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The answers to these frequently asked questions may help you decide to upgrade from slow and cumbersome paper processes to e-Contracting.

By adding electronic signatures with digital signature software, your company can take advantage of the Internet's worldwide reach. The speed, efficiency and greater insight gained with an electronic contracting system are sure to delight management.

Check out our How-To Guides to learn how to use and configure Open eSignForms.

  1. How to I get technical support or ask questions?

    For Open eSignForms questions, we have a forum we recommend you check out first. Often you will find that your question has already been answered there:

    To report a software bug that you'd like to track to resolution, use our 'openesignforms' Google Code Issues page.

    For all other purposes, please visit our contact us page.

  2. Are electronic signatures legal?

    Yes. Electronic signatures were made legal throughout the United States when President Clinton signed the ESIGN Act of 2000. Similar legislation has been passed in many other countries.

    Key features of legal electronic signatures include:

    1. Knowing who the parties are when they sign;
    2. Having those parties agree to use electronic signatures and show they are technically capable of signing electronically;
    3. Ensuring each party who signs receives a copy of the electronically signed documents (including the ability to re-verify those signatures electronically); and
    4. Ensuring that a forged or tampered electronic document can be detected.
  3. What are the main laws and regulations that surround privacy and electronic records?

    In the United States, there are laws regarding electronic records, record retention, privacy and electronic signatures. These include SEC 17a-3 and 17a-4, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB) privacy act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 21 CFR Part 11, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA), the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN). Yozons designs its solutions to help you comply with any and all of these laws and regulations.

  4. Is Yozons PCI compliant with respect to accepting credit cards?

    Yes, Yozons continues to maintain PCI compliance annually with respect to the credit cards it accepts for payment of its service, including quarterly security scans of our server. Here's a copy of our PCI Compliance Certificate. Yozons' PCI Compliance is not transferable to our customers' use of credit card data (we cannot control their policies and procedures), but clearly PCI compliance can be achieved using our technology and hosting services should your business accept credit cards.

    Also, our data centers have passed SSAE 16 Type II SOC 1 (and ISAE 3402) examinations.

  5. Do you have a free version?

    Yozons has never offered any of its products for free, and we're blessed with a continuously growing client list since 2001. Everyone knows that you get what you pay for. Most free things either bombard you with advertising, give you little real functionality until you "upgrade," or the vendor sells your personal and demographic information, along with those who electronically sign your contracts, to marketing companies, "partners" or "subsidiaries" that mine your data. For some small entities or for occasional personal use, that may be a fine trade-off, but no real business can rely on such low-end services.

    Per our privacy policy, we no longer publish any information about new customers. This protects Yozons and all of our customers from hackers who exploit such information. Besides, don't be fooled by customer lists as most businesses will tout a Fortune 500 customer who bought $250 worth of services just once for a trial as if it were a long-term, high-value endorsement. Have you ever noticed how every company describes itself as being the "leader"? Only Yozons publishes its software code to the public while keeping its clients' information private -- technology and management you can trust.

    With that said, the Open eSignForms technology is also open source licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL). See the open.esignforms.com project web site for more information on using this technology under the AGPL.

  6. We've been using paper forever. Why shouldn't I just continue with paper?

    Paper is familiar, but paper is expensive to buy, to store and to dispose of in a way that's kind to the environment. Paper is hard to backup, requires lots of filing cabinet space, is expensive to store offsite and requires shredding when they are no longer needed. (How often do you scan your files for records that have passed their record retention dates?) Paper files are often misplaced, taken home or stored at an employee's desk, making them hard to find. Few people take the time to copy their documents, so theft, fires and disgruntled or forgetful employees can cause the loss of your valuable paper records. You may not even realize a document is missing until you look for it.

    With Yozons, you no longer have to print your documents to dispatch them or get them signed. If you created a document electronically, why not keep it electronic? Electronic records are easy to backup, share, search for and store offsite. With auditing and tracking, you can be sure you know about every contract that's sent out, which is difficult in a paper world. Finally, when a record has met its retention requirements, it can automatically be deleted.

  7. Why not just use faxes? Everybody's got a fax these days.

    Most businesses have fax machines, but few individuals do, and faxing is clearly in decline, despite the valiant efforts of e-faxing vendors who are attempting to bridge the chasm. The degraded legibility of faxed documents can make them impossible to read, especially if the recipient's fax smudges or is low on toner or if you need the fax signed and faxed back. Many people print a document just to fax it, which wastes paper and your money. If it's already electronic, keep it electronic.

    Finally, faxes are typically sent to a common machine that is shared among an office, meaning that your correspondence can be read or mistakenly picked up by others. Besides, who really likes to create a cover page, punch in a phone number and wait 30 or more seconds for each page to go out, especially when the recipient's fax machine is busy or out of paper? If you need to send the fax to more than one party, the wasted time and phone charges add up quickly.

  8. Overnight and second day delivery is pretty fast. Why not just use regular mail, FedEx or UPS?

    For parcels, these are clearly the best way to move things across the world. But when your documents are created electronically, the costs of printing, addressing an envelope, paying postage and then waiting for pickup and delivery are simply much higher than using secure document delivery. While overnight may seem fast, with Yozons you can have someone sign a document or fill out your forms while you are talking with them on the phone, or you can complete a delivery in seconds even when the post office or UPS Store has closed for the day. Besides, would you rather pay a little to send your documents for signature in just 5 seconds, or pay $10 to $30 roundtrip to do the same thing using a courier in a 172,800 seconds (two days!)?

