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Mar 27, 2024 · 5 min read

Beyond Ink: ensuring the legality of electronic signatures

Goodbye paper, hello eSignatures! Today, we tackle their legal validity and discuss solutions for court-ready documentation in our tech-filled world.

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Bid farewell to the days of ink-stained documents and paper trails. With the world filled with technology, electronic signatures reign supreme - they offer a bridge between the physical and digital realms. Digital verification streamlines processes, but the questions regarding their legal power still hold. That’s why today we embark on a mission to prove that eSignatures are legally sound and court-ready, as well as talk about solutions and techniques to ensure their legality.

Touchbase on electronic signatures

Before we dive into the details of selecting and verifying electronic signatures, let's first understand what electronic signatures are and how they work. In simple terms, an electronic signature is a way to sign a document or a record electronically. It serves as a digital representation of a person's intent to agree to the contents of a document.
There are a few types of electronic signatures, which can broadly be divided into two categories: simple electronic signatures and qualified electronic signatures (QES). Simple electronic signatures are essentially any form of electronic signature that is attached to or associated with other electronic data and is used by the signatory to sign.
On the other hand, qualified or advanced electronic signatures (QES) are electronic signatures that comply with the EU Regulation No 910/2014 (eIDAS Regulation) for electronic transactions within the internal European market. QES is ideal for complex businesses such as medicine, intellectual property, etc., where the legality of the signature might need to be proven in court.
Therefore, qualified electronic signature is often used in higher-risk or highly regulated business sectors, due to their high level of assurance and legal backing. These industries include:
  • Real estate: the real estate sector deals with a lot of paperwork, including contracts and inventory documents. The use of QES ensures the legality of these documents and streamlines the process.
  • Healthcare industry: the healthcare industry handles sensitive information and requires a high level of security. QES is used to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of health records and other related documents.
  • Legal industry: legal documents require a high level of assurance and non-repudiation. QES is used in the legal industry to ensure the legality of these documents.
  • Financial industry: financial transactions and agreements often require a high level of security and legal backing. QES is used in the financial industry to ensure the legality and security of these transactions.
  • Public administration: QES is used for undertaking public administration tasks such as e-Business register changes, declaring taxes, and requesting information
It’s important to note that the use of QES depends on the region or country, as different places have different regulations regarding electronic signatures. Always make sure to check the local laws and regulations before using QES - one way to familiarize yourself with laws of a specific country is by following Enty’s articles on eSigntuare laws around the world.

Selecting qualified electronic signatures

When considering using QES, it's crucial to assess which method best aligns with your specific needs. For instance, if you're drafting a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) requiring robust legal validity, exploring supported methods within is essential. What does all this mean?
In simpler terms, different e-signature methods might support different types of digital file formats. For example, some methods might support PDF files, others might support XML or xades files, and so on. The specific types of file formats supported can depend on various factors: the technical specifications of the e-signature method, the requirements of the legal framework it operates under, or the needs of the users.
A few of the most popular methods for QES include:


Itsme is a method that supports visual signatures and is applicable in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The supported types of file formats are PDF, ASiCE, CAdES, XAdES.

ZealID app

ZealID app is another method that supports visual signatures. It covers a wide range of countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia. In this case, the allowed file formats are similar - PDF, ASiCE, CAdES, XAdES.

Estonian ID Card

The Estonian ID Card offers a robust solution for electronic signatures, particularly in Estonia. With support for visual signatures and compatibility with various container types including PDF, ASiCE, CAdES, and XAdES, it ensures flexibility and legality in document signing processes.
These are just a few examples of electronic signature methods that offer qualified electronic signatures. Depending on your specific requirements and the countries in which you operate, you can choose a method that best suits your needs.

How to verify the legality of a signature

Once you have selected an electronic signature solution that offers qualified electronic signatures, the next step is to verify the signatures to ensure their legal validity. Verifying electronic signatures involves checking the integrity of the signed document, confirming that the signature is valid, and will be accepted in court. You can do this in a few ways, but the easiest would be Adobe Reader. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:
1) Open the document in a PDF reader that supports signature validation - in this case - Adobe Reader.
2) Navigate to the signature panel in the PDF reader. In Adobe Acrobat Reader, this can usually be found by clicking on the "Signatures" tab.
3) Look for a list of electronic signatures associated with the document. This list will provide information about who has signed the document and whether the signature is qualified or not - it will generally look like this. You can navigate here by clicking on the signature, with the following window popping up.
4) Check if the signature is qualified by verifying if trust is retrieved from the appropriate source. In some cases, long-term validation (LTV) may also be indicated, ensuring the long-term integrity of the signature. You can do so by clicking on signature properties button.
5) Pay attention to any additional information provided, such as the presence of a timestamp or a signature confirmation.
By following these steps, you can easily verify the legal validity of an electronic signature and ensure that it will be accepted in court if required.

Simple signatures - audit trail

In situations where a document has been signed with a simple electronic signature, such as email or SMS, it may be necessary to provide an audit trail to establish the authenticity and integrity of the signature. An audit trail is a document that records the chronology of events related to the creation, modification, and storage of an electronic document. It provides a comprehensive record of the actions taken and the evidence supporting the validity of the signature.
If you require an audit trail for a document signed with a simple electronic signature, Enty can easily provide you with one. With this document, you can view all the necessary information to prove the legality of the signature and demonstrate its integrity.
Here is an example of what the audit trail will look like:

Legal provenance and certification

When choosing an electronic signature solution, it is important to consider the legal provenance and certification of the service provider. One way to ensure the trustworthiness of an electronic signature solution is to look for certifications that validate the security and reliability of the service. For example, Enty is working with partners who have ISO/IEC 27001:2022 certification - an internationally recognized standard for information security management systems. This certification ensures that the service provider follows best practices in user identification and electronic signature creation.
By selecting Enty, you gain confidence in the validity and legal acceptance of the electronic signatures in court. We facilitate the signing of documents with a qualified electronic signature. Whether it's documents issued within the Enty platform or your own uploads, you can securely sign them with ease.
After the document is issued or signed, you can effortlessly share it with your counterparties, ensuring smooth collaboration and efficient document management.

Last thoughts

Selecting and verifying electronic signatures is a crucial step in ensuring the legal validity and integrity of your digital documents. By understanding the nature of qualified electronic signatures, you can confidently choose a solution that meets your needs. Always go for the trustworthy providers with necessary certifications - Enty is a great example. Additionally, don’t forget to verify electronic signatures using trusted tools like Adobe Acrobat Reader and request audit trails for simple electronic signatures when necessary. With these guidelines in mind, you can embrace the efficiency and convenience of legally recognized eSignatures, while Enty will always be there to support you.
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