Electronic signatures have taken the world by storm – especially with the shift to remote work. Because of that, people are starting to understand that electronic signatures have their own nuances which need to be understood. A form of electronic signature is called an S-signature and it has its own use cases.

When S-signatures are used properly, they can make it possible to use electronic signatures on a wider range of legally binding documents. When they’re poorly understood, it can result in delays with paperwork or voiding the legality of a document. This guide will share what an S-signature is, how to create it, and when to use it.

What is an S-signature

An S-signature, which includes conformed signatures, is when a signer types (or uses other non-handwritten means) their name between two forward slashes on the signature line of a document. This allows them to, in certain cases, bypass the need for an actual signature. Conformed signatures are a type of S-signature but instead of typing the name between two forward slashes, /s/ is placed before the typed name.

S-signature: /John Doe/

Conformed signature: /S/ John Doe

Why use an S-signature

An S-signature is accepted in a wide range of situations and, like electronic signatures, speeds up the process of signing documents. Additionally, many government agencies accept S-signatures when other types of electronic signatures may not meet the mark and wet signatures would usually be required. Most notably, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) accepts s-signatures for correspondence and signing as an inventor.

Other government agencies that accept an electronic signature include:

  • Federal Communication Commission
  • U.S. International Trade Commission
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Etc.

Note: This list isn’t comprehensive and there are many more government agencies that accept S-signatures on legally binding documents.

Ease of use

Creating an S-signature is easy as long as you have a way to type on the document. It can be done without complex software and will allow you to get business done quickly irrespective of how technically inclined you or the other person is.

Speed

Modern business is moving faster and faster. Electronic signatures allow you to sign documents and return them to the sender within minutes. You’re able to cut out many cumbersome processes associated with faxed or emailed contracts.

Convenience

Even though there’s a clear business case for using S-signatures and other forms of electronic signatures, many people decided to make the switch because of convenience. The convenience it affords is often directly correlated to a higher close rate.

You’re able to sign documents from your mobile phone, on your laptop, or when you’re out of the office. This is due to the fact that you don’t have to print out a document, sign it, and then send it back to the person that sent it to you (or your clients don’t have to repeat a similar process).  

Drawbacks of basic S-signatures

The major drawback of an S-signature that can be created in something like Microsoft Word is a lack of security and an audit trail. If the document is challenged in court, it would be difficult to prove that you’re the one that signed or that the recipient signed using an S-signature.

You can avoid this by using UsefulSignatures – the electronic signature tool from UsefulPDF. It’ll create the audit trail, secure your identity, and even add document hashing on your behalf. This will ensure the validity of your document and will prevent it from being challenged on the grounds that it’s an s-signature.

Even better, you can upload a wet signature and append it to documents that you sign through UsefulSignatures. In either instance, UsefulSignatures will help you avoid one of the major drawbacks of using S-signatures or conformed signatures on important documents.

Requirements for an S-signature

S-signatures can be used in a wide range of circumstances but they need to meet certain criteria as set out by 37 CFR 1.4(d)(2). If these criteria aren’t met then it’s possible that the conformed signature will be rejected.

  1. It should only have letters or Arabic numbers. It can also include proper punctuation.
  2. It should be between forward slashes /name/
  3. The typed or mechanically produced signature between forward slashes should be placed right next to or below the S-signature so it’s possible to identify the signer.
  4. If it’s related to a patent then the patent registration number should be placed within the forward slashes or adjacent to the signature.

Examples of S-signatures

  1. /John Doe/ John Doe
  2. /John Doe/ Reg No. #12345 John Doe
  3. /John doe #12345/ John Doe
  4. /s/ John Doe Reg No. #12345
  5. /John Doe/

John Doe

These are just a few examples of S-signatures and how they should be formatted. Of course, there are other forms that may be considered acceptable and if you prefer those, you’re free to use them.

When to use S-signatures

There are many instances when S-signatures are used and preferred. The following list isn’t exhaustive but it can give you an idea of when and how to use S-signatures.

  • Federal circuit court of appeals
    • Ninth circuit
    • Eleventh circuit
    • Second circuit
    • Fourth circuit
    • D.C. court of appeals
  • Some district courts like Central District of California and the District of Columbia
  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Federal communications commission

Conclusion

S-signatures are a form of electronic signature that makes it possible to sign a wider range of documents without the need for a wet signature or cumbersome signing processes. They’re versatile, easy to make, and convenient for most people. They do have a few drawbacks related to security and authentication but by using a signature tool like UsefulSignatures, you’ll be protected from most issues. Get started with our electronic signature solution today and start using S-signatures to complete documents faster.