The Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) has requested a new procedural judge in its ongoing lawsuit against Dr. Craig Wright according to a court order, delaying proceedings and pushing the expected trial date out to the beginning of 2024.
Parties were scheduled to meet with Deputy Master Raeburn last week for a long-awaited case management conference which would have kick-started the slow roll towards trial. However, the day before the conference was due to take place, COPA’s lawyers Bird & Bird wrote to the Deputy Master asking him to recuse himself. Though the order doesn’t specify the reasons given, Deputy Master Raeburn is employed by Baker McKenzie, who have acted for nChain in the past, which may be the reason for the request.
Deputy Master Raeburn voluntarily recused himself in response to the letter and pushed the case management conference back to September. Critically for COPA, the delay has also pushed out the window for trial by almost a year. According to this week’s Order, the trial is now set to take place between January 11 and March 27, 2024, almost three years since COPA’s initial filing.
It’s the first significant development in the case since it was filed back in April 2021. The suit has been in a state of suspended animation as Dr. Wright works his way through separate legal battles, chalking up victories as he goes. In the time since COPA was created, the U.K. High Court has recognized Dr. Wright’s authorship over the Bitcoin white paper it currently sues him over, Dr. Wright has successfully defended a hundred-billion-dollar case as Satoshi Nakamoto in Florida, and has prosecuted a defamation case against blogger Peter McCormack to the point where McCormack was forced to stop claiming that his alleged defamatory tweets—that Dr. Wright is a fraud—were true (the outcome of that case is pending). Dr. Wright has also filed cases against Coinbase (NASDAQ: COIN) and Kraken for passing off—both members of COPA—accusing them of using the Bitcoin name to sell unrelated projects.
In that light, COPA’s last minute request for the Deputy Master to recuse himself is interesting. Given all that’s happened since they initially filed against Dr. Wright, it could be taken as a sign that the Alliance has bitten off more than it can chew. The sudden unwillingness to meet Dr. Wright in court would be in keeping with the behaviour of his other legal adversaries, but it’s particularly notable considering COPA was set up solely to wage this war on Dr. Wright.
COPA was formed in January 2020 by Jack Dorsey’s Block, formerly known as Square (NASDAQ: SQ). According to COPA, it exists to encourage the adoption of digital currency and “remove patents as a barrier to growth and innovation” by obliging its members to refrain from enforcing their patents. However, since its creation over two years ago, its only activity has been filing suit against Dr. Craig Wright and occasionally posting about it on Twitter. The only exception to this is the addition of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta to the Alliance’s board—another natural enemy of Dr. Wright and his Bitcoin.
It may be, then, that COPA’s calculus has changed significantly as it watched these battles play out over the past two years. No longer can it be expecting to expeditiously prove that Dr. Wright is not the author of the white paper. Instead, it may have realized that it is running the very real risk of handing Dr. Wright one more legal victory which affirms his status as creator of Bitcoin and author of the white paper.
The case management conference will now take place on September 1, 2022.
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