Did Craig Wright invent Bitcoin? This court is deciding.

Did Craig Wright invent Bitcoin? This court is deciding.
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Did Craig Wright invent Bitcoin? This court is deciding.

A UK court could finally decide whether Australian computer scientist Craig Wright is the real name of Satoshi Nakamoto — the anonymous inventor of Bitcoin.

The Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) filed the case in the UK’s High Court of Justice in April 2021, with the first day of oral arguments taking place this Monday. A non-profit organisation of cryptocurrency advocates, COPA aims to protect the technology against patents while encouraging its adoption and growth.

As such, COPA’s filing asked the court to declare that Wright did not author the Bitcoin white paper and has no copyright over it. It also requested that the court prohibit Wright from claiming he did.

Bitcoin’s origins can be traced back to a 2008 white paper published under the name “Satoshi Nakamoto,” which has been widely accepted to be a pseudonym. Eight years later, Wright stepped forward to claim he was the author of the paper, and has since stood by this assertion despite widespread scepticism and lack of conclusive proof.

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If Wright is indeed Nakamoto, it would mean he has intellectual property rights over Bitcoin, which would have significant implications for the cryptocurrency’s future.

COPA v Wright: The battle for Bitcoin

Though Wright made a public settlement offer late last month, COPA responded with a “hard pass,” stating that its terms would “force us to accept that he is Satoshi.” 

COPA alleges that Wright has failed to provide definitive proof that he is the inventor of Bitcoin, and has in fact forged multiple documents to support his claim. For example, COPA stated that while Wright asserts that he wrote the pivotal 2008 white paper in typesetting software LaTeX, experts for both sides agree that it was actually written in OpenOffice. 

“Dr Wright’s claim to be Satoshi is a lie, founded on an elaborate false narrative and backed by forgery of documents on an industrial scale,” COPA’s lawyer Jonathan Hough said in his opening statement.

In response, Wright’s lawyer Anthony Grabiner stated that the entrepreneur has supplied “clear evidence” that he is the creator of Bitcoin, an assertion that will no doubt be elaborated upon over the next five weeks of the hearing. Grabiner also considered it “striking” that nobody else has claimed to be Nakamoto, though the weight of this argument is debatable. Interestingly, the court reportedly stated that it received an email from someone claiming to have originated the 2008 white paper, and which included apparent cryptographic evidence.

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Wright’s lawyers also requested to submit new documents to support his case, including an alleged early draft of the 2008 white paper — a request that the court approved. Though given COPA’s allegations of forgery, it’s likely this document will be heavily scrutinised. Wright himself is scheduled to give evidence from Tuesday.

Mashable has reached out to COPA and Wright for comment.

Did Craig Wright invent Bitcoin?

Wright publicly declared that he is Nakamoto in 2016, providing multiple publications with evidence to support his claim. However, doubts quickly arose after examination and analysis of said evidence caused many to determine it inconclusive. This scepticism was only strengthened when Wright backtracked on his announcement that he would provide “extraordinary proof” of his identity as Nakamoto.

Wright stated that his sudden backflip was because he was unable to handle the public attention, scrutiny, and attacks which had followed his claim. He’s provided no conclusive proof to satisfy crypto experts that he is Nakamoto in the eight years since.

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What Wright has done, however, is file several defamation suits against people who have accused him of falsely claiming to be Bitcoin’s inventor. Such suits have been largely unsuccessful thus far. A UK court in one such case awarded Wright only £1 in damages after finding that he “advanced a deliberately false case and put forward deliberately false evidence.” His appeal was denied.

These cases didn’t conclusively determine whether or not Wright created Bitcoin. Even a finding for Wright in the current hearing wouldn’t be clear confirmation, although it would be a blow to COPA. A finding that he didn’t author the Bitcoin white paper, though, might finally be enough to put his claims to rest.

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