Craig Wright, a computer scientist claiming to be Bitcoin’s creator, won a civil lawsuit Monday, allowing him to keep about $50 billion in cryptocurrency, or 1.1 million Bitcoin, according to the Associated Press.
The Bitcoin in question was among the first to be manufactured through mining and could only be owned by whoever or whatever was involved with the cryptocurrency since its start, like Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s creator.
The lawsuit was won against the family of David Kleiman, a deceased business partner who claimed they were owed half of the 1.1 million Bitcoin. A Florida jury found they were not owed the Bitcoin, but gave them $100 million in intellectual property rights to a joint venture between Kleiman and Wright. According to the AP, this is only a fraction of what Kleiman’s lawyers asked for during the trial.
“This was a tremendous victory for our side,” said Wright’s lead lawyer, Andres Rivero of Rivero Mestre LLP.
The jury listened to testimony about the how Bitcoin was created and how cryptocurrency worked, the AP said. The jurors took a full week to decide, with jurors constantly asked questions regarding cryptocurrencies’ workings and the business relationship between Wright and Kleiman to lawyers from both sides and the judge. Jurors had signaled they were deadlocked to the judge at one point.
The win for Wright will have the cryptocurrency community looking to him to prove he is Bitcoin’s creator, as he promised during the trial, the AP reported. This would help lend credibility to Wright’s claim that he is Nakamoto, originally made in 2016.
Wright and other cryptocurrency experts testified that Wright owns the 1.1 million Bitcoin.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Bitcoin’s origins have always been a bit of a mystery, which is why this trial has drawn so much attention from outsiders. In October 2008, during the height of the financial crisis, a person named “Satoshi Nakamoto” published a paper laying out a framework for a digital currency that would not be tied to any legal or sovereign authority. Mining for the currency, which involves computers solving mathematical equations, began a few months later.
The name Nakamoto, roughly translated from Japanese to mean “at the center of,” was never considered to be the real name of Bitcoin’s creator. Some in the cryptocurrency community do not even believe Nakamoto was a single individual.
Wright’s claim that he is Nakamoto has been met with skepticism from a sizeable portion of the cryptocurrency community. Due to its structure, all transactions of Bitcoin are public and the 1.1 million Bitcoins in question have remained untouched since their creation. Members of the Bitcoin community have regularly called for Wright to move just a fraction of the coins into a separate account to prove ownership and show that he truly is as wealthy as he claims.
David Kleiman died in April 2013 at the age of 46. Led by his brother Ira Kleiman, his family has claimed David Kleiman and Wright were close friends and co-created Bitcoin through a partnership. Kleiman’s estate was suing for half of the Bitcoins in question as well as intellectual property rights.
The lawyers for W&K Information Defense Research LLC, the joint venture between the two men, said they were “gratified” that the jury awarded the $100 million in intellectual property rights to the company, which developed software that set the groundwork for early blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies.
“Wright refused to give the Kleimans their fair share of what (David Kleinman) helped create and instead took those assets for himself,” said Vel Freedman and Kyle Roche of Roche Freedman LLP and Andrew Brenner, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, in a joint statement.
Wright’s lawyers have said repeatedly that David Kleiman and Wright were friends and collaborated on work together, but their partnership had nothing to do with Bitcoin’s creation or early operation.
Wright has said he plans to donate much of the Bitcoin fortune to charity if he were to win at trial. In an interview, Wright’s lawyer Rivero reconfirmed Wright’s plans to donate much of his Bitcoin fortune.