The Australian Federal Court has continued to embrace technology with its recent implementation of a "paperless" court file system.

The introduction of this new system is another example of the Federal Court utilising technology to lower the cost of litigation in Australia and facilitate the faster, more efficient resolution of Federal Court disputes1, including intellectual property litigation.  The Federal Court is the main court in which intellectual property disputes are heard in Australia.

What is the electronic court file and how does it work?

The electronic court file, implemented nationwide between July and November 2014, allows all court documents to be filed with the Federal Court through an online portal. Importantly, documents filed in this way no longer have to be physically filed at one of the court's registries.

Benefits of the "paperless" court file system in Australia

In implementing this system, the Federal Court has benefited litigants by:

  1. eliminating the often substantial cost associated with filing documents arising from the printing, photocopying and delivery of documents to the Court; and
  2. enabling almost-immediate access to court documents (including stamped and sealed versions) often within minutes of the documents being processed by the court.

In addition to the benefit to litigants, the new system makes far more efficient use of the Federal Court's resources. One of the primary concerns with paper files was the sheer amount of document storage required; it was recently estimated that the documents currently held by the Australian Federal Circuit Court and Australian Family Court alone would reach a height of 24km if stacked, with storage costs of upwards of $1 million a year.2  In addition to the cost of storage, the need to handle that volume of physical documents was placing an unnecessary demand on the court's administrative resources.

Other uses of technology being utilised in Australian courts include the use of computers and tablets

The Federal Court's new electronic filing system is just one of many technological measures that Australian courts are now using to streamline the litigation process, includingintellectual property litigation.  Increasingly, Australian courts and litigants are also utilising the benefits of other technologies including electronic discovery processes, the use of computers and tablets to assist in presenting evidence during trials, web-streaming of some hearings, and telephone and video conferencing to avoid the cost and necessity of parties travelling to court for minor administrative hearings.