Has the court now made the Wright decision on Bitcoin's inventor?


Following a 6-week trial in the High Court, a judge has ruled that Dr Craig Wright is not the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin, nor the author of the Bitcoin White Paper.

Mr Justice Mellor has not yet given his full judgment, but he was clearly sufficiently confident in his conclusion on the basis of the "overwhelming" evidence that had been presented to the Court.

Many will await the full judgment with interest, as this case will have a profound impact on other litigation that concerns this issue.


Dr Wright is an Australian computer scientist who has long claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto - the pseudonym used by Bitcoin's inventor and the author of the White Paper (which set out the original blueprint of the cryptocurrency).

This has been a hotly disputed issue due to the importance of owning intellectual property rights related to Bitcoin and its associated blockchain, which are potentially highly lucrative.

The present case – COPA v Wright [2023] EWHC 3287 (Ch) (the "COPA Claim")

In this case, a claim was brought by the Crypto Open Patent Alliance ("COPA") against Dr Wright, after he wrote a cease-and-desist letter to one of COPA's subsidiaries in January 2021, asserting his alleged patent rights relating to Bitcoin on the basis he was its inventor.

COPA is a non-profit group of individuals and companies who collectively seek to preserve the 'open source' nature of the network. They therefore oppose such patents in relation to cryptocurrencies. 

COPA filed a claim seeking a declaration from the Court that Dr Wright is not the inventor of Bitcoin, nor the author of the White Paper. Which of course has now been granted. 

Wider impact on other litigation

This will have a profound impact on other litigation involving Dr Wright. Alongside the COPA Claim, Dr Wright brought his own claim against a number of developers, claiming to be the owner of certain database rights in relation to the Bitcoin Blockchain, as well as owning the copyright in the Bitcoin File Format (the "BTC Core Claim"). The recent trial consisted of the main trial of the COPA Claim and of the preliminary issue in the BTC Core Claim, namely the 'identity issue' as to whether Dr Wright is the person who adopted the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, invented Bitcoin and authored the White Paper.

Dr Wright has also pursued numerous claims across the globe relating to his ownership claim over Bitcoin. For example, he has 2 further actions relating to passing off against crypto exchanges Coinbase and Kraken (and associated entities). These are also due to go to trial before Mr Justice Mellor, where the 'identity issue' is central to both actions. Dr Wright claims to own the goodwill in the term Bitcoin and so has brought claims against these crypto exchanges to prevent them using the term in relation to digital assets with tickers BTC and BCH.

The findings in the COPA Claim will therefore undoubtedly have asignificant impact on these further claims. 

It may also influence the case  between Tulip Trading Ltd v van der Laan and Ors [2023] EWCA Civ 83 which is set to be heard in the Supreme Court. Tulip Trading Ltd (a company that is associated with Dr Wright) asserts inventorship over Bitcoin and 12 of the defendants in Tulip are also defendants in the BTC Core Claim. The case also concerns important issues of principle, concerning the extent to which if at all, bitcoin developers owe fiduciary duties to users. 

The judgment could also raise questions over past claims involving Dr Wright. For example, in Wright v McCormack [2023] EWCA Civ 892the Court of Appeal has recently upheld the decision to reduce Dr Wright's nominal damages to £1, to reflect the "deliberate" and "fraudulent exaggeration" of his claim.

In that case Dr Wright successfully brought a libel claim against Mr McCormack following a series of tweets and assertions that he was a "fraud" for claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto. The Court found these assertions to be defamatory for the purposes of the Defamation Act 2013 s.1(1), but he held that it would be "unconscionable" for the claimant to receive more than a nominal award after finding that part of his case regarding the harm caused was "deliberately false". Dr Wright unsuccessfully appealed this decision on the grounds that his litigation misconduct should not be relevant to the assessment of damages. 


It has been reported that COPA, having obtained their requested declaration, will now seek an injunction against Dr Wright to prevent him from claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto and the author of the White Paper. This could therefore have an adverse impact on his ability to bring further claims over Bitcoin's inventorship in future.

The judgment is due to be published soon and it will be interesting to see whether Dr Wright attempts to appeal the decision.

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