The ink on the acquisition agreement documents signed – perhaps electronically – by Adobe and e-signature technology company EchoSign hasn’t even dried yet, and already dark clouds appear on the horizon.
An EchoSign rival called RPost, a self-proclaimed pioneer of electronic signature services, is suing Adobe and EchoSign over patent infringement.
RPost, founded in 2000, says it brought suit for the infringement of five of its U.S. patents – numbers 6,182,219; 6,571,334; 7,707,624; 7,865,557 and 7,966,372.
The patents cover technologies of verifiable proof for email delivery, recording recipient consent associated with received messages and documents, and value-added outbound email processing.
According to the lawsuit documents, embedded below, RPost is asking the US Federal Court to issue an injunction against Adobe to prevent further damages. If the court follows their reasoning, such an injunction would render the Adobe’s purchase of EchoSign potentially worthless.
RPost’s services provide senders legally valid evidence of email content, timestamp and delivery, with options to record the recipient’s consent to attached contracts with legal e-signatures.
This isn’t the first time RPost embarks on a legal crusade against its competitors, and even national postal services haven’t been spared.
RPost currently has actions pending against EchoSign challenger Docusign – which yesterday announced that it has processed more than a half billion signed pages to date – as well the United States Postal Service, the Swiss Post Office and the Canadian Post Office.
RPost says it owns 35 patents worldwide, some of which have priority over technology dating back to 1995.
The timing of the lawsuit raises questions, but I asked RPost CEO Zafar Khan why the documents were filed on the very same day Adobe announced the acquisition of EchoSign, and this is how he responded:
Electronically signing a document is not difficult. Just typing your name at the bottom of a document or email can have all the legal force of a handwritten signature if all parties have proof that you are the author of the specific content. At first, we had viewed EchoSign’s electronic signature service more of a novelty — a cosmetic way of placing your typewritten name in a fancy font and calling it an EchoSign electronic signature.
But, in light of recent marketplace demand for a higher level of forensically verifiable proof surrounding electronically signed documents — proof with an audit trail and method of verifying authenticity — we found that Echosign upgraded its services based on the teachings published in RPost patents.
RPost patented technology focuses on producing electronic signatures on documents in a manner that has high evidential weight, including an audit trail, associating this to the e-mail and e-signed document record, and providing methods of authentication. Without this, you don’t have proof.
When we discovered that EchoSign’s service included key elements of RPost patented technology, we recently re-evaluated EchoSign and realized that they added technology to make their e-signature service more legally meaningful – and we identified that technology as key elements of RPost patented technology. We reviewed in the context of our patents, and this has taken several months to complete, as the RPost patent portfolio includes 35 patents.
We were in the final stages of filing last week, and just finalized the details today.
Fighting words indeed.
We’ve reached out to Adobe and EchoSign and will update when we hear back.
Update: Adobe says it won’t comment on pending litigation.