“Simple” electronic signature, certified electronic signature, and scanned signature in contracts

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to adapt to the digital age through the use of Information Technologies (TIC’s) to guarantee the continuity of their operations, such as contract signing. The electronic signature has gained particular importance as a useful tool to avoid the parties’  physical concurrence when entering a contract. Also, it streamlines the process and improves document management.

Some people may confuse the electronic signature with the handwritten signature scanned and embedded in an electronic document; also, the electronic signature certified by an accredited local entity should not be confused with one that does not have said certification. 

This article analyzes the “simple” electronic signature, the certified electronic signature, and the scanned signature to differentiate them and determine the contract’s legal effects.

For the analysis, we assume a  contract between private parties that is not subject to any solemnity.

  1. “Simple” electronic signature and certified electronic signature

The electronic signature is regulated by the Law of Electronic Commerce, Signatures and Data Messages (hereinafter, “LCE”). It defines it as: “[…] the data in electronic form consigned in a data message, attached or logically associated with it, and that can be used to identify the owner of the signature with the data message, and indicate that the owner of the signature approves and acknowledges the information contained in the data message. “[1]

According to article 15 of the LCE, the electronic signature must meet the following requirements for its validity:

” a) Be individual and be linked exclusively to its owner;

b) That allows to verify the authorship and identity of the signatory unequivocally, through technical verification devices established by this law and its regulations;

c) That its method of creation and verification is reliable, safe and unalterable for the purpose for which the message was generated or communicated;

d ) That at the time of the creation of the electronic signature, the data with which it is created is under the exclusive control of the signatory, and,

e) That the signature is controlled by the person to whom it belongs. “[2]

The electronic signature has the same validity and  legal effects recognized in a handwritten signature (or physical signature).

The LCE does not use the denomination digital signature and electronic signature like in other countries to differentiate the electronic signature certified by an accredited entity before the competent authority in Ecuador (hereinafter, “Certified Electronic Signature”) from that electronic signature that does not have said certification (hereinafter, “Simple Electronic Signature”). The LCE calls both “electronic signature ”.

The electronic signature certificate is not a requirement for the validity of the electronic signature. According to the LCE, said certificate simply consists of “ […] a message that certifies the link of an electronic signature with a specific person, through a verification process that confirms their identity.”[3] and it is used mainly to “[…] certify the identity of the owner of an electronic signature […]”[4]

Consequently, the Simple Electronic Signature and the Certified Electronic Signature are valid. The difference between one and the other is in the presumption of legitimacy that the law grants to the Certified Electronic Signature when it is presented as evidence in a legal process:

“Art. 53.- Presumption. – When an electronic signature certified by an accredited information certification entity is presented as evidence, it will be presumed that it meets the requirements determined by law, and that consequently, the electronic signature data has not been altered since its issuance and that it belongs to the signatory ”. [5] (highlighted out of text)

It should be noted that the parties can agree to the use of electronic signatures generated through tools such as DocuSign, AdobeSign, among others. They do not necessarily have a local certification but are useful; they are within reach of any person, national or foreign, and expedite business.

When electronic signatures have a certificate issued and accredited by a foreign entity, it is possible to revalidate it[6] before an accredited Ecuadorian entity[7], with the same value as a local certificate. Notwithstanding this, the parties may agree to the use of electronic signatures and certificates that are not accredited. That agreement will be legally valid[8].

In short, if the Simple Electronic Signature meets the requirements provided for in the law, and its use is agreed between the parties, it can be used to sign contracts and it cannot be deprived of legal effects because it does not have a local electronic signature certificate. However, it will not enjoy the presumption of legitimacy that the LCE grants to the Certified Electronic Signature.

  1. Scanned Signatures

The Scanned Signature is only a facsimile of an original handwritten signature (hereinafter “Scanned Signature”). All a person has to do is scan their handwritten signature or that of a third party contained in a physical document to generate it and incorporate it into an electronic document.

The Scanned Signature is not regulated in the LCE, but it can be valid as long as the parties acknowledge such validity and it is part of a data message [9](eg in a document attached to an email). This is due to the principle of autonomy of the will and in view of the fact that data messages and documents incorporated by reference have the same legal value as written documents, as provided by law. In order to guarantee the validity of the Scanned Signature, it is important to observe the provisions of the LCE when sending, receiving and keeping the data message that contains the signed contract.

