I'm working with someone oversea to submit a project for evaluation by an institute in US, and the institute requires signed IP statements (patent disclosure, licensing condition, etc.). To save postage costs, I told my oversea peer to scan his signed statement, email it to me, and I'll print it and mail it along with my signed statement to the institute.

In this case, my signature will be hand-written on a fresh paper; but my oversea peer's will be a printed one, albeit being scanned from a original paper-signed version.

Are such printed signature considered valid under the context of IP licensing and patent disclosure in US? Or do we have to send both of our physical papers through mail?

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    Signatures on faxed documents are considered valid. Not sure of non-fax electronic delivery, so I look forward to an answer.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 14:08
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    "To save stamping fee" Do you mean postage? Or is there a jurisdiction specific stamp tax that has to be paid on certain kinds of documents?
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 21:49
  • @ohwilleke I just meant that I'll do all the postage works. There's no extraneous tax involved, it's just regular internation paper mailing. You see, I, my collaborator, and the institute reside in separate countries on separate continents, the institute is in the US.
    – DannyNiu
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 1:47
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    @DannyNiu Just clarifying. You are probably not a native U.S. or U.K. English speaker and "stamping fee" is not idiomatic in either dialect as a phrase meaning "postage cost". In those dialects of English, a "stamping fee" usually refers to a certain kind of excise tax historically paid by buying a stamp and physically affixing it to the thing taxed.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 16:25
  • @ohwilleke I rephrased a bit, but I'm not sure if that's the correct way to describe it. My volcabulary on this area is lacking.
    – DannyNiu
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 2:59

3 Answers 3


Under U.S. law, a copy of a document has the same legal effect as the original in almost all cases. The main exceptions are "live" promissory notes and checks (absent an e-deposit agreement), and wills. This document does not come within any of the exceptions.

As background, the exception for promissory notes and checks is because the physical instrument is "negotiable" and can be physically transferred to transfer the rights associated with it.

The exception for wills has a different basis, which is that a will can be revoked by destroying or defacing the original. This practice developed at a time when copying documents was almost non-existent, and persisted once established.


This is not definitive, and is just my guess from reasoning.

From reading on this site, I (roughly) understand that, the purpose of signature is to indicate assent. If the person expressing assent is not capable of signing (e.g. illiterate), there are other ways to prove assent (e.g. marking an "X").

When a physical paper is digitized, the proof is destroyed in its digital form, until it can be reproduced, for example, printed or faxed. While the act of faxing can transfer the proof of assent from the act of signing to a recipient of the fax. Printing a file cannot, as anyone with the file's digital source can print it. Therefore, another way of proving assent is needed - mailing it.

Both faxing and mailing allows the recipient of the signed document verify that the signed document originates from what they claim to be from, because both usually come with the contact method or address of the sender.

Update: For my case, the lawyers from the institute explicitly requested that physically signed original version of IP statements be provided. So I guess the conclusion is case-by-case.

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    There is a serious but common misunderstanding here. a signature is not intended to prove assent. rather the act of signing is a way to indicate assent. Once assent has been given, it remains given unless formally withdrawn (if the agreement provides for withdrawal. destroying the physicl document dos not cancel assent. A faxed or scanned or indeed printed signature is till valid if the intent to assent was present. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 4:57
  • @DavidSiegel I see. I changed "prove" to "indicate". Hope people can offer more insight on this.
    – DannyNiu
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 11:37
  • "When a physical paper is digitized, the proof is destroyed in its digital form" Not so. "Printing a file cannot, as anyone with the file's digital source can print it" Not so. Once an agreemewnt has been assented to, the assent remains in foirce, however the document may be conveyed, including verbally. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 12:42
  • @DavidSiegel I see. As I said at the very beginning, this answer is my attempt at guessing. I just thought that I can transfer the indication of assent from "signing" to "mailing a printed signature". I understand thinking of a full answer can be tedious, but I'm sure I and everyone like me will appreciate such effort and it'll be worth the upvotes.
    – DannyNiu
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 12:51
  • Faxes can be stored indefinitely as well; just decode it with a computer fax program, then relay it to someone else. I'm a ham radio operator, and we do this quite often with slow-scan TV (basically color fax over radio); it could also be done with regular phone-line faxes.
    – Someone
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 3:51

I think that instead of calling the signature an indication of agreement, it’s better to think of it as evidence of agreement. Evidence, not proof, its validity and value can both be disputed. Simple example, the signer is illiterate either in the language the contract is written in or entirely. If the contract has terms which weren’t adequately conveyed to the signer, those terms, and possibly the entire agreement could be determined to be invalid.

Also, and directly on point to your question, is evidence of agreement to whom? The institute that is asking for this, can put whatever terms they want on how the terms will be accepted. Common “extra” terms are signing with a particular color and notarized signatures.

If they want a signed, original document, that’s what they want. You can fake it, but that gives them the opportunity to repudiate the contract if they find out.

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