How Restricted Key Systems Prevent Unauthorized Key Duplicates

Fatima Buzdar

November 8, 2022

A wall-mounted board, reminiscent of a locksmith’s workspace, showcases numerous sets of keys organized on hooks. Each set, featuring black plastic heads, is arranged in rows depicting various types. Some keys have distinct shapes for different locks, with a few individual ones scattered around.

If multiple key copies are distributed across people, the key control gets a bit complicated. The more people with the key copies, the harder it is to ensure that your key control is robust enough. This is especially a concern in commercial settings, where there is bound to be a big flow of keys among the personnel.

And within this area of concern, the problem of unauthorized key duplication also comes into play. A basic key system provides no deterrence from someone holding the key wanting to be a rebel and getting it duplicated without your knowledge and permission. This can pose a vulnerability to your key system and a hurdle in restricting access, should the unauthorized key duplication be undertaken within malicious hands.

This is where the security and peace of mind provided by restricted keys comes in! These keys legally enforce the need for authorization for key duplication, as well as structural deterrence for key copying by non-authorized entities. Read more to learn how this kind of protection can help.

What Are Restricted Keys?

Also known as patented keys and high security keys, these keys tend to be backed by utility patents. This grants the exclusive right of key design to the manufacturer of the key, allowing only the manufacturer – e.g. a locksmith or a lock company – to copy the key or give authorization to another entity to do so.

Any entity not complying with this restriction and duplicating the key without the manufacturer’s permission would have to face legal repercussions, as the patent exclusivity to the key distribution is protected by the law. Additionally, restricted keys also tend to incorporate a high security structure. This means that they are hard to be copied by a non-expert.

How Do I Get a Copy of My Restricted Keys?

The purpose of patent-protected keys is to take away the leeway of copying keys; but of course, this would not hold you back from getting them duplicated! This would merely require you to request the manufacturer or any authorized entity to duplicate the key, along with the proof of your ownership over the key.

When initially getting a restricted key, you would give your identification signature to establish your ownership and authority over the key. The signatory tends to be business owners, homeowners or any elected authorized party.  Should the key require to be duplicated, you have to request the manufacturer to craft it along with providing identification and signature.

The manufacturer may also grant the rights to do it to other locksmiths or companies, and you can reach out to them as well. However, if they lack the permission from the manufacturer, then you can not get the key duplicated even if you provide your ownership proof.

A key getting duplicated through a key duplicator machine

What Are the Benefits of Restricted Keyway Locks?

A restricted keyway system allows you to have a firm control over the flow of keys. You can be rest assured that no duplicate keys beyond your knowledge exist (well, unless you forgot!), allowing you the peace of mind that the key tracking is all under control.

For example, this means you do not have to worry about rekeying or replacing the lock when a personnel leaves who could raise the concern of duplicating the key without your permission, since you can be sure that would not be possible. This can be especially useful when used in conjunction with master key systems. Within the master key systems, there are various individuals with a key that opens various locks, making these keys all the more sensitive. With a restricted keyway system in place, you can exercise a stronger control over the keys.

While common and particularly useful in commercial settings, the benefits also extend to residential settings, of course. You can ensure that nobody has the access to an unauthorized duplicate key to your house. It can be highly beneficial for apartments as well, eliminating the need to rekey the lock after a tenant moves out.

Additionally, patented key systems may even incorporate more robust security mechanisms compared to standard key systems. They tend to have a more complex structure, making them harder to compromise through picking, bumping, etc.

What Are the Downsides of Restricted Keys?

The patents that protect the keys do not have an infinite validity. They expire eventually; and once they expire, their legal protection becomes void. Fortunately, the patents can last quite long; for example, certain may last as long as 10-20 years. The steps to take upon the expiration depend on the manufacturer. Some let you upgrade the current lock. However, some may require you to replace it entirely; which is a sensible choice since the lock may require to be replaced at that point due to natural wear and tear.

This brings to another downside, that is the price. Due to the patent and intricate keyway system, the restricted keyway systems come with a higher price than the standard key systems. With the benefits also comes the higher cost, indeed!

Lastly, the protection provided by the patented key systems can turn a bit against you in certain scenarios too. If you are locked out, it can be more complicated for a locksmith to get it opened. It can also be a bit of a hassle to be able to only get the key copied at the specific manufacturer and their authorized parties. However, both of these scenarios are worth more than ease for a malicious opportunist.

Do Restricted Keys and “Do Not Duplicate” Keys Provide Similar Protection?

The level, scope and legibility of the protection provided by restricted keys and keys stamped with “do not duplicate” differs greatly, and it is very crucial that you understand the distinction when making your choice. Contrary to common belief, “do not duplicate” keys do not actually provide substantial protection unlike patented keys.

Engraving “do not duplicate” on the keys does not make the statement legally binding. While there may be certain locksmiths and hardware shops being reluctant to copy the key, there is no regulation at all that holds them back or poses legal repercussions. This means that it is certainly not impossible for an unauthorized person being able to have the key duplicated.

Hence, you should know that it is nothing more than a suggestion that nobody is legally required to comply with. If you want a robust assurance that your key does not get duplicated within an unauthorized person’s hands, then you should definitely pick restricted keys backed with patents which provide legal protection.

Get the Peace of Mind With a Restricted Key System

Anyone having the leeway of getting the keys duplicated without your permission can be troublesome. This is especially a big concern in commercial premises, in which various individuals have to be entrusted with keys. A restricted keyway system is backed by a utility patent and eliminates that concern by legally enforcing the need to gain authorization for key duplication. It also keeps the property safe with high security mechanisms.

Ready to make the switch to a patent-protected key system? Our locksmiths in Whitby can deliver and install the system for you and help you gain higher control and security over your keys!

Safeguard your property with our expert locksmith solutions. Get in touch with our approachable, knowledgeable team.