An Introduction to Key Control
In a perfect world we would never have to worry about lost keys or keys falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, we live in the real world. The real world requires us to account for these scenarios if we wish to protect and maintain key systems. We account for these scenarios by practicing key control via patent-protected key systems.
Key control, as defined by Wikipedia, refers to various methods for making sure that certain keys are only used by authorized people. Perhaps the most important method, and the cornerstone to all effective key control, is the key control policy. Key control policies set forth rules and procedures for key systems. They generally cover areas such as the roles and responsibilities for those involved with the key system, key requests and issuance, record keeping and auditing, and maintenance tasks, such as rekeying. When done correctly a key control policy is the blueprint to successful key control. More important, successful key control protects a building, or buildings, and its occupants.
Patent-Protected Key Systems and Key Control
A key control policy’s effectiveness is greatly enhanced with a patent-protected key system. Via utility patents, the sale and distribution of key blanks carries federal law protection. This means protection against the unauthorized duplication of keys. Think about the implications of this from both sides, the locksmith and the end-user. The locksmith is able to offer a key that cannot be duplicated anywhere else and the end-user has the peace of mind that their keys cannot be duplicated without their authorization.
Multiple factors come into consideration when selecting patent-protected key systems to offer to end-users. Things like buy-ins, annual minimum purchases, required servicing equipment, and availability must be evaluated. Rather than steer you in one direction I will simply present you with options.
Before I begin discussing said options, I want to point out one very important factor of patent-protected key systems: each new calendar year means their utility patent is either expiring or is one year closer to expiring. While no patent-protected key systems are expiring this year, 2021 will mark the end of patent protection for Medeco’s M3 and Sargent’s XC platforms, barring no extensions. In 2022 and 2023 the same can be said for Arrow’s CHOicE and Kaba’s Peaks Global, respectively. With this in mind I have not included these platforms in the following list due to their shorter patent lives.
Patent-Protected Key Systems
Abloy’s Protec2 platform is the latest in a long line disc-detainer designs that made Abloy famous. 11 discs within each cylinder allow for 1.97 billion theoretical key combinations and incredible pick resistance. While disc-detainer designs are known to rugged, Abloy took things a step further by incorporating its patented Anti Wear System (AWS) to prolong each cylinder’s life. Abloy also incorporated an interactive element into each key for added protection. The Protec2 platform is able to be integrated with CLIQ and its patent expires in 2031.
Based on the SFIC format that BEST pioneered, CORMAX utilizes a patented side pin that engages a special slot at the tip of each key. With dozens of keyways broken into two different keyway families, or Series, CORMAX provides an upgrade path for existing BEST standard and MX8 keyways. Multi-milled keys are also available to create large master keying possibilities. The BEST CORMAX patent expires in 2027.
Corbin Russwin Access 3
Corbin Russwin’s Access 3 is actually 3 key platforms, each offering their own benefits and price point. AP, or the first level protection, offers key control. AS, the second level of protection, offers key control and additional bump and pick resistance. AHS, the third level of protection, adds drill protection onto the AS and comes with a UL437 certification. Each level is priced differently to assist with providing a solution at any price point. Access 3 is available to fit all existing Corbin Russwin cylinder types, including Corbin Russwin LFIC, and offers integrability with CLIQ. Its patent expires in 2027.
Kaba Peaks Preferred
Kaba’s Peaks Preferred uses a patented “Peaks pin” that interacts with a hollow milled key. This design is able to be configured into almost any cylinder or core format currently on the market. Peaks Preferred keys are able to be originated using most existing key machines. The Peaks Preferred patent expires in 2024.
Medeco’s X4 platform is the patented successor to the Medeco Keymark. As was the case with Keymark, X4 offers economic and efficient key control by offering cylinders and cores available to retrofit into almost any existing door hardware under a single keying system. Last year, Medeco was able to secure a 3 year extension to the X4 patent meaning that it will remain protected until 2030.
Mul-T-Lock’s Integrator platform builds on their 7X7 platform with enhanced tamper resistance and flexible master keying possibilities. It utilizes a 7-pin cylinder design that interacts with a patented key blank which uses an oval cut in 3 different configurations: internal, external, and twin. The Integrator is able to utilize Mul-T-Lock’s 3-in-1 keying option which allows you to rekey a cylinder up to 2 times by simply turning the key The Integrator patent expires in 2024.
Mul-T-Lock’s Interactive+ is the successor to the original Interactive platform. Using an interactive element on the key blade as well as a pin-in-pin dimple design, the Interactive+ platform is able to provide keys that are backwards compatible and will work with equivalent Interactive cylinders. The Interactive+ is able to utilize Mul-T-Lock’s 3-in-1 keying option which allows you to rekey a cylinder up to 2 times by simply turning the key. Interactive+ offers integrability with CLIQ and its patent expires in 2025.
The MT5+ takes Mul-T-Lock’s traditional pin-in-pin design and adds finger pins that interact with a sidebar as well as an interactive element at the tip of the key. This design provides multiple layers of security and robust master keying possibilities. The MT5+ is able to utilize Mul-T-Lock’s 3-in-1 keying option which allows you to rekey a cylinder up to 2 times by simply turning the key. MT5+ offers integrability with CLIQ and its patent expires in 2025.
Sargent’s Degree platform is very similar to Corbin Russwin’s Access 3. Degree Level 1, or DG1, offers key control, Degree Level 2, or DG2, offers key control and additional bump and pick resistance, Degree Level 3, or DG3, adds drill protection onto DG2 and comes with a UL437 certification. Each level is priced differently to assist with providing a solution at any price point. Degree is available in mortise, rim, and KIK/KIL cylinder formats as well as Sargent’s 6300 LFIC format and offers integrability with CLIQ. Sargent Degree’s patent expires in 2027.
Schlage Everest 29
Schlage’s Everest 29 platform is the successor to the original Everest platform. In fact, Everest 29 keyways are backwards compatible with their Everest equivalent. Like the Everest, the Everest 29 utilizes a check pin that interfaces with an undercut groove on the key. You can duplicate and originate Everest 29 keys on any machine capable of cutting Schlage Classic keys. The Everest 29 patent expires in 2029.
Schlage Primus XP
Schlage’s Primus XP builds on the original Primus platform by adding a 7th finger pin position. Primus XP adds tremendous flexibility because it is compatible with all current and many legacy Schlage keyways, including Everest and Primus keyways. Like Everest 29, you can duplicate and originate Primus XP keys on any machine capable of cutting Schlage Classic keys. The Primus XP patent expires in 2024. If applied to an Everest 29 based key system, the Everest 29’s patent protection overrides the Primus XP patents for protection until 2029.
Patent-Protection and Profit
If you do not offer patented-protected key systems for your customers to assist with key control, now is the time. It’s a win-win for both sides. Patent-protected key systems are not only valuable from a security standpoint, they’re valuable to your bottom line. Selling and servicing patent-protected key systems creates a steady stream of income since the end-user is locked into your keyway(s). They have to come to you to service the system. Furthermore, it protects your accounts because your competition cannot obtain the materials necessary to service your accounts. Finally, there is tremendous profit. Patented cores/cylinders often times list for at least 4-5 times more than their generic counterpart. If your discount is less 50 on both, for example, it’s easy to see the substantial profit margins. To learn more about patent-protected key systems, please contact your local rep(s) or visit our High Security Library page.