A US court ruled in favor of a man who had claimed to be the inventor of bitcoin, saving him from paying a former business partner tens of billions of dollars in the cryptocurrency.

Australian computer scientist Craig Wright implied in a blog post back in 2016, that he was Satoshi Nakamoto—a pseudonym used by the person or persons who developed bitcoin. A large number of people in the crypto community are skeptical of Wright’s claim, partly because he has not moved any of the early bitcoin assumed to have been mined by Satoshi.

Wright on Monday won a Miami civil case that pitted him against the family of his late business partner and computer forensics expert, David Kleiman. Half of the 1.1 million bitcoin mined and held by Satoshi was at stake, a cache currently worth nearly $54 billion. The estate also claimed rights to some of the intellectual property behind early blockchain technology. 

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 refused to award any of the bitcoin to Kleiman’s estate.

However, Wright was instructed 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. That money will go to W&K directly instead of the Kleiman estate.

The counsel for W&K said, “We are immensely gratified that our client, W&K Information Defense Research LLC, has won $100,000,000 reflecting that Craig Wright wrongfully took bitcoin-related assets from W&K”.

In a video posted to Twitter right after the verdict, Wright said, “This has been a remarkably good outcome, and I feel completely vindicated”.

The Satoshi Nakamoto mystery

The mystery around the introduction of bitcoin is a huge contributor to the attention drawn by this South Florida civil suit.

Back in 2008, at the time when the financial crisis was taking hold in the US, Satoshi Nakamoto published a nine-page white paper detailing a vision for bitcoin — a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” that would function outside the reach of governments.

After a few months, Nakamoto released software that allowed users to mine for the cryptocurrency.

Mining for cryptocurrencies is the computationally intensive process by which new tokens are created and transactions of existing digital coins are verified. In the early days of bitcoin, it was possible to mine for it on a home PC. At the time, winning a block yielded a reward of 50 bitcoin. Today, the process requires specialized equipment, is mostly done at scale by professionals, and thanks to an anti-inflationary measure baked into the code, the block reward is down to 6.25 bitcoin.

Nakamoto, remained on the scene until 2011, at which point he abruptly left the project after emailing a fellow developer to say that they had “moved on to other things.” Before vanishing, the enigmatic creator is believed to have mined as many as 1.1 million bitcoin.

If Wright had lost the case, he would have been required to produce the Satoshi cache of coins in order to pay the estate.


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