Adobe + EchoSign vs. RPost — Contract Management Advice for E-Signatures in a Litigious Setting

Frequent readers of Spend Matters are aware of many historic (and ongoing) patent challenges in the broader source-to-pay world (from features of features for the closing/lot extensions of reverse auction events to general process patents for catalog searches and requisitions). In the case of Rpost and EchoSign, two providers of digital signature capability, their individual solutions are often embedded in either third-party solutions (e.g., contract management modules) that OEM them or highly customized/configured internal solution processes to support various aspects of contracting, approvals, service/maintenance support, etc. Because of this, some customers might be concerned with the ability of Adobe/EchoSign to continuing supporting their OEM partners' solutions given the patent litigation and Rpost's process patents claims that target the core of their offering (see this post from earlier today for additional insight on the Adobe, Rpost and Echosign patent litigation and acquisition details).

For existing (and potential) EchoSign customers, it's our recommendation at this point not to worry too much about access to the solution on an ongoing basis given Adobe's deep pockets and broad patent portfolio. Current and potential customers of EchoSign should:

  • Give full consideration to licensing capabilities directly through Adobe or through EchoSign partners (e.g., SAP)
  • Consider the concept of a digital signature as a key embedded and value-added feature rather than stand-alone capability as it pertains to contract management
  • Go with the preferred partners for digital signature signing capability of the contract management and related solutions under consideration (or already selected)
  • Encourage contract management, procurement and ERP suite vendors to treat digital signatures like solvers for optimization (i.e., don't get locked into one provider based on architecture/design if at all possible)

Customers and prospects should, of course, also consider RPost's comprehensive list of capabilities that extend beyond just digital signatures (we'll profile some of these capabilities in the coming weeks on Spend Matters). Docusign, RightSignature, CoSign, Silanis and a range of other providers offer electronic signature capability as well. But perhaps most important in the Adobe/Echosign acquisition and the patent litigation with RPost is to remember that the chance of the solution ever being turned off, based on past cases with similar profiles, is virtually nil. Precedent dictates that situations such as this will likely result in a settlement or sufficient workaround created if RPost is successful with its lawsuit (which of course is not a certainty).

Jason Busch

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