riccardogenghiniI would define myself as a “one of a kind” lawyer: interested in the normative power of language as the pre-condition of natural law and social institutions.  I am influenced by the writings of Thomas SebeokWalter J. Ong,  Natalino Irti, Francesco GalganoJohn Searle, Maurizio FerrarisSteve Mithen, John RawlsLawrence Lessig, and Angus Maddison, my research is focused on the changes of customary law as a consequence of digitalization.

Considering the matter of my research, I tried to focus on applied research: in fact I believe that after Plato, Wittgenstein, Sebeok and Searle, there is not much left to say about the possible implications of language.

Applied research means to work on some ideas about that “ontological forms” of “digital language” and their consequences on “social objects” (as defined by Searle), in particular on the idea of justice, identity, persona, right, obligation.  Think of the following example: before property has established itself, probably there was only possession and some sort of temporary lease. This was about 20.000 years ago. Today in the digital world there is no property, only some form of lease (the “license”). So if you want to “own” some digital content, you better buy some hardware, because if you only buy the “right” on such content, this is ruled as a “license”. Is this right? Is this necessary ?

The outcome of my research is that in the digital dimension, most problems are design problems, not ontological problems. The next question therefore is “what is proper design”? Because in the digital dimension, not only all objects, but even all subjects, are immaterial, this question is fiendishly hard to answer in general and abstract terms.  So I am trying on a case to case practical basis to find some possible answers.  These have been summarized in my latest publication: “New Digital Deal. The quest for a natural law in a digital society“, to be pulished in 2020 by Wolters & Kluwer.

In doing so I ended in being involved in the standardisation of digital signatures, documents, mails, archives and in producing my personal designs/applications of such technologies (XML, SMIME, FTP, etc.).

From 2011 to 2015 I have supported the EU Commission’s in drafting of the Regulation 2014/910/EU (eIDAS Regulation) as a member of the EC funded research project on “electronic Identity Authentication and Signature” (eIAS) and am still working on its implementation through European Norms as a Chairman of European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and of the eSign Coordination Group that co-ordinates the effort of the two EU Standards Organisations (ETSI and CEN) with the policy initiatives of the EU Commission.

In December 2012,  as ETSI ESI Chairperson, I am among the facilitators of a bold joint initiative of ETSI, the European Commission and Cloud Computing market players, in order to find a possible harmonisation of Cloud Computing, that transforms it from a collection of (somehow) interacting walled gardens, into a private-public infrastructure.

As a Public Notary I carry out my activity in Milan since 1990 where I founded the Studio Notarile Genghini, one of the most technologically advanced legal offices in Italy and in Europe in working with digital agreements and deeds. Strongly believing in the importance of notarising the digital environment, I have focused my efforts on creating the technologies needed by notaries for authenticating digital signatures (also at distance), for creating notary digital public deeds, and for securing emails and for long term preservation of data.  Our firm was the fist in Europe the executy a fully digital contract and still executes the vast majority of all digital notary contracts in Europe.

In 2013 have developed the <<Wook!>> that is an interactive book that combines the features of a book, with the features of Wiki and Blogs.  It creates an agorá of ideas between the author and the readers, that transforms learning from a passive experience into an active and engaging one.  I have deployed since 2014 the Wook in my lectures at the Università Cattlica di Milano.

These achievements have been attained thanks to the collaboration with eWitness S.A. ( technical and legal expertise have been embedded in procedures and source code, in a way to provide an innovative and reliable infrastructure for legal communication and transactions.

As a result, in 2008, I have been the first notary in Europe to authenticate a fully digital agreement (which has been also filed at the registrar of companies in Milano) and to negotiate a public deed by teleconference (in 2018). Since then in my office I have been authenticating more than ten thousand digital notary deeds with customers, such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Bank PLC or ING Direct NV.

At EU level I have had the chance to develop a deep knowledge of the workings of the European Commission with the LSPs and the ESOs, having chaired standardisation initiatives both in CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation) and ETSI (European Telecommunication Standards Institute).

From 2001 to 2004 I was the chairman of the CEN/ISSS E-Sign Workshop (European Committee for Standardization – Information Society Standardization System): under this chairmanship the three CEN CWA that specify the compliance with the requirements laid down in Annex II f to Directive 1999/93/EC (CWA 14167-1 & 2 regarding the security requirements for trustworthy systems managing certificates for electronic signatures, as well as CWA 14169 on secure signature-creation devices) have been approved and updated.  These protection profiles for electronic signature cards are used globally, not only in Europe.

Since 2004 I chair the technical body on Electronic Signature and Infrastructures (ESI) of ETSI – European Telecommunications Standards Institute.  The vast majority of European Standards for Electronic SIgnatures and thereto connected Trust Services has been approved by the committe I chair.

Since 2010 i chair the Electronic Signatures Coordination Group, that coordinates the standardization effort of CEN and ETSI in the field of electronic signatures, with respect in particular  to the implementation of the COM(2008) 798 Decision.  The Coordination Group steers the policy efforts of the EU Commission with the standardisation initiatives of the two European Standards Organisations (CEN and ETSI) and is formed by representatives from both CEN and ETSI and of the European Commission.

I am a strong supporter of open standards, and in this context, I have worked for influencing Adobe’s strategy with PDF (which has been entrusted to ISO, becoming so an open specification) and which has been involved in the standardization of PDF signatures as European standards.

As an academic researcher I have been appointed in 2004 (until 2017) as Visiting Professor at the Università Cattolica di Milano for Comparative Commercial Law, after many years of teaching commercial law in different Notary Schools in Italy: in those years I have been researching the legal, economic and social impact of electronic signatures.

In order to spread the notary digital approach I have founded in 2005, together with other technologically advanced European notaries, the cultural association Euronot@ries: on its website ( a translation in Italian of this blog is available.

I founded two successful start-ups: one in 2005 (eWitness SA in Luxembourg) and the other in 2007 in Italy (Euronotai srl). Both have been successfully sold to institutional investors and are still active and producing handsome returns for their investors. The first startup has created a long term preservation system that works on the same technical principles of the blockchains, but requiring on top of that a legal qualification of the nodes. The second startup has created an Uber-like system that allows banks to choose public notaries for carrying out some standard procedures related to mortgages.

I am fluent in German, Italian and English. Proficient in French and Spanish.