  9. I don't think electronic signatures prove the identity of the signer as well as handwritten signatures.

    This thinking has allowed a lot of fraud to take place over the years. Very few people have signature cards on hand to verify a handwritten signature, and fewer still are trained to detect forgeries. Most people's signatures vary slightly each time they sign so checking is complicated further, and many signatures are so stylized that they are impossible to read. With the advent of high resolution printers, scanners and copiers, it's very easy to make a perfect copy of even the most complex handwritten signature and include it on any document.

    Most people are surprised to learn that banks and credit card companies rarely verify a handwritten signature precisely because it's so hard and expensive to do. It's easier and cheaper to wait for someone to complain about being defrauded than it is to check routinely.

    With Yozons, electronic signatures cannot be copied and used on other documents. In the end, it is up to your business processes to weigh the risks and rewards on any transaction.

  10. Aren't handwritten signatures more legal than electronic signatures?

    Absolutely not. Various laws have endorsed electronic signatures for years now. Other laws require businesses to switch to electronic records that can be better protected and tracked. Aside from the problems of verifying a handwritten signature, multi-page documents typically have signatures at the end, so replacing earlier pages or marking up a change can complicate determining whether a given document is an original or not. With Yozons software, any such change to a document would easily be detected by a computer, even years later, so you can rest assured that what you sign can never be changed after the fact. Also, each time you sign a document, a receipt is sent to notify you that your signature was added. With complete tracking, it easy to find out all documents that you've signed, something that's impossible to do with paper records, especially if someone signs your name without your consent.

    In practice, it is quite rare for a contract dispute to arise over whether a contract was signed or not. Mostly, disputes surround the meaning and interpretation of the contracts themselves and whether the parties lived up their respective obligations. Because it's so easy to forge handwritten signatures compared to electronic signatures, electronic signatures are more secure and reliable should a conflict arise.

    A few people still feel that signing a paper record is more secure than doing so electronically. While it is important to select a hard-to-guess password that unlocks your electronic signature potential, a signed paper document (absent hand delivery and a notarized signature) suffers many problems that electronic signatures resolve.

    The problems with paper-based signatures include:

    • When documents are mailed or faxed, the intended recipient is rarely the only person who gains access to the document; co-workers, family members, neighbors and thieves can often come between you and the fax or envelope.
    • Paper documents can be altered after they have been sent out. This includes replacing pages or simply marking up a change with your pen. If the word "not" is crossed out or inserted by hand, the entire meaning of a document can change. How often do you carefully re-read the signed paper documents to determine if anything has been changed, added or removed?
    • It's impossible to tell when a handwritten signature was applied.
    • Few people actually sign their name identically each time they sign. Fatigue, being hot or cold, and even the quality of the pen or the paper can affect how your handwritten signature appears.
    • Faxes are often hard to read, with the quality being degraded because the source document is not clear or the original paper is colored, or if the recipient's fax paper or toner is of a low quality. And a photocopy or fax of a previously faxed document is often impossible to read.
    • Many handwritten signatures cannot be read clearly because they are highly stylized. What name actually is scribbled on that piece of paper?
    • Few people are expert enough to detect a forged signature, even when it's poorly done. Few have a signature on file that they can compare a signature against, and only handwriting experts stand a chance when it comes to high quality forgeries. Most banks and credit card companies never check signatures on checks or credit card slips because it is so expensive to do so, and they have signatures on file.
    • With the advent of high resolution scanners and copiers, it is easy to produce new documents that look like the originals, but with unauthorized changes.
    • With a scanned image of your handwritten signature, it is extremely easy to insert that image of your handwritten signature on any document.
    • There's no tracking of documents that have been forged with your handwritten signature, so you often won't know others are signing with your name until a crisis arises and you learn that you've been victimized by identity theft.

    With Yozons, electronic signatures give you greater control over your signature:

    • Notifications to process documents secured in your web contracting service may be delivered right to a person's email address, making it far less likely that another party will intercept it.
    • There's no need to re-read a signed document because any change, no matter how slight, will be automatically detected and the electronic signature will no longer be valid on an altered document. What you send and what you sign are always the originals, relieving you of this burden and risk.
    • Accurate timestamps provide a true record of when a signature was applied.
    • Electronic documents can be copied repeatedly and each copy is a legal original. There's no degradation in quality over time or when it's sent to others for review.
    • Electronic signatures include clearly typed names, so you know who signed. Misuse of images of your handwritten signature don't matter because the image isn't the legal electronic signature, the underlying digital signature created through mathematics and encryption are what protect you.
    • A computer verifies every digital signature, so there's no issue with verifying the validity of a signature.
    • Every electronic signature is unique, based on your encryption keys, the contents of the document and a timestamp, so you can't copy an electronic signature and apply it to another document or even to the same document but at a later date.
    • Lastly, it is extremely rare that a contract is disputed over whether a document was signed. Usually, the issue is over the meaning of terms, whether a contract has been altered, or whether a party didn't live up to the agreement. With electronic signatures, there's never a concern about altered contracts.
  11. I'm used to seeing handwritten ("wet") signatures. Can't I just use an image of my signature and be done with it?

