By art 3 (3) (c) of a decree dated 21 May 2014 (Law No. (7) of 2014 Amending Law No. (9) of 2004 Concerning the Dubai International Financial Centre) the Ruler of Dubai established the Dubai Dispute Resolution Authority, Art 8 (1) of the Law provides that the Authority shall be comprised of the DIFC Courts, the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre and any other tribunals or ancillary bodies established in accordance with Article 8(5)(b) of that Law. At present, those ancillary bodies include the Academy of Law
which regulates as well as educates DIFC Court practitioners and the Wills and Probate Registry for non-Muslims with assets in Dubai.
The Authority's mission is to be "a platform for delivering legal excellence in the Middle East and the gateway to a suite of services available to businesses operating in Dubai and beyond." In a white paper distributed by The Lawyer on the 18 July 2016, James Foster and Robyn Waller of Gowling WLG list 15 facts about the Authority to consider when drafting an international contract. These include:
- the freedom for parties to choose the governing law of the contract;
- the absence of a requirement that any of the parties has a connection with Dubai;
- the prestige and experience of its judges; and
- the DIFC Courts' propensity for innovation.
On the last two points, a press release from the Courts dated 18 May 2016 announced that Sir David Steel had succeeded Sir John Chadwick as Deputy Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts and that Sir Jeremy Cooke had joined the bench and an article in the Emirates Insider announced that the DIFC Courts will open a virtual court in September (see DIFC Courts to launch GCC's first 'virtual court' 23 July 2016 Emirates Insider). The court, which will hear claims of up to AED 1 million (£207,289) using VoIP technology which will enable small and medium enterprises to recover debts and employees compensation for wrongful dismissal without returning to Dubai.
It should be remembered that the DIFC has its own law of confidence (see DIFC Law of Confidence 27 Jan 2011) and action for passing off (see The DIFC Law of Passing off 7 April 2011). There does not seem to be any reason why this new online court should not entertain trade secrets, franchising and licensing disputes. Practitioners from all jurisdictions can qualify to practise in Dubai but as the rules and practice are modelled on the Civil Procedure Rules and so many of the judges are from London members of the English bar are particularly well placed to do so.
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