United Kingdom's Royal Courts of Justice building

UK High Court accepts Craig Wright’s claim over Bitcoin database ownership

The U.K. High Court has ruled that a landmark claim over the ownership of the Bitcoin database and the Bitcoin white paper has enough prospect of success that it’s defendants can be served out of the jurisdiction.

The claim is brought by Dr. Craig Wright and is against the BTC partnership, which comprises the BTC developers and ecosystem companies such as Coinbase (NASDAQ: COIN), Blockstream, Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), and Square (NASDAQ: SQ). It is the first time that a claim has been brought against the BTC outfit in its entirety, including the wider group of corporates that prop up and disseminate the BTC system.

The U.K.-based defendants have already been served. However, to serve defendants sitting outside of the jurisdiction, Dr. Wright must prove that the claim represents a serious issue to be tried on the merits of the case. On Wednesday, the U.K. High Court ruled that there is merit on at least two of the three arms of Dr. Wright’s argument.

Those arms are the infringement by the defendants of Dr. Wright’s rights to the Bitcoin database as its true owner and infringement by the defendants of his copyright in the Bitcoin white paper: the Judge easily satisfied himself that there is a serious issue to be tried on those points easily.

“I was and am satisfied that the claims in database right and of infringement of copyright in the White Paper raise serious issues to be tried and therefore service out of the jurisdiction of those claims should be permitted,” wrote the Judge.

The third, which was a claim over copyright in the Bitcoin file format itself, involving the structure of the Bitcoin blocks, was rejected by the Judge. The issue is that the structure of any subsequent block building on Dr. Wright’s original Bitcoin blocks cannot be read without relying on the original: according to Dr. Wright, the subsequent blocks violate his copyright on that basis. The Judge acknowledged that the sphere of copyright in file formats is a developing area of law, but ultimately found that there was no serious issue to be tried on whether copyright exists in the Bitcoin file format.

He rejected permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the third point, but the claimant Dr. Wright can apply for permission from the higher court directly. Given his recent track record in the U.K. Court of Appeal, that seems likely.

The net result of this is that Dr. Wright’s claim to the Bitcoin database and copyright in the white paper is going to get a full trial. Again, it is perhaps most notable because it is the first time that the BTC partnership as a whole—which has been passing off BTC as the original Bitcoin for some time—will be brought to collectively answer for their activities.

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