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What constitutes a signature?

For centuries, people have been using their signatures to signal their consent to some agreement. Sometimes, it was a person's name written in a cursive or stylized manner. Other times, a simple "X" could be used when the signer couldn't write his or her name. Now we've moved past physical signing and into the digital realm which raises a simple yet important question: what is a signature?

Defining this is vital because it could mean the difference between an enforceable and an unenforceable contract. The answer is a little more complicated than it might seem at first glance. Essentially, a signature can be any number of things:

  • A mark on a piece of paper made with a pen.
  • A mark made with a pre-made stamp.
  • A printed version of a person's signature.
  • Thanks to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (E-SIGN) Act, electronic signatures are now just as valid as physical ones.

Also, since a signature is just a sign of consent with another party, it doesn't even have to take the form of a name. For example, let's say a supplier you work with on a regular basis sends an email notifying you of a price change on a shipment that's about to be sent. If you answer with an affirmative "yes" or "sounds great," you've left your "signature" because you're agreeing to the supplier's new "contract."

Contract law can get complex. That's why if you feel another party has breached a contract with you or you are being accused of breaching a contract, it may be a good idea to speak with an attorney.

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