Self-Proclaimed Bitcoin Inventor Ordered to Pay $100 Million in IP Fraud Case

Bitcoin and judge gavel in hand stock photo
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In a very convoluted legal case to recently draw headlines, self-proclaimed Bitcoin inventor Craig Wright won part of a litigation on Dec. 6. This mixed ruling found that Wright was, in fact, not business partners with Dave Kleiman — enabling Wright to avoid having to pay billions of dollars to Kleiman’s estate. However, the conclusion of the case fails to clarify the identity of the enigmatic figure that is Satoshi Nakamoto, and many in the crypto industry continue to view Wright’s claims as exaggerated or imaginative.

Jorge Pesok, general counsel and chief compliance officer for legal-first crypto software company Tacen Inc., told GOBankingRates that “this has been such an odd case from the get-go.”

“In the end, if Wright wanted to prove he was Satoshi, then all he’d have to do is move some of the huge number of coins stored on the wallet believed to be Satoshi’s. Wright has never done this, so it’s pretty clear what’s happening. He’s not the creator of Bitcoin. And I hope we can move forward and above this so that the industry continues building and creating,” Pesok said.

The Origins of the Mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto

In a 2016 posting, Wright claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin and the author of its whitepaper, “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” The 8-page document lays out the principles of the cryptocurrency, which turned 13 on Oct. 31.

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Since the publication of that whitepaper, broad interest surrounding the obscured identity of Satoshi — as well as rumors as to where his/her/their fortune stands — have been legion, with several reports depicting Satoshi as one of the richest people, or organizations, on the planet.

Reeve Collins, co-founder of BLOCKv, a platform for creating highly programmable NFTs, told GOBankingRates the trial of Craig Wright seems like little more than a sideshow that — from the 30,000-foot perspective — in no way affects the development or success of Bitcoin, or blockchain technology.

“He also claims the trial as a win, yet he is walking away with a $100m judgment against him,” Collins said. “As far as his claims that he’s Satoshi goes, he still has never been able to prove it, which someone as smart as Satoshi would be able to figure out how to do! Regardless, it’s pretty clear that although Wright may be an early adopter of cryptocurrency, as I was, he is no more Satoshi than any of us are.”

“One of the beautiful things about Bitcoin is the anonymity of its creator — whoever she, he, or they are — and this helps focus attention on the network rather than the personalities behind it. So I’m hopeful that with this trial coming to an end, the focus will increasingly concentrate on Bitcoin and its adoption globally,” Collins continued.

Plaintiff and Defendant Both Claim Legal Victory

The case in question developed as Kleiman’s estate sued Wright on behalf of the late Dave Kleiman, the latter having laid claim to being the co-creator of Bitcoin — and as such, the estate would therefor be entitled to half of the 1.1 million bitcoin mined and held by Satoshi.

The prosecution argued that Kleiman was a co-creator of Bitcoin, alongside Wright, entitling him to half of Satoshi’s assumed fortune. A federal jury in West Palm Beach sided with Wright and declined to award any of the bitcoin to Kleiman’s estate.

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Wright was however, ordered to pay $100 million in compensatory damages over a breach in intellectual property rights related to W&K Info Defense Research LLC, a joint venture between the two men.

“Many years ago, Wright told the Kleiman family that he and Dave Kleiman developed revolutionary Bitcoin-based intellectual property. Despite those admissions, Wright refused to give the Kleimans their fair share of what Dave helped create and instead took those assets for himself,” Roche Freedman LLP founders Vel Freedman and Kyle Roche, representing the plaintiff, said in a statement. “The jury’s $100 million verdict sets a historical precedent in the innovative and transformative industry of cryptocurrency and blockchain.”

Lawyers for Wright also said they were pleased “that after four years of intense litigation and seven days of jury deliberation, in a case that was thought to be unwinnable, the jury ruled Dr. Craig Wright (aka Satoshi Nakamoto), was not business partners with Dave Kleiman.”

“During the trial, Rivero Mestre presented compelling evidence that Dr. Wright is the sole inventor of Bitcoin and is in fact Satoshi Nakamoto. We are gratified our position was proven to be meritorious,” Wright’s lawyers said in a statement.


Skepticism Regarding Wright’s Claims Persists

The buzz around Wright actually being Satoshi Nakamoto seems to be more of a distraction than anything else, Ivan Ravlich, CEO of cyber infrastructure provider Hypernet Labs, told GOBankingRates.

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“If Wright was Satoshi, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to prove it. It’s clear that the real Satoshi – whoever this person or group of people is – has made a concerted effort to remain anonymous as a way of keeping their work communal; Satoshi doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who would reveal their identity as a publicity stunt,” he said.

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