Author: Michael del Castillo; Compilation: 0x11, Foresight News
In the fall of 2012, well before most of the world had ever heard of Craig Wright, the Australian computer scientist quietly submitted his first patent related to the newly created digital currency bitcoin, which was then worth just $10. The following year, a trading platform called Coinbase raised $5m to “make bitcoin more accessible to everyday consumers.” And the year after that, in 2014, Bitcoin Magazine co-founder Vitalik Buterin published a paper describing a new kind of blockchain called Ethereum and praising bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto for his cryptographic breakthroughs.
While the nascent crypto industry was focused on bitcoin’s permissive license – which allows anyone to use the software under copyright law – Wright was seeking to leverage patent protection for the new technology. By December 2015, when Wright was identified as a candidate to be Nakamoto by two news publications, he had applied for two patents and was chief scientist at nChain, a Swiss company that had applied for three.
Until recently, a furious debate raged over whether the 52-year-old Wright was indeed Nakamoto, whose bitcoin holdings are worth $3.3bn (at current prices of around $30,000 per bitcoin) and whose blockchain invention enables anyone in the world to send cryptocurrency to anyone else without relying on banks. According to data site Pitchbook, digital currencies have helped entrepreneurs raise $89bn. Next year, Wright will go to the High Court in London to prove he is bitcoin’s inventor.
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“I created bitcoin,” Wright told Forbes in his London office.
“I don’t like Silicon Valley, they’re a cancer on this world,” Wright said. “They can steal anything they want.” He paused for a moment, seemingly reconsidering his words, and added: “They’re a cancer on the ass of the world.”
Dr. Craig Steven Wright was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1970. His mother entered data on punch cards for early computers, and his father served in the Vietnam War. Wright is a polymath, listing more than 20 degrees on his personal website, ranging from a master’s degree in statistics and forensic psychology to a diploma in art appreciation. Over the years, the intellectual property he’s studied, including various uses of blockchain technology, has been transferred into trusts and shell companies for scams.
He said he founded an Australian trust company called Craig Wright R&D in 1997, which originally owned Blacknet, which he described as a precursor to Bitcoin. In 2002, he transferred the research to another trust called Ridges Estate.
In the mid-2000s, while studying for a graduate degree in international trade and commerce law, he met American security expert Dave Kleiman on an online forum. Although Wright said he met Kleiman only once, while drinking, the two collaborated on many projects, including a book about investigating computer hacking behavior that Wright co-authored with others in 2007, and which Kleiman edited. A copy of an email purportedly from Wright asking Kleiman to help edit a paper describing Bitcoin was provided to Gizmodo in 2015. Wright declined to verify the email’s authenticity, but he claimed that Gizmodo’s article was based on forged documents provided by Kleiman’s estate, and insisted that he himself created Bitcoin. Boies Schiller Flexner, the law firm representing Kleiman’s estate, has not responded to requests for comment.
On October 31, 2008, a group or individual using the name Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper describing a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system”-Bitcoin-that allowed for online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without “going through a financial institution.” When the Bitcoin code was released on Sourceforge software repository in January 2009, Nakamoto added a comment allowing anyone to use it under the terms of the MIT license, and it was copyrighted as Copyright (c) 2009 Satoshi Nakamoto.
Wright said: “The MIT license is very friendly to intellectual property.” He gave the intellectual property related to Bitcoin to four Australian companies he controls, each with different businesses. In an email, he wrote that Information Defense had acquired intellectual property related to the Bitcoin database; Integyrs had acquired his cryptographic research; Greyfog received IP related to the Internet of Things, and Strassen received research related to the so-called shard network.
Although the 2010 audit files showed that no patents had yet been “submitted,” Wright said he began working to change that that same year. His first Bitcoin-related patent was a method by which multiple users could split access code into blockchain registries to obtain content such as inheritances and company records, which was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2017. In December 2010, Satoshi Nakamoto wrote his final public article, which began with the words, “There is more work to be done…”
Wright said that in early 2011, his first wife, Lynn, and Kleiman founded W&K Info Defense to develop blockchain-related intellectual property. He also renamed Craig Wright R&D to Tulip Trust, which will continue to play an important role in his business strategy. Although the actual composition of Tulip Trust remains a mystery, Wright said Tulip “owns companies, and only companies.”
