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Key Duplication PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harold Fink Locksmith CRL CPS   
Saturday, 27 February 2010 22:30

Key Duplication

Authorized Key Duplication

Key duplication is something that all of us have had to do at one time or another, and in most cases, it is something that people want to do easily and without any complications. Many people enjoy the convenience of being able to duplicate keys that are readily available at home centers, hardware stores, wal-marts, dry cleaners, and neighborhood locksmith shops. The reason the keys are readily available is because the material used to cut the key with, the key blank, is readily available to the establishment cutting the keys. The ease with which anyone that were to have possession of your keys could easily duplicate them with your authority is a convenience that many folks like to have. Authorized key duplication is key duplication that is allowed by the owner of the keys. Anyone that has possession of your keys, if even for a few minutes, could duplicate most of them whether you want them to or not. Authorized means that you gave them permission to duplicate your keys, and the convenience with which you were able to get those keys duplicated by someone other than yourself is something that people often want, depending on the property being secured and the person in possession of your keys. Simply put, with possession of the right key blanks, and possession of your keys, you have authorized key duplication.

Unauthorized Key Duplication

Unauthorized key duplication is the situation described above except that you never gave the person in possession of your keys permission to duplicate your keys! The sad reality is there is little to stop the persons you don't want to duplicate your keys if they have access to the right key blanks and were to ever have possession of your keys. If an employee is trusted with a key and that employee is able to easily have the key duplicated, then you have no control over who has possession of each key duplicated by that one employee. What stops them from handing a duplicated key to someone you had no intention of having that key?

Do you want keys that say DO NOT DUPLICATE or do you want keys that CAN NOT BE DUPLICATED ?

If the security of your property relies on mechanical locks, or any locking systems where a key can be used to bypass the system, unauthorized key duplication should be of great concern to you. The ease with which most keys that are stamped DO NOT DUPLICATE can be copied makes locks and keys run on the honor system. Many people operating key machines regularly copy keys with tape over the stamp. DO NOT DUPLICATE has little meaning to persons cutting keys and there is nothing to stop that person from cutting those keys if they have the key blanks with which to cut them. While most locksmith shops recognize the intent of stamps on keys clearly indicating not to duplicate the keys, there is nothing to stop someone else from duplicating that key, whether it is stamped or not, if they have the equipment and the key blanks.

Unauthorized key duplication is a serious liability. The yearly cost of thefts to businesses is tremendous. Think of all the times you hand your keys to someone - parking valet, car repairmen, tradesmen at work or at home, even family members, or friends of family members. If for only a few minutes, or several hours, you were not in possession of your keys, you would be at risk of having any one of them duplicated. I have been handed keys with tape over the DO NOT DUPLICATE stamp many times. I always ask them what is under the tape and let them try to explain what they are doing. If they refuse to remove the tape, I won't copy that key even if I know it is a common key. It is a matter of ethics and what my customers expect of me that I refuse to do it, even if I know it does not stop others. Many hospitals, colleges and universities have painfully learned that poor key control puts human life and safety at risk. Key control requires that you work with a dealer with rights to their own keyway, on a system with a strong patent, effectively preventing anyone but that dealer from having the materials with which to duplicate the keys. Institutions may be able to obtain their own keyways as well.The best means for preventing unauthorized key duplication are patent laws which prevent ownership of the key blanks used to cut the keys. Interestingly, not all products claiming patent protection actually provide protection from unauthorized key duplication.

What are Patents?

Patents are temporary rights, granted by the government, that enable the patent holder to stop someone from making, using or selling an invention for the term of the patent. Design patents, awarded for novel, non-obvious ornamentation or aesthetic design, last 14 years. Utility patents, granted for novel, non-obvious functionality or processes, last 17 years. The intent of patent law is to encourage creativity. New products and processes are more likely to be developed if inventors have a temporary monopoly to reap the reward of their labors.
Patents won't stop anyone with the proper key cutting equipment and the proper key blanks from making a key without authorization. Patents can, however, make it extremely difficult to gain possession of the key blanks with which to cut the keys. If the design is sufficient enough to prevent modification of existing key blanks which are not covered by patent laws, it is much preffered over designs where key blanks could be modified and duplicated. If someone were in possession of key blanks protected by patent laws there may be civil and criminal remedies. If someone makes a key they shouldn't have and is caught, there may be civil and criminal remedies as well.