    Absolutely not! Images of handwritten signatures make fraud even easier because it's so easy to copy an image and use it repeatedly on other forged documents. Electronic signatures look nothing like your handwritten signature. Fortunately, just as a computer creates an electronic signature under your control, it also verifies them for you. Therefore, never rely on an image of a signature to prove anything, especially since printing a document that contains an image of your signature will even look like you signed on paper.

    While it may seem nice to have a visible "handwritten signature" appear in your documents, the truth is that such signatures are easily forged and copied. This is true for any lock, seal or stamp that may appear to provide protection. Visible queues simply cannot be trusted for electronically signed documents. Only trusted software can verify electronic signatures, and electronic signatures are never legally recognized when printed on paper. In a litigious world, security best practices dictate the use of digital signature-based electronic signatures.

    John Hancock signature This image of John Hancock's signature was lifted from a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In the paper world, seeing such a signature in ink is a reasonable way to believe that Mr. Hancock has indeed signed, assuming that you can read it, you are a handwriting expert with a trusted signature sample on file, and the person hasn't changed his signature over time.

    Very few people are handwriting experts, and very few have signature files on hand to compare a handwritten signature against. The reality is that very few signatures, even those written on checks or credit card slips are ever verified because doing so is much harder and more time consuming than you might assume. With electronic signatures, you can verify a signature using software, so it's much easier to verify a signature and also ensure that the contents of what has been signed has not been changed after the fact.

    Below is an example of a digital signature. Note that it looks nothing like a handwritten signature.

    <SignatureValue>hEPnvrAAshuYb6lyK3vjx2nPkadxrksg6hRkjwPKFMxyqVAef5U3hoI1xmH1mYzCxl5h3WqhC07N
    x4HKvLeN8sgbgmAK4ioWPf3vKumKU0HlhQKZh9Q4WhaqOfmqaEBboO4nhjGgOuHlXvpNoQFgmlMg
    b9i6sb8cqV55Zwpfako9dczY7T/Juc9ac0Mr/q1L9aXwHY9HYSdvO6PqfFgwvwUPfo+hI2WjQeWO
    G0XSvkbqTm+2qjER8MrXYYOA5PBlrKkVbFHidIgLtsN8WhIrdDvlRrax9QfdBnGTlm+fLZ87sDUa
    UDScvFQ+wLcbeiOnJ+0MXlYiQrMwHWEDxLo4AgC6d6bHIC0/jKsNFqVORm+JAovTqFx/7ZNWJvUU
    dAAihdYh6CM8NXuAEA4y2EygCTer+tfVavkjtzc5pRAOGlYf9LUA7D3iHtvzJSblFcVXKL05kh71
    hDWpyOHlmEQ0jb3Oksh4fp1Nv/0SWHIxSJaGgISZHowII6RR2vUB0otLq6jdg9DqOoTw1mxE6ipa
    heq0ptSq53pdf9/L8zqQC6XeLHxLknKqGpYUczB4E48bhyD7VVmDh+LedOYZaPNuUoCae2Pypg3d
    /Ct07RiuXRS0/FqYDn/xJtyciwExBElvBTHuL7+fMv3srSLw/+e54x9ayMzd0iofpdTxNnOnXjA=</SignatureValue>

    The above electronic signature shows a valid, unique XML digital signature. Unfortunately, this signature simply cannot be verified by a person. It requires that a computer running trusted software process the contents of the signed electronic document to recreate a hash (you can think of it as a unique fingerprint or the DNA of the document), then compare that computed hash value using the user's public encryption key and supplied digital signature to determine if everything is legitimate. If these computations match, then the signature is real and is associated with the given document. If not, then the signature is a forgery or the document is no longer the same as it was at the time the electronic signature was applied (it has been tampered with).

    The human urge is to have a traditional looking handwritten signature appear within electronic documents that have been signed electronically. This urge must be resisted because it is an easy source of fraud. Why? Because it is easy to copy and paste an image of a signature, just as we copied John Hancock's signature above. That signature image can be cropped and resized to fit any document, and if you believe that seeing a traditional signature means it was signed, you will be easily tricked when you see the image.

    Even worse, many people want to print electronically signed documents and have a signature image or seal appear on the paper copy. This is worse because once an electronically signed document is printed, the paper copy cannot be verified at all. Remember, people cannot verify electronic signatures, only computers can. Since it's easy to copy signature images and paste them into documents, printing them only makes those signatures appear more real because they are on paper. Modern scanners and photocopiers have made it nearly impossible to determine original handwritten signatures from copies. Some criminals even copy currency using these tools, which shows how easy it is to trick people with paper copies.

    The lessons to take away with you are:

    • Electronic signatures do not look like handwritten signatures; if they did, it would be easy to trick us into believing they are real because we are used to seeing them that way on paper
    • Only electronic originals are legally binding because they can be checked using our trusted software to determine if they are authentic or not
    • All computer files can be tampered with or simply recreated with new contents using the same file name
    • Creating printed paper copies of electronically signed documents may be useful for storing in folders or to ease sharing with certain parties, but don't look for visual cues in the paper copies to determine if they are real or not (all visual cues can easily be forged on paper or electronically)
    • Email is inherently insecure and unreliable and for this reasons Yozons remains web-based rather than using email itself.

