Interviews

Charles Miller

Jimmy Nguyen: Why nChain has filed so many patent applications

Jimmy Nguyen is the first and founding President of the Bitcoin Association. He also chairs the Strategic Advisory Board for nChain – the two organisations being, as he puts it, “key supporters and backers of Bitcoin SV”.

As to why nChain is so busy filing patent applications, Jimmy says “it’s a bit of a race to the patent office. If we don’t file applications for some inventions, some other company’s going to come along and file something that bleeds over and blocks or claims a territory.”

Jimmy wrote about the issue on this website recently, noting with amusement that critics would doubtless make something of the fact that nChain had filed it’s 666th patent (see The devil is in the patent details).

“I know there are many people out in the cryptocurrency world who are sceptical and concerned about nChain’s IP programme.” But Jimmy says that nChain’s work is only possible if it can be protected, just as other businesses such as IBM and Bank of America are prolific in filing patents: “we are a private enterprise that invests a lot of money, time and team members into R&D development to unlock some amazing inventions – particularly out of Craig Wright’s head [nChain’s Chief Scientist]. And that has value to the world, but it costs money. And we will only invest in that if we can protect that.”

In defence of nChain’s patent filing, Jimmy says “we are doing work to try to grow the entire Bitcoin ecosystem”. As a business model, that means selectively charging developers for licencing nChain IP. Some nChain IP will be licenced for free for products supporting the SV blockchain: “that is a way for us to …entice companies to build on the Bitcoin SV blockchain. It’s a way of wielding IP power – I say, for good”.

On the question of Bitcoin SV governance, Jimmy says he can “definitely see a world one day where there is some type of …governing body.” Similar to the governance of the World Wide Web, it might include “some collection of main players in the ecosystem that have discussions and hopefully reach agreements on standards.” One important aspect would be to achieve interoperability – between wallets for instance.

Jimmy is sceptical about companies trying to create their own private blockchains instead of using a public one like SV: “essentially, if it’s all maintained by one company, that’s not really a blockchain …When a company comes along and says ‘I’ve got a new blockchain project’ and if they are the only ones who get to tell you whether you get to act on that blockchain, and they control the permission to it and they run the mining nodes on it, that’s not really a blockchain – it’s like a private database.” For Jimmy, the idea of a blockchain entails some public element: that makes the blockchain ideal for business uses, rather than for the more limited use inside a single company.

Pressed on whether he believes Craig Wright is, as he claims, Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious originator of Bitcoin, Jimmy offers a personal view from working closely with Craig that “he has an understanding of [the Bitcoin protocol] that is beyond anyone I’ve ever seen …and I think that it’s very clear that he was working at the very beginning of Bitcoin”. Jimmy ends with a smile: “and from that, people can draw whatever conclusions they want!”

Listen to more from Jimmy, including his thoughts on the “unlikely trio” of senior figures in the world of Bitcoin SV that he forms with Craig Wright and businessman Calvin Ayre:

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