COPA vs Wright: What's at Stake as the Trial to Determine Satoshi's Identity Wraps Up

The Crypto Open Patent Alliance and Craig Wright will present their closing arguments this week in a case debating whether Wright is indeed Satoshi Nakamoto.

AccessTimeIconMar 12, 2024 at 5:06 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 12, 2024 at 9:43 a.m. UTC
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  • The Crypto Open Patent Alliance and Craig Wright will present their closing statements in the trial to find out if Wright is Satoshi.
  • Justice James Mellor has not yet said when his decision will be out.
  • The results of the identity case against Wright could have implications on other ongoing cases.

This week attorneys representing bitcoin developers and the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA), an organization that says it is fighting for "freedom from threats" on crypto technology, will tell a judge that Craig S. Wright is not, in fact, Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright, who declared he was Nakamoto in 2016, will close his case arguing he did create what is now the world's largest and most valuable cryptocurrency.

The closing arguments will wrap up a month-long trial brought by COPA, which seeks to prove Wright isn't Nakamoto and deny him the ability to claim copyrights or sue under the name Nakamoto again. If Wright succeeds, he'll have a huge leg up in other cases he has against exchanges Coinbase, Kraken and others.

COPA, which is backed by industry heavyweights like Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Coinbase and Microstrategy, filed to take Wright to court in 2021. During the trial, which began Feb. 5, COPA's attorneys from the law firm Bird and Bird tried to prove that Wright forged evidence supporting his claim to be Nakamoto and that Wright did not have the knowledge or expertise to create bitcoin.

"We got into this for developers, we want to make sure that developers feel like they can develop without being threatened for the very act of helping to improve and iterate on bitcoin," a COPA spokesperson said.

COPA's team will present its closing argument on Tuesday.

During Wright's time on the stand so far, Wright and his supporting witnesses shared an anecdote about a ninja and acknowledgements that certain pieces of evidence were edited recently.

Wright has a separate active lawsuit in the U.K. against a group of bitcoin developers, and has previously fought to gain sole intellectual property rights to the bitcoin whitepaper, because he believes that he is Nakamoto and that no other entity should host the paper. His team will present its closing argument on the identity case on Wednesday, and COPA will have a chance to rebut on Friday.

What happens if COPA wins?

February's trial is just the first part of the overall case, a COPA spokesperson told CoinDesk.

"The first phase is, 'is Dr. Wright Satoshi Nakamoto?' If he's not, then it's over. And maybe he could consider whether he's going to appeal," the spokesperson said.

If Wright does not mount an appeal, COPA will seek an injunctive relief – which is a legal remedy that can require a defendant to stop doing something.

"It would seek to stop him from claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto again, it would seek to stop him from asserting authorship of the bitcoin white paper, and it would seek various other remedies to try and sort of avoid him continuing to wage a war of litigation against developers and individuals on the basis of him being Satoshi Nakamoto," the spokesperson said.

If Wright is not Nakamoto, then he does not have database rights in the bitcoin blockchain and he doesn't have file format rights in the bitcoin file format "and it also follows that he doesn't have standing to sue for… something that isn't his," a COPA spokesperson alleged.

Presiding judge Justice James Mellor has two more cases to oversee – ones filed by Wright against several prominent crypto firms. Mellor decided to suspend those cases because their outcome depends on whether or not Wright is Satoshi, COPA said.

"Justice Mellor recognizes there is efficiency to figuring out that identity issue first before moving forward with anything else," a COPA spokesperson said.

One case that’s being held up is what COPA calls the "database rights case". Wright filed a suit against crypto exchange Coinbase, Dorsey’s the Block, open-source software BTC Core and a number of other individuals, saying that he has database rights to the bitcoin blockchain and file format rights.

And there is the "passing off" case, also against Coinbase, as well as fellow crypto exchange Kraken. Wright – who spearheaded the Bitcoin Satoshi's Vision (Bitcoin SV) fork in 2018 – alleged that what these exchanges are selling is not, in fact, bitcoin and they are passing off what is Wright's intellectual property.

What happens if Wright wins?

If Wright wins – "if the court finds it's plausible that he's Satoshi Nakamoto," in the words of the COPA spokesperson – then the identity case would enter into its second phase.

The original Bitcoin whitepaper was released under the Massachusetts Institute of Technology open-source license, a COPA spokesperson said. The second phase would question "whether or not publication of the white paper falls within the terms of the MIT open source license."

Should it fall under the MIT open source license, then people would still have the right to publish the white paper, a COPA spokesperson said.

Justice Mellor has not said when he will announce the decision on whether or not Wright is in fact the pseudonymous Nakamoto, but once he does, a decision on costs and remedies will follow shortly after.

Wright and his attorney, barrister Craig Orr, both declined to comment about the implications for this trial.

Edited by Nikhilesh De and Sandali Handagama.


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Camomile Shumba

Camomile Shumba is a CoinDesk regulatory reporter based in the UK. She previously worked as an intern for Business Insider and Bloomberg News. She does not currently hold value in any digital currencies or projects.

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