    Remember, some people are tricked into clicking links in forged emails (aka "phishing") purporting to be from PayPal, Amazon.com, Citibank, Microsoft, etc. These victims unwittingly provide their financial information to criminals who are operating web sites that look just like the real web sites because it's easy to copy logos, seals and other images that are electronic. Other people are tricked into installing viruses because they believe an email that appears to be from Microsoft or "a friend's email address" is valid just because a criminal has sent the fraudulent email using the other party's actual email address. These scams rely on the fact that people tend to trust official looking messages. In the electronic world, it's easy to fake how things look. Never trust the contents of an email sent to you.

  12. I don't want my electronic signature "floating around the Internet" where someone can steal it.

    Because electronic signatures are unique for every document you sign, nobody can copy an electronic signature and use it elsewhere. With our technology, the timestamp and IP address of the computer used are recorded, so even if you were to sign the same document repeatedly, the electronic signature would never be the same.

  13. Why don't you use Adobe PDF files?

    Adobe PDF was a fine read-only technology in its time, but it pre-dates the Web and just isn't suitable for online business today.

    PDFs are not natively rendered in web browsers, so you need a proprietary plug-in just to view them, and then you can't interact with the document such as filling out a form or resizing it to fit varying computer window sizes. PDFs rendered inside a browser are clunky and confusing with their own buttons and controls. You cannot take advantage of the accessibility options built into modern browsers that support font legibility or screen readers, and of course they don't work well with the myriad new HTML-capable devices being connected to the Web, such as Apple's iPhone and iPad, Blackberry, or the various Google/Android smart phones. Furthermore, PDF files are significantly bigger than standards-compliant HTML files, wasting bandwidth and your time to upload and download them, not to mention the disk space consumed to store them.

    And Adobe Reader has been known to have serious security flaws exploited by malicious PDFs that only compound the trouble of this antiquated technology, including virus-laden PDFs that look like other vendors such as DocuSign. In fact, CNN reported Adobe has an epically abysmal security record in just about all of their technologies as well as their corporate record keeping.

    NOTE: Open eSignForms allows documents to be exported in digitally signed PDF format to support legacy systems. Naturally, this PDF exporting makes no use of Adobe products to keep them free of viruses and other vulnerabilities.

  14. Why shouldn't I just use a PKI (public key infrastructure) solution?

    PKI has been around for a long time, but it has not taken off except in a few high security niches. The reason is that PKIs are complex, very expensive and suffer interoperability issues. The costs and pains of creating, distributing and keeping digital certificates secure on thousands of computers has been too high to make it cost effective except in small, closed networks. In a PKI, it is important to train all users how to keep their certificates secure (even when they upgrade their computers, have them serviced, replace a hard drive or when a virus strikes), install special software on every computer, and then exchange the public keys of all parties involved. Needless to say, PKIs simply have failed to scale outside of specialty networks.

    Our technologies use the same digital signature technology behind a PKI, but they have removed the need to annually distribute certificates (there are none!), exchange keys (they are fully managed by the secure server), install special software or worry about keeping all users' computers secure.

  15. PKI versus EBIA (Email-based identification and authentication)

    Yozons Technology has streamlined PKI and created a better way to do business, taking its best points and transforming them into a far easier to use, secure system that doesn't require complex software, expensive digital certificates, hard to manage keys. You use the documents you already use as well as the email addresses you and everyone else already have. That's the key to our success (and our patents): significant cost savings, yet easily adoptable by you and all the many parties you need to communicate with.

    Mr. Garfinkel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and author of Database Nation: the Death of Privacy in the 21st Century, wrote an interesting article* in the IEEE Security & Privacy journal. He explains that "email-based identification and authentication (EBIA) is a reasonable approach for many current commercial and government applications. EBIA provides a better match to the usability, privacy, autonomy, resiliency, and real-world business requirements than PKI [public key infrastructure] technology."

    He points out that "even sensitive applications that let us enter into binding business agreements worth thousands of dollars and electronically transfer money between bank accounts, use EBIA."

    To get EBIA right, it is important to determine that a given party can receive email at a given email address. It is quite hard to intercept someone's email (except for the system administrators at the person's ISP or IT shop who control the email or domain name servers). It is extremely easy to send email using anybody's email address.

    In addition to using a user's de facto electronic id, the email address, we also send out email notifications as a means to allow him or her to self-audit or detect misuse of the account. For example, if you change your password or forgotten password question and answer, or get your password wrong multiple times in a row, an email is sent. These can help you detect misuse of your account as well as keep you informed about activity pending in your web account. If you forget your password, instead of sending you your old password (we simply cannot because we don't store your password anywhere) or even emailing you a new temporary password, we instead send an email to your address and require that you click on a unique link in order to continue.

    When done right, these added precautions can mean the difference between EBIA working really well for you or discovering that EBIA is providing no security whatsoever. Yozons does it right, and that's why experts consider EBIA to be a workable solution that's better suited for business than even PKI and its digital certificates.

    "Despite a tremendous push from management, security professionals, consultants, and vendors, the market and the general public have been slow to adopt PKI," Garfinkel wrote. For PKI to have failed to gain widespread adoption after so many years (the technology dates back at least to the early 1980s), the shortcomings must be real.