What is of primary concern to most high security lock makers is keeping their key blanks out of the aftermarket key blank catalogs. Strong utility patents can ensure that the manufacturer is the sole source of the key blanks. With strong utility patents, limited distribution, dealer contacts and sound key records policies, a key control package can be created that provides real value to your business.

Do patents prevent unauthorized key duplication?

Recent litigation has shown that it is not enough to say a lock is patented. What kind of patent is it? When does it expire? Most importantly, can a patent really prevent unauthorized key duplication?
Consider three important facts:
1. All patents expire, and they cannot be extended. When Medeco's patent expired in 1987, aftermarket key blanks quickly appeared and key control was compromised. Any end users who bought this system shortly before the expiration of the patents found their key system significantly compromised shortly after making a sizable investment.
2. Some design patents have been judged unfit for key control. Keyway design involves creating variations in cross sectional keyway shapes. Bittings are repeated on different sections in order to increase the number of available change keys, thus enhancing security.
3. Utility patents do not necessarily prevent unauthorized key duplication. US utility patent 5,136,869 claimed, in part, a bow shoulder stop on a tip stopped key. The shoulder stop engaged a slot in the plug face. That engagement was intended to reduce key breakage by transferring the brunt of the torque to the bow. Would this patent protect you from unauthorized key duplication? No. Key blanks and cut keys without a bow shoulder could legally be made and sold all day long! There is no protection for the end user in such a patent. Any key that can be made to operate a lock without infringing on keyway shapes patents should especially be avoided!

Examples of strong utility patents regarding key control

Kaba Peaks and Dom ix-kg patents are very strong. In the case of Dom there is a floating ball bearing embedded in the blank. The ball bearing cooperates with wards and pins in the cylinder and is required for cylinder operation. A properly cut key without the ball bearing will not work. Kaba Peaks blanks have two projections that protrude beyond the silhouette of the key. The top peak raises a separate pin stack to a second shear line in the cylinder. The bottom peak rides in a groove in the shell and retains the key even with no pins in the lock. Both peaks are required for cylinder operation. Without the top peak the plug won't turn. Without the bottom peak, the patented top pin binds in the bottom of the keyway.

Comparing key control patents

I am not condoning or encouraging the infringement of valid patents. Valid patents must be respected. We all depend on the patent law system. However, new products are entering the patented key control market. In the opinion of many in the industry, some of those products have patents that are actually worthless for key control. Here are five principles to determine a patent's value for preventing unauthorized key duplication.
1. The patent must be utility patent, not a design patent. Insist on getting the actual patent number. Current design patents have 5-digit numbers, preceded by DES or D. Some companies downplay design patents by omitting these letters. Current utility patent numbers are in the 4 to 5 million range. If a product is "patent pending", ask when the patent was applied for. If a patent is pending for an inordinate amount of time, the inventor may be having difficulty securing one.
2. The  patent must cover the uncut key blank, and the features on the blank that are necessary for cylinder operation.
What novel feaature does the uncut key blank have that makes it different  from other blanks? Ask what new mechanism or principle is shown, that is, what's new here? What new principle of lock and key making is revealed on the key blank itself, before the blank is cut?
3. The patented key blank must have a mechanical feature that makes it the only thing that can be used to operate the lock. Exactly how does the novel feature on the blank operate the new mechanism? Does the patent merely cover a process for manufacturing the key?
4. The patent number must be able to stand up in court. If any key can be made to operate the lock and and the patent holder cannot prevent it, the patent is no good  for key control. If the would-be novelty is merely a new keyway shape, buy the product at your own risk. If there is a new mechanism in the cylinder, can a key blank be made without the novel feature that will still enter and operate the lock?
5. The patent should have survived for several years without challenge to its validity. Key control is the foundation of high security.
Secure patented key control is the basis of high security. The most highly pick and drill resistant lock in the world means nothing if a duplicate key can easily and legally be made without the end user's permission. Patents don't guarantee that products are necessarily better than others. If a non-infringing key can be made for a patented cylinder, then the patent is worthless for key control. When you sell a product, like it or not, you put your name on it. If there is a problem, the customer comes back and says, "you sold me this, and it didn't work!" The keying system you install today will be installed in your facility for a long time. Patents must be more than marketing tools. Patents must have merit to prevent unauthorized key duplication. Make sure your key system is protected by a strong patent to prevent unauthorized key duplication.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 March 2010 02:57
Modern Electric and Electronic Egress Options PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harold Fink Locksmith CRL CPS   
Friday, 19 February 2010 09:42

