Adobe, EchoSign Face Patent Infringement Suit

Adobe Systems and EchoSign, the electronic signatures company it acquired Monday, were sued on Tuesday by RPost, another electronic signature services company, for alleged infringement of five of its patents relating to electronic signature services.

RPost, which said it was in discussions with Adobe before its acquisition of EchoSign, for "a collaborative product alliance," has asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division to issue an injunction against Adobe to prevent further damages.

Such an injunction would render Adobe's purchase of EchoSign worthless, RPost's CEO Zafar Khan said in an e-mailed statement. "We would consider collaborative product arrangements between Adobe and RPost's products and technologies," he added.

In a complaint filed with the federal court, the patent holders RPost Holdings, RPost Communications and RMail alleged that Adobe and EchoSign have infringed their patents relating to the system and method for verifying delivery and integrity of electronic messages, and the apparatus and method for authenticating the dispatch and contents of documents.

Adobe Systems said on Monday that it acquired EchoSign, a Web-based provider of electronic signatures and signature automation, for an undisclosed amount, with the plan to add EchoSign's electronic signature technology to its document exchange services platform.

"We did not anticipate Adobe's acquisition of EchoSign," Khan said. The timing was a surprise as RPost had engaged in discussions with Adobe just a month ago in the context of proposing a collaborative product alliance, he added.

"Had Adobe delayed a week, we would have filed against EchoSign," Khan said. Khan claimed that in the context of the discussions with RPost, Adobe was informed about the company's patent portfolio. "Since they chose to acquire the technology that we deemed to infringe, we included Adobe in the suit," he added.

RPost's Electronic Signature and Registered Email services provide senders legally valid, court admissible evidence of e-mail content, timestamp and delivery, with options to record the recipient's consent to attached contracts with legal electronic signatures, RPost said on Tuesday.

Just typing your name at the bottom of a document or e-mail can have all the legal force of a handwritten signature if all parties have proof that you are the author of the specific content, RPost said in a statement. But if you don't have that proof, then electronic signing is legally worthless, it added.

The key element in any system of electronic signature is creating a legally meaningful audit trail of every step of the signature process and associating that audit trail with particular electronic document content, RPost said. When part of that audit trail involves e-mail, it is on RPost's turf as it 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, the company added.

Adobe said Tuesday that it does not comment on pending litigation.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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