On December 13, 2010, the creator of Bitcoin logged in under Satoshi Nakamoto’s pseudonym, which would be one of his last public acts, changing the license from “Copyright (c) 2009-2010 Satoshi Nakamoto” to “Copyright (c) 2009-2010 Bitcoin Developers.” A few days later, Andresen posted a message: “With Satoshi’s blessing, I will take a more active role in managing Bitcoin, although I am reluctant.”
The following spring, Nakamoto sent what was believed to be his final private message and disappeared. “I’ve moved on to other things,” he wrote in an email to former Bitcoin core developer Mike Hearn. “Handed over to Bitcoin core developer Gavin Andresen and others is a good choice.” Hearn said there was indeed such an email.
Thus began a rich legend: to make Bitcoin truly decentralized, it could not have any loopholes, so Nakamoto wrote the code as a gift to the world, then entrusted a group of open-source developers to help it grow into a global currency independent of banks or governments. Nine months later, Gavin Andresen moved the code repository to Github.
On December 8, 2015, after reports of anonymous leaks were published in Wired and Gizmodo, Wright became a controversial figure in the world of cryptocurrency, claiming that he was likely Satoshi Nakamoto or, as Wired put it, “an excellent fraudster who really wants us to believe.” Wright said, “The Wired and Gizmodo articles are based on information from Ira Kleiman. In order to fabricate a never-happened story about his brother, Ira falsified documents, made false statements, and used multiple emails to impersonate several people contacting reporters. He did this to obtain money that did not belong to him.”
Matthews, chairman of nChain, said Wright’s newfound fame has changed nChain. While his vision for the company has always been to become a long-term software and intellectual property developer, MacGregor sees a Steve Jobs-like figure in Wright who can push the company onto the stage before selling it to boost its value. “He wants to sell everything to Silicon Valley,” Wright agrees, “and he didn’t bother to ask me about Silicon Valley before he did.”
Wright spoke at multiple events, including a panel discussion with another “suspect” of Satoshi Nakamoto, Nick Szabo, and both he and Matthews claimed that many of the blog posts attributed to the author were actually written by MacGregor. The strategy was to use a series of “proof meetings” to permanently convince the world that Wright was Satoshi Nakamoto. In April 2016, entrepreneur Jon Matonis and software developer Andresen claimed to have witnessed Wright signing a message to the Bitcoin blockchain with an encryption signature related to Nakamoto; both publicly stated that they believed him.
Despite Wright’s apparent use of Nakamoto’s signature, doubts about its authenticity soon surfaced. A report by Vice showed that the signature could have been forged in multiple ways. A subsequent written explanation by Wright was rebutted by security researcher Dan Kaminsky, who said the messages may have been sent without knowledge of Nakamoto’s private key (a password).
In his apology on his website, Wright seemed to acknowledge that the evidence was not convincing, but he still insisted that he was Nakamoto. “As events unfolded this week, I broke. I do not have the courage,” he wrote. “My qualifications and integrity have been attacked from the beginning. As these allegations were proven to be false, new allegations began.”
Wright has not publicly demonstrated this again, nor has he transferred any bitcoins from Satoshi Nakamoto’s account. One of the methods that may be required in an upcoming UK court hearing. Matonis claims to believe that Wright’s articles can still be found on his Medium website, but this year, Andresen added a note to his original statement from May 2016, saying “it was a mistake to trust Craig Wright like me.”
Matthews said that in the following months of 2016, Wright spent most of his time at home, occasionally sending him ideas for invention. The hostility between Wright and MacGregor continued to escalate. “I had to act as a judge in some incredible quarrels between the two of them,” Matthews said. “MacGregor told me he didn’t want anything to do with Craig Wright or nChain anymore.” Matthews said he formed a Maltese private equity fund to buy MacGregor’s shares, and by November 2016, MacGregor left the company.
Matthews began looking for new funding.