    Garfinkel says explanations for PKI's failure include usability and cost, as well as the fact that "some experts insist that the claims made for PKI are unjustified, because computer viruses and other kinds of malicious software can compromise private keys or make people think that they are signing one message when in fact they are signing another." Nevermind the fact that most PCs are not kept in secure rooms, laptops are lost or stolen daily, people don't logoff when they step away from their computers (even if just for a brief moment), people don't back up their encryption keys and trusted digital certificates, and when people upgrade their computers they don't know how to transfer those encryption keys and digital certificates to the new computer while ensuring that the same data are securely wiped clean from the old machines.

    PKI has touted non-repudiation as its major benefit, but reality has shown that people can tamper with and forge just about anything, including currency with its sophisticated paper, fibers, ink and printing processes. As Garfinkel notes, "Unscrupulous people can forge passports, steal SSNs and private keys, and tamper with biometric databases." PKI gives an illusion of perfect security, but "software flaws, stolen keys, or improperly granted certificates" have proven that's not the case.

    While Yozons knows of several Fortune 500 companies that have scrapped millions of dollars "worth" of PKI digital certificates in favor of our technologies, Garfinkel also disclosed that even for the United States military, which has deployed four million client-side certificates, "many mission-critical Web sites -- especially those used in combat situations -- rely on user name-password authentication" precisely because digital certificates are not flexible enough to meet real-world needs. "While many organizations continue to invest in PKI, another technique for identifying and authenticating Internet users is rapidly emerging in the marketplace." That's EBIA.

    While using email may seem insecure because it is sometimes transferred in the clear and "key employees at many businesses and Internet service providers (ISPs) can browse or perform keyword searches on users' mailboxes," EBIA is used widely, implying that the security risks are reasonably attractive to banks, the military and many other businesses. "EBIA has been successful because it combines ease of use with a limited challenge-response system that is not trivial to defeat."

    Garfinkel continues, "A key advantage of EBIA over PKI is that PKI requires specialty software and a mutually trusted CA [certificate authority]. EBIA, on the other hand, can work with any email client (or even with Web-based email), using email addresses available from hundreds of thousands of different email-granting organizations (ISPs, companies, schools, government organizations, and so on)."


    * All of the above quoted material is from the following article: "Email-Based Identification and Authentication: An Alternative to PKI?" by Simson L. Garfinkel, IEEE Security & Privacy, November/December 2003, pp. 20-26.

  16. What about PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) or other desktop encryption solutions?

    PGP, created by Phil Zimmermann in 1991, is excellent software (as its the open source GNU Privacy Guard: GPG), but it requires that all parties purchase and install supported software, generate their encryption keys, and then exchange those keys in a secure way. If you forget the password that protects your keys, you will forever lock yourself out from your own documents and data!

    PGP supports digital signatures that ensure the validity of a message or a file, but does not easily support multiple, legal electronic signatures to be applied, nor does it allow you to send a document and request the other party to sign your document.

    Lastly, desktop encryption means that employees can surreptitiously send out confidential business information without your consent or ability to detect it. This can expose your business to various liabilities if the encrypted data includes your trade secrets, employee records, financial information, pornography or threats. Furthermore, encrypted messages cannot be scanned for viruses, audited or archived without the keys, and if the employee loses, forgets or otherwise decides not to provide those keys, your valuable data cannot be recovered.

  17. What about S/MIME that's built into my Microsoft Outlook?

    S/MIME, an international standard dating back to June 1999, is based on PKI so it suffers the same problems and high costs. Like PGP, it provides authentication, message integrity and non-repudiation using digital signatures and privacy and data security via encryption. Despite being available for many years in the leading email clients, it's adoption simply has failed to take off because of all the PKI headaches.

  18. What's the difference between a digital signature and an electronic signature?

    In a nutshell, most reliable electronic signatures are based on digital signature technology. Digital signatures are created by hashing data to produce a large number that uniquely identifies the contents (something like a DNA test for data) in such a manner that any change would no longer produce the same number. That number is then encrypted with your keys to prove that it belongs to you. Electronic signatures are a legal standard that may use digital signature technology, but they also require consumer disclosures, consent to use them, proof the user knew the signature was being applied on their behalf, and the assurance that each party is allowed to have an independent copy to prove exactly what and when it was signed.

    We have more information on electronic signatures and digital signatures for those brave enough to wade into those waters!

  19. Can I print an electronically signed document?

    You can print the signed document and information that surrounds the electronic signature, but a printed version is not legally binding. Only the electronic document and electronic signatures together comprise the legally binding original. What is interesting, though, is that because electronic documents and signatures can easily be copied, backed up, archived, etc., all copies that are electronic are considered to be legally recognized originals provided the signatures can be re-verified.

    For your legal protection, you should keep the electronic document and electronic signatures in order to be able to re-validate the signatures in the future because it's so easy to spoof, forge or tamper with anything that's printed on paper or stored in non-digitally signed electronic formats.

    Even a Adobe PDF or other electronic file that simply contains images of or information about the electronic signatures is not legally binding without the electronic signature information in a form that you can use to re-verify the signatures. It is very easy to create PDF files and images that appear to be electronically signed, so never rely on appearances and instead rely on being able to re-validate the signatures using software.

    Furthermore, you cannot combine electronic signatures with handwritten signatures precisely because the handwritten signature will be on paper and there is no way to verify the electronic signature information that appears on paper.

  20. Why should I choose Yozons?

    Yozons is privileged in that we can focus our energy on our patented, market leading, secure business process and electronic contracting technologies. Yozons, Inc. was founded in 2000, has been profitable since 2002, and has a high caliber client list that spans the Fortune 500 through small businesses.

