History of Rubber Stamps
Charles Goodyear is credited with the idea of vulcanizing rubber for commercial uses. The vulcanization process includes heating rubber with sulphur to expand the flexibility and strength of the rubber product. These products, in turn, came into modern day uses with tires, rubber soles of shoes, and rubber stamps.
Modern Day Uses of Rubber Stamps
Today, stamping devices appear everywhere in making a document appear legitimate or special. Have you ever had a document notarized? Then, most likely, a stamping device was used. Today, banks, post offices and government agencies are all known to use stamping devices making them part of our everyday life. Marketing companies like to depict a rubber stamp on the outside of a mass mailing envelope making the envelope appear more important.
Are Signature Stamps Legal?
Yes, signature stamps are legally binding as long as the stamp represents the user’s intention and is validated by you or an authorized party you select. Therefore, if the signature stamp meets these requirements, it is a considered legal signature. This is a common practice for large companies using signature stamps or digital signatures in place of “wet ink” signatures; as long as the person’s intention to sign the document is validated, the signature will be accepted.
What about signature stamp fraud?
What happens if a signature stamp is misused (i.e. does not have the permission from the signatory)? As with many legal matters, this issue is complicated and some states have adopted specific laws about their use. A signature stamp is only legal if it is the intention of the signer.
Misusing a signature stamp is against the law and constitutes fraud because it implies that you have permission from the signer when, in fact, you do not. In the United States, for example, some states have enacted tougher laws ensuring that authorized users have written permission from the signer or a signature stamp authorization form is requested.
Special instructions for Notaries
Some states in the U.S. have enacted special rules for notaries to validate a document if a signature stamp is to be used. These include rules such as requiring one or two witnesses to observe and sign that they saw the signature stamp in use, or that a note is made on the certificate that the signature was made with a stamp and to name the signer. It’s a good idea to let your Notary know ahead of time if you intend to use a signature stamp so they can follow the rules.
Digital versus electronic signatures
While often used interchangeably, electronic and digital signatures are different – and carry different legal weights.
An ‘electronic signature’ refers to any mark or symbol that matches an individual to a document – and includes examples like simply typing your name at the end of an e-mail or scanning your handwritten signature and pasting it into a document. As such, electronic signatures are easily forged and can’t be authenticated.
‘Digital signatures’ on the other hand, refer to signatures generated through a cryptographic process, with the cryptographic keys stored on a tamper-proof cryptographic hardware device. These signatures protect the integrity of the entire document, and thus the authenticity of its contents as well as the actual signature.
The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 (ECTA) allows for the use of ‘electronic signatures’ for many basic transactions but requires advanced digital signatures – for other more sensitive legally binding agreements.
As many companies quickly adjust to remote working, the use of electronic and digital signatures has grown. Traditional “wet ink” signatures are no longer easily executed as companies transition from offices to working from home. Should you have a question regarding rubber stamps, electronic or digital signatures, please do not hesitate to contact me at (312) 343-9902.