In conclusion, the Scanned Signature produces binding effects, provided that: (i) the parties so agree; (ii) the signed document is part of a data message and (iii) it is possible to access said data message, for later consultation. However, since this type of signature is not generated through a system that guarantees its authenticity, authorship and integrity, it cannot be considered an electronic signature.

[1] Ecuador, Law of Electronic Commerce, Signatures and Data Messages, Official Register Supplement 557, April 17, 2002, Art. 13.

[2] Ibidem, Art. 15.

[3] Ibidem, Art. 20.

[4] Ibidem, Art. 21.

[5] Ibidem, Art. 53.

[6] Ibidem, First General Provision.

[7] Ecuador, Regulation to the Electronic Commerce Law, Signatures and Data Messages, Official Registry 735, December 31, 2002, Art. 16.

[8] Ecuador, Electronic Commerce Law, Signatures and Data Messages, Official Registry Supplement 557, April 17, 2002, Art. 28.

[9] According to the Electronic Commerce Law, a data message “[…] It is all information created, generated, processed, sent, received, communicated or filed by electronic means, which can be exchanged by any medium. The following electronic documents, electronic records, electronic mail, web services, telegram, telex, fax and electronic data exchange will be considered as data messages, without this enumeration limiting its definition. “

Mario Fernández García
Asociado en CorralRosales
mfernadez@corralrosales.com

Derechos Intelectuales Vol. 25 – Theoretical approach to the patent and compulsory licensing regime in Ecuador

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DETAILS

DATE: 23-12-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS:

-Katherine González

MEDIA: ASIPI

Katherine González, CorralRosales’s associate, wrote for the book “Intellectual Rights Volume 25”, published by the Inter-American Association of Intellectual Property (ASIPI). She wrote a complete chapter on the theoretical approach to the regime of patents and compulsory licenses in Ecuador; the chapter has three main sections, each one explained in depth: intellectual property, patents, and compulsory patent licenses.

ASIPI gives González the opportunity to explain the subject of invention patents and compulsory licenses in a direct and straightforward way. Her main objective is to help as many people as possible understand this topic and be able to access, in this way, a more in-depth technical and specific knowledge in this area.

Gonzalez does her analysis using national and international instruments that govern the matter, which allows her to compare them directly, “seeking a comprehensive interpretation.”

Without losing sight of the pandemic caused by COVID-19, which has changed the plans for 2020, our associate wanted to dedicate the last section of her chapter to compulsory licenses on medicines within the said pandemic framework.

In conclusion, González explains that the Intellectual Property area has usually been divided into two main branches: ‘Copyright and “Industrial Property”. Copyright protects literary, artistic or scientific creations, which are original and can be reproduced or disclosed by any form or medium known or to be known. This branch includes neighboring rights, referring to the rights of third parties related to the author, such as interpreters, producers of phonograms, and radio broadcasters. On the other hand, we find ‘Industrial Property’, which includes trademarks, industrial designs, geographical indications, and patents. “

If you want to read the full chapter of the publication Intellectual Rights Volume 25 (under registration), click here.

El Comercio – Hemp seeds are approved in Imbabura and Pichincha

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DETAILS

DATE: 16-12-2020

CORRALROSALES IN THE NEWS:

-Felipe Samaniego

MEDIA: El Comercio

Felipe Samaniego, partner at CorralRosales and leader of the Ecuadorian Association of Cannabis Industries, has participated in an article published by the digital medium El Comercio. It reports on the approval of hemp seeds in the Ecuadorian provinces of  Imbabura and Pichincha.

A cultivation of 140 cannabis plants is part of the first valuation analysis carried out by the National Institute of Agricultural Research (Iniap). It is estimated that in the summer of 2021 the research carried out will already offer results on the legal development of hemp in Ecuador, with a view to its production.

The cannabis, soon, will be harvested and will go to the next phase: drying in the dark, according to Jorge Merino, a researcher from the Santa Catalina Experimental Station. After this process, the cannabis will be analyzed in a laboratory with a mass chromatograph to separate the components and thus be able to quantify them.