    We treat our customers, employees and partners the way we like to be treated, and this simple, yet rare, policy has served us well. Our technology is proven, secure, fast, inexpensive, reliable, scalable and doesn't require client software, plug-ins, special email clients, PKIs or any other obstacle to making your processes a success.

    Please read more details that make Yozons special on our About Us page, and what the world is writing about us on Wikipedia.

  21. Does Yozons act as a disinterested, trusted third-party like a notary with respect to our e-contracts?

    No, Yozons is a technology provider. Unlike our competitors, our software is open source as well as commerically licensed, allowing our customers to have their own branded systems instead of being forced to market our name whenever they use our technology for their private business contracts. Each customer's data and user accounts are stored in its own database and are not mixed in with data and users from other customers like those of our competition. We and our customers trust our software because it's available to anybody and thus shows Yozons has nothing to hide and uses industry standard technologies to provide a powerful, reliable, easy-to-use system that can't just disappear on the whim of an investor, acquirer or the like.

    Yozons has no interest in your private documents and the parties you do business with, but you can trust that Yozons will help with any legal questions regarding our software that might arise from of a dispute.

    Yozons operates numerous properties that our customers use for our shared hosted systems, and many of our customers run our software on their own private web servers that we manage or on their own servers in their data centers. We do not consider any of those sites as being part of our web properties because they do not use our domain names.

    The list is ever changing, but here are the various web properties Yozons operates now on behalf of our shared hosting customers: eSignForms™, Open-eSign™, eSign-Contracts™ and eSign-HR™.

  22. Why does my business/industry need to provide more detailed identity information to use the Yozons services?

    Certain industries receive lots of complaints from end users who misdirect their inquiries to Yozons because they are not able to reach or get satisfactory customer service from those in these industries. Often such industries appear to mislead unsophisticated users into signing contracts they do not understand, make terminating a contract more onerous than entering into the contract, bill high rates without delivering quality products or services, do not return customer inquiries, or repeatedly do not handle complaints to their customer's satisfaction.

    Yozons knows that many in these industries do provide value when done professionally and ethically, and the expectation is that those who purchase our services fall into this category.

    For such industries -- including, but not limited to, coaching, debt relief and offers to sell or train for home-based businesses -- Yozons requires additional information to activate an account, including the company's federal tax id, state registration and a contact phone number that will be answered or receive a call-back within 24 hours.

  23. Why did Yozons terminate or not renew my service subscription?

    If Yozons receives more complaints than it is comfortable handling, we may choose to terminate service immediately (with a refund for any unused term) or simply not allow the service to be renewed once the current term expires.

    Yozons' terms of service demand only legal and ethical usage, and numerous complaints misdirected to us indicate illegal or unethical usage. To avoid this, please provide quality service to your customers so that they do not contact us for problem resolution or refunds.

  24. Why did Yozons license U.S. Patent 6,289,460?

    Yozons was sued for patent infringement by DocuSign in December 2004. While Yozons did not believe it infringed, we did settle in January 2006 and paid DocuSign the embarrassingly low sum of $62.50 in royalties so that we and our customers were protected from further legal attacks by DocuSign.

    During ex parte reexamination of the patent, the USPTO ruled in January 2012 that claims 1-19 are cancelled and only claim 20 is confirmed. Nobody in the industry violates claims 20, and DocuSign never suggested that Yozons infringed claim 20. It appears that the multiple lawsuits against various companies and patent licenses were based on a legal fiction that DocuSign ever owned this intellectual property. Yozons considers this license to be suspended until DocuSign can show the patent has any intellectual property of value that can be enforced.

    During DocuSign's discovery phase, the founder, Tom Gonser, asked us what a "message digest" was, a term used in their patent and is common in the industry, showing how little he understood his patent and the industry he worked in. Sadly, Gonser's LinkedIn profile shows his resume padding with the disingenuous claim that DocuSign "literally invented SaaS based electronic signing" despite the fact that Gonser met with the founders of Yozons before he even founded DocuSign because he wanted to learn more about the industry as he considered his options for the DocuTouch software he received from NetUPDATE. Furthermore, both Gonser and his co-founder, Court Lorenzini, met with Yozons again before they received their first venture capital round. Yozons, of course, had a fully running e-signature SaaS with its Signed & Secured service years before DocuSign even existed. Then again, they have a reputation of blaming their customers for security failures that leaked personally identifiable information (PII) to Google.

    The DocuSign patent in question is rather embarrassing for the inventor because it includes "teachings" that incorrectly specify how to create a digital signature as well as how to communicate securely, two aspects that you'd think would be critical for an electronic signature product.

    Column 9, Lines 36-39 says this about digital signature verification: "the document manager 21 verifies the signature by decrypting the signed document, using the user's public key and comparing the public key to the sent message digest;" If you compare a public key to a message digest you will never get a match! Digital signatures are verified by decrypting the digital signature using the signer's public key to get a message digest in the clear. Then using the original document/data, compute its own message digest value. If the two message digests match, then it is valid.

    Column 4, Lines 47-51 says this about secure communications: "The private key is solely used by the owner to encrypt messages. The public key on the other hand is published to other users for decryption purposes only. With the private key the user encrypts a message that is then decrypted by its public counter part." If it were encrypted using the private key as specified in the patent, then everyone with the public key would be able to decrypt the message! Secure communications is done by encrypting the message with the recipient's public key so only the recipient can decrypt it using the associated private key.

