In an unprecedented move to address legal disputes in the ever-evolving digital economy, including areas like cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts have launched a groundbreaking set of specialized rules. These are designed for their recently established Digital Economy Court (DEC) Division, the world’s first of its kind. This strategic initiative combines leading judicial expertise with advanced technology, highlighting the need for specialized legal structures in the age of digital transformation.
Overseeing this pioneering division is Justice Michael Black of England and Wales, appointed by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister. This appointment was made under Decree No. 29 of 2022 and showcases the DIFC Courts’ commitment to integrating internationally recognized judicial expertise.
A global team of legal experts led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC and Matthew Watson of 3VB Chambers was responsible for formulating the new rules. Following a 30-day public consultation, these rules were finalized under Justice Black’s supervision and received the final approval from Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and President of DIFC.
Dubbed ‘Part 58’, these new provisions within the DIFC Courts Rules aim to modernize and streamline the resolution of digital economy disputes. The new framework embraces AI-driven platforms and smart forms for information delivery, and will conduct cases via advanced digital systems, aligning with the court’s paperless directive. This technological approach will not only expedite proceedings and enforcement but also minimize the environmental footprint of the court’s operations.
Founded in December of the previous year, the DEC Division is designed to manage complex national and international disputes in emerging technologies. This includes areas like big data, blockchain, AI, fintech, cloud services, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 3D printing, and robotics.
Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director of DIFC Courts, emphasized the DIFC Courts’ dedication to offering Dubai, the UAE, and the world an advanced suite of dispute resolution services, tailored to suit the needs of the future digital economy.
In 2022, the DIFC Courts presided over one of the region’s first cryptocurrency litigation disputes. This case opened up intriguing legal questions about the nature and value of cryptocurrencies, establishing a precedent for how such disputes could be handled in the future.
Since its inception in 2004, the DIFC Courts have played a critical role in the UAE’s legal system, providing an English language common law judicial system for Dubai and facilitating the adjudication of complex international disputes. This new Digital Economy Court Division reaffirms their commitment to pioneering legal services that meet the evolving demands of the global digital economy.