Craig Wright, a computer scientist who claims to be the inventor of Bitcoin, prevailed in a civil trial verdict Monday against the family of a deceased business partner, which claimed it was owed half of a cryptocurrency fortune worth tens of billions.
A Florida jury found that Wright did not owe half of 1.1 million Bitcoin to the family of David Kleiman. The jury did award $100 million in intellectual property rights to a joint venture between the two men, a fraction of what Kleiman’s lawyers were asking for in trial.
“This was a tremendous victory for our side,” said Andres Rivero of Rivero Mestre LLP, the lead lawyer representing Wright.
The case was highly technical, with the jury listening to explanations of the intricate workings of cryptocurrencies as well as the murky origins of how Bitcoin came to be. Jurors took a full week to deliberate, repeatedly asking questions of lawyers on both sides as well as the judge on how cryptocurrencies work as well as the business relationship between the two men.
At the center of the trial are 1.1 million Bitcoins, worth about $50 billion based on Monday’s prices. These were among the first Bitcoins to be created through mining and could only be owned by a person or entity involved with the digital currency from its beginning.
Bitcoin’s origins have always been a bit of a mystery, which is why this trial has drawn so much attention from outsiders. In October 2008 during the height of the financial crisis, a person named “Satoshi Nakamoto” published a paper laying out a framework for a digital currency that would not be tied to any legal or sovereign authority. Mining for the currency began a few months later.
The name Nakamoto, roughly translated from Japanese to mean “at the center of,” was never considered to be the real name of Bitcoin’s creator. Some in the cryptocurrency community do not even believe Nakamoto was a single individual.
Wright has claimed since 2016 that he is Nakamoto, a claim that has been met with skepticism from a sizable portion of the cryptocurrency community. Due to its structure, all transactions of Bitcoin are public and the 1.1 million Bitcoins in question have remained untouched since Wright’s big reveal. Members of the Bitcoin community have regularly called for Wright to move just a fraction of the coins into a separate account to register that he truly is as wealthy as he claims.
During the trial, both Wright and other cryptocurrency experts testified under oath that Wright owns the Bitcoins in question. Wright said he would prove his ownership if he were to win at trial.
David Kleiman died in April 2013. Led by his brother Ira Kleiman, his family has claimed David Kleiman and Wright were close friends and co-created Bitcoin through a partnership. Kleiman’s estate was suing for half of the Bitcoins in question as well as intellectual property rights.
Wright’s attorneys have said repeatedly that David Kleiman and Wright were friends and collaborated on work together, but their partnership had nothing to do with Bitcoin’s creation or early operation.
Wright has said he plans to donate much of the Bitcoin fortune to charity if he were to win at trial. In an interview, Wright’s attorney Rivero reconfirmed Wright’s plans to donate much of his Bitcoin fortune.
Ken Sweet is an AP Business Writer.
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