  25. RPost sued DocuSign and EchoSign and Adobe over patent infringement in 2011. What does this mean for Yozons' products?

    Yozons had never heard of RPost or their RMail product until they sued DocuSign. They just do not exist in our market. These lawsuits are the latest in a long series of patent infringement lawsuits brought by this company. It appears they are destined to lose them all.

    After learning about RPost, Yozons did a cursory review of the patents in question and is sure that it does not infringe them. Two of their patents are really the same, with 6,182,219 dating back to August 1996 and 6,571,334 being a continuation of the '219 patent. As Yozons was founded in August 2000, subsequent patents would not apply to Yozons as we would certainly be prior art. These patents appear to cover "proof of email delivery," which Yozons has never done as our technology is entirely web-based and makes no use of email for encryption, digital signatures, electronic signatures or audit trails -- in fact, there is no Yozons component that works on email other than to send an email and process possible bounces or replies. Yozons provides no SMTP, POP3 or IMAP products, and we certainly don't log any of the activities of those operating system services.

    Previous lawsuits were against Goodmail's Certified Email Services, AOL and Yahoo! over their Certified Email Services, Swiss Post for its Certified Email Services, Globalpex for its Certified Email Services, Trustifi and Authentidate+USPS for its Postmarked Email (June 2012 update: RPost lost this infringement lawsuit against Trustifi for a common reason that all other competitors are likely to rely upon), Canada Post Corporation and Innovapost over its Certified Email Services, ReadNotify over its Certified Email Service, Zix Corporation overs its Certified Email Services, Privasphere over its Certified Email Services, Dimitry Kagan for operations of PointOfMail.com, and Rewpost.com. Again, these are all email services and Yozons offers no email services whatsoever.

    Recently, however, they have sued RightSignature, DocuSign, and EchoSign/Adobe, all competitors to Yozons.

    We noted that PC Magazine compares DocuSign Pro to RPost Office, so that may explain that lawsuit.

    The RPost CEO, Zafar Khan, seems to believe that if he says something, it must be true. He says in CNET, "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." That sounds clear and concise, but the patent claims make no such clear statements, and of course, Yozons does not keep an audit trail of emails, proof of email delivery, or anything resembling them. All document creation, review and signing takes place on a web site using server-generated keys and can be done without the use of email whatsoever.

    If RPost were to sue Yozons for infringement, they would need to identify in our source code, and/or screen shots the specific elements that they allege infringe specific claims in their patents, which we are comfortable with them doing as we do not record such email matters as part of certifying email delivery (we do not have certified email delivery at all) or in digital signatures of signed documents. Unlike our competitors, everyone is free to review our source code, create a runnable deployment, view our online demo, etc. because software that requires secrecy is probably insecure. If RPost (or any others) do not do this basic due diligence on our publicly available source code, online demos and what our web site clearly advertises, it will prove the lawsuit is malicious, unfounded and will allow us to seek damages and our legal fees.

    RPost clearly does not own patents that cover the use of email for electronic signatures. First, email all by itself can be used to create legally valid electronic signatures. Second, digitally signed email using PGP (created in 1991) and digital signature technologies (Diffie-Helman 1976, RSA 1978) all predate RPost's patents and can be used for electronic signatures. Furthermore, SMTP and POP/IMAP all have logging features as there is nothing novel or non-obvious about logging activities performed by software.