Modern Electric and Electronic Egress Options

Electric and electronic locks have been separately controlled by card readers, push buttons and other devices for years, but have been limited in their use until solenoid bolt locks, shear locks and surface mount electromagnetic locks became popular.

When much of the electric locking industry began to concentrate on the top of the door and frame, the electric or electronic egress mechanisms became distinctly separate from mechanical lock installations, resulting in two or three security components installed on the door instead of one.
In many cases, electric mortise locks, electric cylindrical locks and locksets with electric strikes are designed to be fail safe, or provide free egress when power is lost. Electrified panic hardware may also provide free egress or delayed egress. In rare cases, such as where asylum function locks are used, egress still must be provided by another means. Electromagnetic locks and solenoid bolts locks may also use a separate egress device, especially on designated exits.
In the past, many devices have been used or modified to allow proper egress on designated fire exits. Often, devices or modifications were never tested or listed, as these modifications may have been performed in the field. Some modifications have or can be used in limited situations, based on the authority having jurisdiction allowing them. A few are listed and comply with egress requirements of various codes, and even those are sometimes questioned, often by those that could stand to gain from new work to be performed at that door.
Acceptable egress is not always clearly defined with electronic egress devices, largely due to codes originally written around mechanical hardware. These codes have presented us with two major problems when specifying hardware for security and safety, and present the following conflicts. First, a safe haven from violence often represents a much greater need than safety from fire, especially when new building materials and sprinkler systems have been used. Current liability laws make strict interpretation of fire codes a necessity  for many jurisdictions, and safety from violence is almost never addressd by those jurisdictions, simply because protection from violence is not addressed by codes. Secondly, mechanical hardware is subject to mechanical failure, as moving parts wear from use and exposure. Mechanical hardware is also subject to abuse, vandalism and failure of lubricants left by those who attempt to repair locking hardware mechanisms. Mechanical electrical switches are equally subject to failure. Typically cycle tested for 10,000 to 100,000 cycles, they can fail much faster than electronic switches (tested in the millions of cycles). They often become loose in their mountings, resulting in damage to their cases or contacts. The electronic switch bars available now can be more reliable and last longer, but due to the codes being worded for the old, mechanical standards, some jurisdictions still interpret mechanical movement as being necessary to qualify as panic hardware.
When specifying egress hardware for a designated fire exit, be cautious of using retrofit mechanical switches to break power to the lock. Factory or UL facility installed, they can meet almost any egress code, but a homemade or field-installed switch may not meet life safety requirements, as interpreted by the local authority having jurisdiction. Many switches are not listed or rated for breaking power to an electric lock and therefore are not listed for that purpose.
Devices allowing  free egress with electromagnetic locks are available in several forms. Not all methods are accepted by every local authority, and this should be discussed with the authority having jurisdiction prior to installation.
1. A mechanical switch as a mechanical panic device, activated by movement of the crossbar or touchpad when an attempt is made to exit. In most cases, both the device and the purpose of the switch must be tested and listed by an acceptable testing laboratory such as UL.
2. An electronic switch bar, listed for free egress applications with an electromagnetic lock,
3. A combination of a push button and a motion detector. The button must be clearly labeled, located within five feet of the door and directly break power to the lock. The motion detectors become the primary method of egress, with the button acting as a redundant method of providing free egress. In order to use this combination, the locks must be wired to unlock upon activation of a fire or sprinkler system. The use of only a button is rarely acceptable, since it requires prior or special knowledge to properly exit using that door. The use of only a motion detector is also rarely acceptable, since both the electronics and timing are subject to failure.
Once again, what is acceptable to comply with codes may not always be acceptable to the quality conscious locksmith or a detail oriented customer. As security professionals, it becomes clear that minimum code requirements and special variances may fall short of our own acceptable standards. The following are two common examples:
1. In dark or smoked-filled rooms, only large, well lit buttons, clearly marked EXIT or PUSH TO EXIT can be seen and understood. Buttons without lights are allowed by code, but are worthless if they cannot be located in a panic situation.
2. In areas of high risk, such as late hour shifts or minimal staffing, motion detectors provide an unauthorized individual outside the door with a way to get through a normally locked door by either waiting for someone to pass by or by knocking and waiting for someone to enter the detection pattern of the motion detector in order to answer the door. This is acceptable by most fire codes, but foolish from a security stand point.
User demands on the industry are in constant change, and products are constantly introduced, modified or reinvented to meet those demands. These demands also represent the force behind testing and listing new products and creating new listing categories. Current codes barely consider protection from crime and violence, yet crime and violence represent a significant and increasing threat to those the codes protect.
Better coordination between those departments concerned with safety could lead to a wider choice of products for electric locking and egress, a higher level of safety for those affected, and more qualified training for those who enforce the safety codes.
Last Updated on Friday, 19 February 2010 10:22
Electronic Access Control System Door Survey PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harold Fink, Locksmith, CRL CPS   
Thursday, 21 January 2010 13:50

