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DIFC Courts investing in metaverse and blockchain

The DIFC Courts operate from the Dubai International Financial Centre Creative Commons
The DIFC Courts operate from the Dubai International Financial Centre
  • Technological advances could help the court’s expanding caseload
  • Metaverse is considered the next strategic step in its evolution
  • Blockchain tech would mean settlements can be paid instantly

The DIFC Courts plan to enter the metaverse and use blockchain technology to make instant settlements following a judgment.

Established in 2004, the DIFC Courts are the English language, independent, common law legal system for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) free zone, the emirate’s main financial hub.

In 2017 the court partnered with the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) to explore new ways of streamlining the legal process. This led to the launch of the Court of the Future, a think tank which gathered talent and resources from global partners and experts across the fields of law, technology, IT and business.

In December last year it announced the launch of a Specialised Court for the Digital Economy, aimed at simplifying the settlement process of complex civil and commercial disputes related to the digital economy, including issues related to big data, blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence, cloud services, unmanned aerial vehicles, 3D printing technologies and robotics.

Amna Al Owais, chief registrar of the DIFC Courts, told AGBI the metaverse is the next step in its evolution.

“It’s more about being part of the ecosystem,” Al Owais said. “Yes, we are considering the metaverse. We don’t want to just have a digital twin of the DIFC Courts on the metaverse. We are looking from a strategic perspective.”

The DIFC Courts has a global remit and the economic opportunities in the metaverse are huge. Earlier this year Citi, the multinational investment bank, said the metaverse economy could be worth $13 trillion by 2030.

Dubai has already commenced work on a Metaverse Strategy that aims to see the sector contribute $4 billion to the emirate’s economy by 2030 and one percent to Dubai’s GDP, creating around 42,000 jobs.

“What we want to do is have a fully functional value proposition,” Al Owais said. “What would we offer the metaverse community from an angle of online dispute resolution that is part of the smart contract part of the ecosystem.  

“It’s just another extension of how you do business online, just mimicking reality into the virtual world.”

The courts are also looking to develop blockchain technology that can make sure settlements related to judgments can be made instantly once a judge has issued a final decision in a case.

“Judgments need to be converted into money. There’s no point to have a judgment on paper,” Al Owais said, adding that she envisions a system where once a judgment is issued a button can be pressed and the money can be transferred online to the winning claimant in the case, wherever they are in the world.

“Of course, there’d be some groundwork behind the scenes being done to actually activate such a platform.

“We wanted to do it on a Dubai level – all government entities are quite collaborative and quite open. It needs a huge amount of commitment and investment as well. 

“I think it’s manageable. I think it’s a project that can take place within six to twelve months if you have the right resources and right agreements.

“We’re quite ahead of the curve and sometimes we come up with ideas that are not mature yet.

The investment in technological advances comes as the courts’ caseload continues to expand. The total number of cases that have come before the DIFC Courts across all their divisions grew 10 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2022, with a total value of AED 1.9 billion.

The option in 2011 to allow companies outside the DIFC to use the courts to resolve disputes has resulted in more companies including the DIFC Courts in their contract terms and conditions, with roughly half of cases now coming from outside the free zone.