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EchoSign launches BlackBerry e-signature service

The move could put it in more direct competition with E-Fax

October 10, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Six years after the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act took effect, many U.S. companies have come to rely on online services working with desktops and handheld computers to process legal authorizations. Some solutions involve transmitting a fax with a signature; others involve companies that have written their own custom software to capture a name signed with a stylus on a touchscreen.

Today, EchoSign Inc. launched a new electronic signature service that brings e-signatures to BlackBerry devices, according to EchoSign CEO Jason Lemkin. To use it, a BlackBerry user receiving an e-mail or other document requiring a signature types in his name and his initials, then sends it to an EchoSign server from the BlackBerry. The EchoSign server then forwards signed PDFs to all the affected parties, based on a previously determined list of names and e-mail addresses.

BlackBerry devices have no integrated signature-capture screen, unlike some other handheld devices.

Lemkin said the handheld approach takes document management and e-faxing to a new level, adding that many competitors now offer only parts of the process. Palo Alto, Calif.-based EchoSign's biggest competitor, he noted, is E-Fax, a service from J2 Global Communications Inc. in Hollywood that allows users to send and receive faxes anywhere they can access e-mail.

EchoSign in January introduced its own e-signature service for desktops that can use either a fax to return an actual signature or return an authorization through a typed-in name via e-mail.

Fremont, Calif.-based @Road Inc., has been testing the EchoSign service with BlackBerries used by several employees for the past two weeks, said J.D. Fay, senior vice president and general counsel at the mobile computing infrastructure provider. The service has worked flawlessly, although there are some areas where a fax may still be required, Fay said.

In many nations, for instance, it is "rare" for customers to trust or use a typed signature," he said. In those cases, @Road will continue to print out a paper copy of a contract for a signature that would be faxed to EchoSign for widespread distribution as a PDF.

@Road has used the desktop-based service since April, cutting down on the time needed to process documents globally. With @Road's operations running around the clock, the service has allowed signing of documents in minutes instead of days, Fay said.

The BlackBerry-based service will be especially useful for getting employees in different locations to sign their approval to human resources documents and related paperwork, he said. And it allows a manager to easily see how many parties may have failed to sign a document.

EchoSign is offering a basic BlackBerry service for free, allowing a customer to store the last 20 documents in an account. Its Pro service starts at $12.95 a month and allows storing an unlimited number of documents, while its Enterprise service costs $20 month per user, with a minimum of five users.

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