Electronic Access Control System Door Survey

Download pdf: Electronic Access Control System Door Survey

The site survey is perhaps the most important activity you engage in as security professional.You didn't arrive at the location by accident, and you or your company most likely had to spend a considerable amount of money to create the opportunity that a site survey provides for you to offer your services.

Although electronic communication has changed radically the way we do business, it amazes me how effective personal meetings are to make things move. I have many contacts with whom I never met personally, but I find that for those I did meet, even if only briefly, an image and impression of that individual will flash before me whenever we speak on the telephone or in e-mail, and this will always tend to personalize the conversation and relax the atmosphere.


Making the correct first impression is pivotal in creating a lasting business relationship. Learn about your customer's business. Always learn from your customer, each and every person we meet on this earth has something in God's plan for us. When our hearts and minds are open to what people have to offer us, you may be surprised how easy it becomes to allow people to tell you exactly what they want, and allow your focus to remain on being a valuable service provider to them. Your knowledge in products and codes will display itself after you listen completely to what your customer wants.


A good start is to schedule the appointment in a professional way. Be sure you are clear about what time the survey will be, that both you and the client will be available at the predetermined time, and that you will be able to devote adequate time for both of you to deal with the issues at hand. Often, time will be at a premium, and working out these details is a great way to get acquainted with the client and learn to work together. I always try to be as flexible as possible, attempting to accomodate the client as much as possible. When I meet my customers, I often indicate my willingness to devote my entire attention to them by allowing them to see me turn off my phone. To take someone else's call at that moment in time, in my opinion, would be extremely rude and be a clear sign to my customer that at least one person out there is somehow more important than them, and that is not how I would want to be treated.


Depending on the size of your company, you may have salesmen who make sales calls, you may send a senior technician, or you may wish to go yourself. Whether you are a hands-on type or a slick salesman type, whether you are in jeans or a $1000.00 Italian suit, you must be groomed. If you don't know what I mean, call your mother. There are several theories regarding the most effective way to present yourself at the survey.

