Dubai approves DIFC Courts plan to help bolster emirate's role as global business centre

Goals include establishing a digital economy court, departments for intellectual property rights and a new deposit centre

Dubai, Jan 16th, 2012 --  DIFC STOCK - Businessmen walking by DIFC Courts Sign. Photo by: Sarah Dea/ The National
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Dubai has approved a three-year plan for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts aimed at bolstering the emirate's position as a global business and finance centre.

This includes setting up a new digital economy court, dedicated departments for intellectual property rights, online courts with electronic capabilities, a new will deposit centre, digital will management system and multilingual consultancy services, said Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the DIFC, in a tweet on Sunday.

"Today, we approved the new strategic work plan that serves to further instil confidence that the DIFC Courts will forge ahead to shape the new dynamics of global dispute resolution," Sheikh Maktoum said.

"The strategic work plan is built to actively support DIFC strategic objectives and to launch a new era of legal technological infrastructure that meet current requirements."

The DIFC Courts handled 747 cases in 2021, with the total value of claims reaching Dh6.1 billion ($1.66bn), as it focuses on dealing with disputes related to the digital economy.

In December, the DIFC Courts set up a special court to deal with disputes related to the digital economy, with the aim of simplifying the settlement process of complex civil and commercial disputes within the emerging sector.

The digital economy contributes about 4.3 per cent to the UAE's gross domestic product, which is equal to Dh100bn, figures from Dubai Chamber for Digital Economy show.

The DIFC Courts' new four-pillar plan calls for full digital transformation through advanced technologies to increase the efficiency of dispute resolution, the Executive Council said.

"Increased digital platforms, paperless processes and virtual hearings are all now becoming the new reality. Expectations from the private sector increasingly require the bold engagement of public service," said Justice Omar Al Mheiri, director of DIFC Courts.

"By combining a modern and flexible digital infrastructure with judicial and service excellence, the DIFC Courts will continue to set the benchmark for international commercial courts.”

The new DIFC Courts plan consists of 28 projects.

A new "hyper-connected" judicial network will be developed along with advanced legal procedures for better access to court services.

Under the plan, the new international digital economy court will focus on resolving disputes related to emerging technologies such as big data, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and cloud services.

The DIFC Courts will also adopt end-to-end digital technology, ensuring court systems are smart, user-friendly and agile enough to keep pace with global commerce, the Executive Council said.

This will "bridge barriers of language, borders, jurisdiction and currency", it said.

"AI will reduce clerical burdens, help streamline the case review methodology, create a realistic virtual presence, remove document duplications, and unlock time to take on significantly more complex tasks."

Future research from the DIFC Courts will cover the handling of disputes arising out of private and public blockchain, with regulation and contractual terms encoded within smart contracts.

Implications for cross-border data flows, digital and data governance, and ensuring protection and security of information for the business relationships that help drive the digital economy, are now being reviewed.

The UAE is undertaking a series of measures to ease doing business in the country, attract foreign investments, draw high-skilled talent and create more jobs while diversifying its non-oil economy. It has further eased visa rules, amended laws to allow 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies and shifted to a Monday-to-Friday work week in line with major international economies.

Updated: April 24, 2022, 12:51 PM