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This week in PDF: Adobe sued over newly acquired digital signature tech

July 21, 2011

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This week in PDF has seen Adobe acquire EchoSign for its digital signature technology -- and then be promptly sued the next day for patent infringement.

EchoSign's technology will form a key component of Adobe's online document exchange services platform. The signature solution will be integrated with a range of other services, including SendNow for managed file transfer, FormsCentral for form creation, and CreatPDF for online PDF creation. The upside -- and major selling point -- of the newly acquired technology is that it can speed up sales cycles and save customers the cost of transporting physical documents.

The subscription-based service automates the signature process, and is available to individuals, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and enterprise customers. The service includes a set of APIs that allow customers to integrate the solution with company-specific or partner solutions, such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite.

"Bringing together EchoSign's ease of use for contracting on the Web with Adobe's brand, reach and trust in the document space, I fully expect that electronic signatures will soon become the common way for people to sign documents," said Jason Lemkin, chief executive officer, EchoSign. "With nothing to download, learn or install, there is simply no faster or more secure way for organizations to sign, track or file contracts -- and close more business quickly."

OK, so integrating a digital signature service into its own offerings, Adobe pushes electronic signatures further into the mainstream. The software giant may even be able to make digital signatures the norm. Frankly, I think that's great, at least in theory.

Now to the juicy stuff: the day after the acquisition, Adobe Systems and EchoSign were sued by a third party for patent infringement. LA-based RPost claimed that EchoSign was infringing on its patented technology with its services. It has backed those claims by filing a lawsuit against Adobe and EchoSign, seeking damages and a permanent injunction against services from both companies.

"The key element in any system of electronic signature is creating a legally meaningful audit trial of every step of the signature process and associating that audit trail with particular electronic document content," RPost CEO Zafar Khan said in a statement about the lawsuit. "When part of that audit trail involves e-mail, it is on our turf: we pioneered the technology for proof of e-mail and document delivery, including recording recipient reply or signoff on the message content, and have the patents to prove it."

RPost noted that it also has legal action pending against DocuSign, the Swiss Post Office, the Canadian Post Office, and the US Postal Service.

That's it for this week. Watch this space!

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