Whether they deserve it or not, salesmen enjoy a collective reputation of being incompetent, and only interested in making a sale. I've been involved in security for many years, and I have been selling high security for many years too. Many salesmen I've met have been salesmen for many types of products and services, and are much less capable than myself of conducting all aspects of a locksmith business. In this case, I would encourage you to dress well, but casually, because of the types of companies likely to be competing with you in an access control system survey. Dressing casually always allows you to move about freely in any area that you may visit during the survey, without looking like the cost of your services pays for a fancy suit.

You've got to use good judgement as to how you will present yourself at the meeting. In the corporate environment, a black blazer and neck tie is fine, but more and more often, casual attire will be entirely in keeping with the rest of the company's staff. Proper attire shows that you have respect for yourself , and you have respect for your customer too. Good judgement with regard to the work environment where you expect to conduct your survey will assure that you will not be overdressed and help you feel like you are part of the staff.


I've driven away from too many appointments realizing what I forgot to check out, or what item I could have offered if I had only thought of it at the time.

Perhaps there are goods and services which you are fully capable of providing for which a demand exists. Make up a list ot the products and services you offer and review it prior to your appointment.

You can also develop a brochure or cover letter which can be left with the client, or mailed out to prospects. I wish I had a dollar for each time a customer has said, "I wish I knew that you did that. I just spent thousands of dollars on this system, and the company was a complete disappointment with their service".


Conducting a methodical survey with a survey sheet is helpful. Methodically checking off items will impress the client that you are organized. As you are scrolling down your sheet, you can casually mention items on it and see how the client responds. Sometimes some important follow ups can be created in this way.

By working off the survey sheet, you are less likely to become distracted, and forget to check something out that you would otherwise have to go back to check, or worse.

By following your survey sheet, you will be making effective use of your time, and your client's time, again setting up a healthy relationship, and fostering mutual respect. The survey sheet also shows that you are using a criteria and not making things up as you go along. I encourage questions from my client, so that I can quickly establish that I am an expert, that I am eager to help the client in any way I can. Additionally, your survey will become an effective tool for improving upon itself when you take notes that improve or elaborate on specific points in the survey that your customer brought to your attention.


While it is important to carry on a conversation with the client, you also must maintain control over your words. I find that my presentations are a mixure of some conversational remarks which I've used in the past which have had positive effect on my meetings and improvised remarks which I am trying out to add to my repertoire.

Vulgar or profane language is definitely not appropriate in business communications. Never risk offending your client with a careless remark. If they use profanity, allow yourself to remain at ease with them without lowering yourself to a level which deserves much less respect. Know and understand your customer, and remember that in God's plan, everyone we meet in our lives has a purpose. Allow them to complete what they are saying and elaborate on their details, in order to more effectively offer intelligent, educated responses.

I never want to make a promise that I can't keep. Listening to what a customer says is key to knowing exactly what it is they are expecting from you, and your opportunity to elaborate on exactly what you intend to provide at what cost. Point out any differences in expectations early in order to avoid miscommunication later.

Making too many comments about the premises, even if they are complimentary, unnerves some clients, because they may think that you are not concentrating on why you are there, or you are just a little too friendly for someone who is supposed to be a security professional. I like to say that my customers can never tell which way I would vote, because I am careful to listen to them and not offer advice when it is not called for. There is a fine line between feeling at ease with a customer and just being a little too friendly. Keep it professional, and allow the good nature of your customer to dictate the manner with which you talk about their premises.


Requiring the surveys to be written down so that they can be made part of the procedure and customer's permanent files is the correct way to manage your business.

Authored by: Harold Fink, CRL CPS

Prepared and submitted by: Gina Fink

Download pdf: Electronic Access Control System Door Survey

Last Updated on Sunday, 31 January 2010 01:53