have recently been looking into the facts around cylinder and key protection after we were informed some manufacturers were making potentially misleading claims about their technology.

We have found that some cylinder and key manufacturers are advertising their proprietary technology is protected under the guise of trademarks. However, this is not enforceable and in fact contravenes EU law.

The reason for this lies in a basic misunderstanding of the principle of what a trademark actually is. Trademarks cannot be used for a so-called ‘functional element’ – features which undertake a specific task. Under EU law these would be seen to cause a monopoly, which is not the purpose of a gaining a trademark.

It means that the practice of protecting cylinder and key technology by means of patent remains the correct route and any suggestion they can have indefinite legal protection from a trademark is misleading and therefore unfair competition.

There is legal precedence to support this stance; Germany’s High Court (the Oberlandesgericht) found in the case concerning GERA-WS’s trademarked key profiles that “The registration of a trade mark is thus an unsuitable means of achieving the aim of the protection of the [blanks] by the defendant”.

Paul Browne, Chief Technology Officer here at UNION had this to say about the findings. “Organisations being told they can buy cylinder and key technology with lifetime protection via trademark must be made aware these claims are false. It’s simply misleading to make such claims and paints our industry in a bad light. If we want people to trust us to provide the security they need, we can’t sit back and let anyone make false statements around key protection.”