The tests, as indicated in the article, will be carried out in different areas: two in Imbabura and one in Sangolquí.

Scientists observe the progress of the tests carried out, as does Felipe Samaniego, who explains to El Comercio that “fabrics, chocolates, cosmetics and more products are made from hemp. It is estimated that in 2022 the local industry will manufacture products and export them”.

The cost of the licenses to develop this industry was approved and it is now the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) that implements the procedures.

If you want to read the full article, click here

Regulatory improvement based on the identification, review, and elimination of market entry barriers

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The Superintendency of Market Power Control (SCPM) published the “Methodology for the identification, review, and elimination of regulatory barriers” on November 5, 2020. It will serve as a guide to remove regulatory barriers to promote the participation of various operators in the market.

The Constitution establishes the principle of the prevalence of public interest over private interest as a guide for state and social activity and recognizes the right of people to develop economic activities, individually or collectively, in accordance with the principles of solidarity, social and environmental responsibility and the power of State intervention in economic activities to promote forms of production that ensure the welfare of the population and discourage those that violate their rights or those of nature.

State intervention through the regulation of economic activities is legitimate as long as it achieves a balance of these guarantees and powers, in the sense that the regulatory restrictions imposed on the entry and permanence of economic operators in the different markets are useful, reasonable, proportionate, and sufficient to guarantee public interest but not constituting an entry barrier for the development of efficient markets.

The methodology developed by the SCPM is intended to promote free competition and market efficiency, by verifying the legitimacy of regulatory barriers and, based on this analysis, the subsequent proposal for regulatory improvements or their elimination.

The procedure comprises two phases: on the one hand, the test of legality, in which the authority’s faculties to issue the regulation under analysis are verified, and then the coherence of said regulation with the law in force, in consideration of the hierarchy of the norms determined in the Constitution. If it is determined that the regulation is illegal in the first phase, either because the authority did not have the faculty to issue it or because it contradicts a regulation of higher hierarchy, the SCPM must propose its elimination.

If the regulation passes the test of legality, in the second phase, the SCPM must weigh the reasonableness and proportionality of the restriction it imposes, against the protected legal good: the public interest. For this analysis, the SCPM must determine, in the following order:

  • The appropriateness of the measure imposed by the regulation to achieve the purpose it pursues. That is, if the means employed – the restriction imposed – is indeed useful to protect the public interest.
  • The need for the measure: At this point, it must be determined if there are less restrictive alternative measures useful to achieve the goal.
  • The proportionality of the measure in the strict sense: In other words, the weighting aimed at balancing the degree of restriction imposed by the regulation and the importance of the legal good that it seeks to protect.

If, after this analysis, the SCPM determines that the rule that imposes the entry barrier is not reasonable, it will propose improvements or elimination, as appropriate.

Several countries in the region have recently initiated regulatory review processes to implement improvements to eliminate regulatory entry barriers that imply illegitimate restrictions on competitiveness. Colombia issued the Anti-paperwork Law in 2019. In Peru, citizens can report regulatory barriers that they consider illegitimate to the antitrust authority and its decision regarding, for example the non-applicability of such regulation (with general or particular effect, depending on the case) is binding on the administrative authorities that issued such regulation.

In Ecuador, the review of regulatory barriers is carried out solely by order of the Superintendent of Market Power Control or the Technical General Intendant, either: (i) ex officio (ii) based on a request of a public administration entity, or  (iii) in application of a recommendation issued by the SCPM study divisions. However, in the introduction of the Methodology for the identification, revision, and elimination of regulatory barriers, the Superintendent of Control of Market Power expressly encourages the public to collaborate to identify regulations that fall under these parameters. Since there is no specific procedure for the public to request the review of regulatory barriers, the request would be based on the petition right guaranteed in the Constitution.

We will have to wait for the practical application of the “Methodology for the identification, review, and elimination of regulatory barriers” to determine if the recommendations made by the SCPM have a sufficient ground of legality and reasonableness so that the corresponding authorities are compelled to implement them.

Ana Samudio
Associate en CorralRosales
asamudio@corralrosales.com