Rahman Ravelli
Rahman Ravelli Solicitors Logo
Switchboard: +44 (0)203 947 1539

About Us Expertise PEOPLE International Legal Articles News Events Contact Us toggle button for phone
Switchboard: +44 (0)203 947 1539
Switchboard: +44 (0)203 947 1539

Who invented Bitcoin?

Author: Syedur Rahman  5 February 2024
3 min read

Syed Rahman details the parties and the issues involved in the dispute over who created the cryptocurrency.

The arguments over who was the brains behind Bitcoin have been ongoing for years. Now, however, they are coming to a head as the interested parties look to resolve the matter in the UK’s High Court.

In one camp, there is the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), which is an organisation whose members include Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payment company, Block, and the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.

Then there is Satoshi Nakamoto – the pseudonym of the author of the 2008 white paper that first described the basic structure of the Bitcoin network. The true identity of Nakamoto remains unknown – or at least unproven.

Yet this dispute also involves Dr Craig Wright - and some of his linked companies - because he has claimed since 2016 that he is Satoshi. According to him, he owns the copyright to the white paper and has intellectual property rights over the Bitcoin blockchain. He has taken legal action against cryptocurrency developers and exchanges which, in turn, has prompted a wave of follow-on litigation.

Proving Who Invented Bitcoin

Identity

The current dispute concerns the identity issue: whether Dr Craig Wright is the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. COPA is seeking a ruling from the High Court - a negative declaration - that Wright is not him.

In the run-up to this court case, Dr Wright produced his list of reliance documents, which are the documents he would primarily rely on to establish his claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Unsurprisingly, COPA produced its own list of documents to challenge the authenticity of Dr Wright’s documentation and went as far as to make allegations of forgery.

It’s important to note that it is for COPA to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that Dr Wright is not the creator of Bitcoin. The significance of this may go beyond this particular case, as if Dr Wright loses this, he is unlikely to succeed with any of the other cases he has brought against other parties, such as software developers.

Interest

COPA’s aim in this case is to protect open source technology. This, however, does not fully explain the involvement of the likes of Jack Dorsey and other prominent figures.

It seems to me that they have a vested interest in supporting the legal action against Dr Wright through their involvement with COPA; whose primary objective is to safeguard open-source technology and promote collaboration among companies to foster innovation in fundamental infrastructure.

Jack Dorsey has emphasised COPA's non-profit nature and the aim of encouraging the adoption and advancement of cryptocurrency technologies, while removing patents as barriers to growth and innovation. This aim is something that he and others see as being put at risk by Dr Wright’s efforts to claim Bitcoin as his own. Dorsey and other COPA members have actively promoted the acquisition and advancement of Bitcoin (BTC). Dorsey has gone as far as to state that Bitcoin is the best native currency of the internet.

But part of their support for COPA in this case may be just as much due to concerns about a possible seismic shift in how data is owned and monetised. Bitcoin's combination of data and money poses a threat to traditional intermediaries, for example Mastercard, whose standing may be diminished by Bitcoin’s trustless payments. For many firms so heavily involved in data collection and monetisation, Bitcoin can be viewed as a threat to their business model.

It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that Dorsey and others are supporting COPA's legal action against Dr. Wright. For them, it is a means of safeguarding their interests and protecting their standing in data ownership and monetisation in the face of disruptive technologies like Bitcoin.

Resolved

At this stage, it is too early to say whether a ruling from the High Court in this case will settle once and for all the long-running debate over whether Dr Wright really is Satoshi Nakamoto.

Such litigation is a long, drawn-out process. There may be appeals against the High Court ruling and any amount of related litigation before the matter is ultimately resolved. If Dr Wright loses the case, he can appeal. But common sense would suggest that a ruling in favour of COPA would limit his ability to bring claims, either against software developers or against other people for defamation.

As things stand, it is likely that the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto will remain in question. The origins of cryptocurrency, and most notably Bitcoin, remain shrouded in mystery. While Nakamoto's involvement in the early days of Bitcoin's development is undeniable, his (or even her) abrupt disappearance from the scene in 2011 has only added to the enigma.

But in my view, the true brilliance of Bitcoin lies not in the identity of its creator, but in the revolutionary technology it introduced to the world.

 

Syedur Rahman C 09551

Syedur Rahman

Partner

syedur.rahman@rahmanravelli.co.uk
+44 (0)203 910 4566 vCard

Download Profile PDF

View Profile

Syedur Rahman is known for his in-depth experience of serious fraud, white-collar crime and serious crime cases, as well as his expertise in worldwide asset tracing and recovery, international arbitration, civil recovery, cryptocurrency and high-stakes commercial disputes.

Share this page on