    Their '219 and '334 patents start off Claim 1 with, "A method of authenticating a dispatch and contents of the dispatch transmitted from a sender to a recipient, comprising the steps of: sending content data representative of the contents of the dispatch, and, a destination of the dispatch associated with said recipient, to an authenticator functioning as a non-interested third party with respect to the sender and the recipient, to be forwarded to said destination; receiving a representation of authentication data that has been generated by said authenticator, said authentication data comprising a representation of the following set A of information elements: a.sub.1 --comprising said content data, and dispatch record data elements a.sub.2, . . . , a.sub.n which includes at least an indicia a.sub.2 relating to a time of the dispatch which is provided in a manner resistant to or indicative of tampering by either of the sender and the recipient, and an indicia a.sub.3 relating to said destination of the dispatch, wherein at least part of said authentication data is secured against tampering of the sender and the recipient, and wherein said authentication data includes a set B comprising one or more information elements b.sub.1, . . . ,b.sub.m generated by respectively applying functions F.sub.1, . . . ,F.sub.m to subsets S.sub.1, . . . ,S.sub.m comprising selected portions of said set A, where said functions F.sub.1, . . . ,F.sub.m can be different from one another and said subsets S.sub.1, . . . ,S.sub.m can be different from one another, and wherein said authentication data does not comprise an encrypted representation of said content data and said dispatch record data which is encrypted with a secret key, either symmetric or asymmetric, associated with said recipient." Each of our founders has a masters degree in computer science, over 30 years software expertise and over 10 years electronic signature expertise, yet each has a hard time even understanding what that says. However, we are comfortable we do not do what it describes as we do not certify the contents of any such dispatch from a sender to a recipient -- there is no static document transmission (dispatch) from a sender to a recipient other than standard SSL/TLS web page POST and GET requests when deployed over standard HTTPS by a web server running our software. We have no tamper-resistant time of the sender's email (time of dispatch), just when it was created on the server by the first party (who could take as much time as necessary to complete it before it would move to a second party, if such a party is defined for the work flow). We do record when each party first retrieves a document for processing and when it was last updated, but it's just in the database and logs and is not tamper-resistant or tamper-evident and the last updated time changes each time it's processed further, and of course these have nothing to do with the time of dispatch as described in the claim. If a subsequent party is a user of the system, it is possible that no notification is even sent and is simply processed via the To Do queue, and if an email notification is sent, there is no tamper-resistent time recorded of the time of that transmission as it could remain queued in the outbound email processor for up to one minute (or longer if the SMTP server is not accessible), and then remain longer in a traditional SMTP outgoing email queue, wholly unrelated to our technology, until delivered (the actual transmission), a bounce is received, or it times out and the SMTP server removes it from its queue. The function of our technology cannot be used as described by the patent, "for [a] sender to prove that specific information has been sent at a specific time to [a] specific receiving party." We are not about certified delivery, but about document work flow managed on a centralized web server operated by our customers and open source users. And while we do apply a standard XML Digital Signature as each party processes a given document at its current state (rendered documents change as they are processed at each step), it is not related to "authenticating a dispatch and contents of the dispatch transmitted from a sender to a recipient," but is simply what all digital signatures do: create a reliable record at a given point in time based on cryptography -- what we call a snapshot of the HTML document and XML data at a given step. There is no separate "authentication data" distinct from the "content data" (static document), nor is there any specification of a "destination of the dispatch" (there is no such destination as the document remains on the server and only has different parties who, if so defined, can process the document further by accessing the server where the document template and current data set reside, and parties are not fixed and can be changed or skipped during processing and thus there is no need to "provide in a manner resistent to or indicative of tampering by either of the sender or the recipient"). We do not have keys associated with senders or recipients (or any user), so we clearly do not have a "dispatch record data which is encrypted with a secret key, either symmetric or aymmetric, asssociated with said recipient." We do not even function as a non-interested third party. Unlike email that has a sender and one or more recipients and documents are actually transmitted from one party to another, Yozons' technology works with as few as one party, and nothing about the documents being signed or processed are transmitted from one person to another. In our technology, the first party (sender?) does not need to specify the second party (recipient, should a second party even be required) and does not transmit the document (contents of the dispatch) as only form fields specified in the document are transmitted over the network (HTTP name-value pairs) as a document is a template in which each party may fill in fields defined in the document or even overwrite fields previously filled out by other parties, and the parties may not even access the same documents because the first party may use one document to specify various data values that then populate one or more other documents that a subsequent party processes (and which the first party did not process) while never seeing the document filled in by the first party. The first party may not even see a document at all as it may just post initial data values used by subsequent parties. This is because documents and contents of dispatches are nothing like that described in the patent or as used in email. In order to not violate the patent, only one of the various arguments above needs to be true. And this also applies to the other independent Claims 30, 60, 71 and 82, which is similarly different from how our technology works.

    Their patent 7,707,624 was filed in November 2003, years after Yozons was operational, and starts off Claim 1 with, "A method of providing a recipient of an email with proof of the transmission, receipt and content of a reply to the email that is manually initiated by the recipient,..." Yozons does not do that.

    Their patent 7,865,557 was filed in March 2007, years after Yozons was operational, and starts off Claim 1 with, "A method of transmitting a message from a sender through a server to a destination address for submission to a recipient displaced from the destination address including the steps by the server of receiving a message at a server displaced from a destination address of the recipient of the message; transmitting the message to the destination address; storing at least a portion of a mail transport protocol dialog generated during the transmission of the message between the server and the destination address for subsequent proof of the message and the delivery of the message by the server to the destination server, wherein the mail transport protocol dialog between the server and the destination address includes matters relating to the identities of the server and the destination address and relating to the message; generating an attachment to the message including the mail transport protocol dialog,..." Yozons does not do that.

    Their patent 7,966,372 was filed in July 2000, a month before Yozons was operational, but starts off Claim 1 with similar language to the '557 patent, "In a method of transmitting a message from a sender to a recipient through a server displaced from the recipient and of authenticating the message, the steps at the server of: receiving the message from the sender, transmitting the message to the recipient, storing at the server at least a portion of a mail transport protocol dialog generated by the server and the recipient during the transmission of the message between the server and the recipient, receiving at the server an indication from the recipient that the message has been received at the recipient from the server, maintaining the message and additionally creating a digital signature of the message for later authentication of the message by the server, and transmitting to the sender the message, the digital signature of the message, and the at least a portion of the mail transport dialog before any authentication of the message for storage by the sender." Yozons does not do that.

    Do any of those sound like they own a patent on all electronic signatures that include email as part of the audit trail like their CEO said? Using email to notify a person over the Internet is not novel and is obvious to all people, not just experts in the field. After all, that's why email was invented. While we believe their patents may be valid, what they describe has nothing to do with our technology.

    RPost founders Zafar Khan and Terrance Tomkow committed "malice, oppression and fraud," according to Judge Stuart M. Rice. It speaks volumes about the integrity of RPost and its management team. In 2012, RPost began patent infringement suits against "marketing companies" (some call them spammers) that embed "web bugs" into emails, which are essentially unauthorized, hidden code added to email messages so marketing companies can track you against your wishes.