Use of Technology in Hong Kong SAR Arbitration
With its current facilities and support, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center (HKIAC) has been ahead of the curve in providing adequate assistance to parties in virtual hearings. HKIAC launched a virtual listening suite on August 1, 2020 with comprehensive facilities including a multi-camera system, mobile screens and wireless microphones. The suite is able to manage dozens of linked devices and provide a closed network that protects against unauthorized interception of video feeds.
The video conferencing aspect of virtual hearings is well catered for, while the use of online case management support is a relatively new offering from the HKIAC.
HKIAC encourages the use of an online repository system where recognized and embedded in Article 3.1(e) of the HKIAC Administered Rules 2018. This enables the use of any secured online storage agreed by the parties to serve as an accepted medium for the delivery of written notices to the parties and arbitrators.
HKIAC also offers its own online case management platform called HKIAC Case Connect. Case Connect is not only a platform for storing documents used in arbitration, but also has features that allow the parties and the arbitral tribunal to communicate and track deadlines. From a cybersecurity perspective, the platform offers bank-grade encryption, 99% uptime, and continuous monitoring.
Case Connect is available for all arbitrations administered by HKIAC and those where HKIAC provides ongoing administrative support such as fundholding services.
Parties in complex or document-heavy disputes such as technology arbitrations should adopt a case management platform such as Case Connect and also consider agreeing on an e-bundles protocol to ensure documents from both sides are consistent in format. For example, searchable PDFs must be used; Pagination must be computer generated, not handwritten; each PDF should be separated by section, page number and bookmark; and e-bundles should be delivered via a cloud-based link or on the platform and not in a series of emails.
Use of technology in court proceedings in Hong Kong SAR
Hong Kong SAR now has supporting rules for the use of technology in court proceedings.
In May 2022, new rules on “Use of e-Bundles in the Commercial Court” came into effect in Hong Kong SAR, providing guidance to provide court users with guidance on how to create and use e-Bundles to achieve consistency and the associated outcomes minimize the effort involved.
There are a set of General Guidelines for the Creation of Electronic Portable Document Format (EBPDF) Bundles (Guidelines) that set out the specific provisions to be followed by both parties when providing Electronic Evidence, the format of Electronic Evidence required for filing required electronic specifications such evidence and the specific steps to be taken. The parties should follow these rules unless the court orders otherwise.
The guidelines also include video tutorials on how to use e-bundles in court, digital evidence, and handing over evidence.
Further guidance on the use of technology as evidence can be found in the Courts’ Digital Evidence and Evidence (DEEH) Directive. DEEH enables electronic document processing, transmission of digital evidence such as videos or images in a courtroom, and commenting on electronic documents during witness testimony. The broadcast function includes viewing e-bundle pages on connected screens or the physical objects on a visualizer. This is particularly useful for technical claims where parties need to reference images or videos to prove infringement, such as: B. Copying IP Infringement Claims. DEEH also supports copying of digital exhibits for legal representatives or parties during court proceedings to prepare for hearings and commenting on the file as an exhibit. This helps the court in examining the evidence before it.
With the Court’s aim of delivering judgments within six months from the completion of a hearing of no more than 15 days before the Court of First Instance and within nine months from the completion of a hearing of 15 days or more, the use of technical means and more innovative measures will no doubt result in court time being used more effectively.