Not long after, he found former billionaire Calvin Ayre, who briefly appeared on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s wanted list for operating Bodog’s gambling business and was accused of operating illegally in Maryland. “We think we are completely legal,” Ayre said. “Once, it was one of the world’s largest online gaming companies.” In July 2017, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and left the company to become a private investor again. Matthews, who manages Ayre’s venture capital work, said he met Wright in 2000 when the inventor helped his gambling employer Centrebet conduct a security audit. Matthews believed the two would hit it off. “He brought Wright in,” Ayre said. “Told me there was a guy I had known since 2006. I knew he was Satoshi Nakamoto. So we wanted to come and talk to you because he needed some help.”
Matthews flew from his Manila home, Wright flew from Australia, and they met on the roof of Ayre’s Vancouver penthouse. The three spent two days drinking wine, getting to know each other, and having fun. “When I introduced Calvin and Craig, they had a kind of attraction from the moment they met,” Matthews said. After the meeting, Ayre invested in nChain. “Stefan and I pulled him out,” Ayre said. “We built some infrastructure around him and created a complete ecosystem.”
If nChain is the foundation of the ecosystem, then they are starting to install bolts and crossbeams. In August 2017, Ayre acquired the cryptocurrency news site CoinGeek. In 2018, Wright, Ayre, and Matthews launched Bitcoin’s fork Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV), a cryptocurrency based on the Bitcoin version before 2017, which excludes the upgrade that makes Bitcoin more private. “You can mix, you can transfer, there are no records,” Wright describes transactions in BSV.
According to CoinGecko’s data, BSV has achieved some success, with a market capitalization of $767 million, ranking 54th in the cryptocurrency market capitalization rankings. Wright says he owns a “small amount” of BSV, Ayre says he owns some, “but not a large amount,” and Matthews did not respond to questions about his BSV holdings.
In April 2019, Wright registered two copyrights with the US Copyright Office: one for the Bitcoin white paper and the other for the Bitcoin software. The agency then issued a statement the following month, saying that “with respect to the two registrations issued to Wright, the Copyright Office does not investigate the truth of any statement made. In the examination process, the Copyright Office noted the well-known pseudonym ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ and asked the applicant to confirm that Craig Steven Wright was the author and owner of the works being registered. Wright confirmed this.”
If Wright wants to convert the IP into cash, he is likely to do so through nChain. NChain is located in London, where Wright resides, but is officially registered in Zug, Switzerland, which is friendly to cryptocurrencies. NChain’s main source of income is royalties and consulting fees for its licenses granted. Although primarily funded by Ayre, Wright said that a private equity fund based in Liechtenstein is also an investor, and his wife is a “trustee.” When asked to clarify whether nChain has trustees or whether he is actually talking about the Tulip Trust she helps run, Wright said the trust fund is “associated” with nChain.
“I deliberately show no foresight or insight,” Wright laughed when asked about the internal workings of the trust. “Once I know something, someone will want me to sue them, so I make sure I don’t know.” After a long pause, he added: “I deliberately don’t know.” The documents filed by Kleiman’s estate in their lawsuit against Wright show that there are at least three Tulip Trusts.
Behind the scenes of the Wright team building its BSV ecosystem, a complex legal battle is underway that could affect the future of the industry. In February 2018, the estate manager of Dave Kleiman sued Wright in the Southern District of Florida, alleging that he “orchestrated a scheme to defraud Dave’s estate of his Bitcoin and his rights to certain intellectual property associated with the Bitcoin technology.”
As the lawsuit dragged on, in January 2021, Wright’s team sent a cease-and-desist letter to Block, a cryptocurrency subsidiary of payments company Square, demanding that it remove a copy of the Bitcoin white paper from its website. Lawyers for the Cryptocurrency Open Patent Alliance (COBlocking), a patent trade organization, responded with a letter demanding that Wright prove he wrote the white paper and subsequently sued him in the UK High Court to adjudicate the patent rights of the inventor and establish that he is the author.
In December 2021, back in Florida, a jury in the Kleiman estate case rejected almost all claims against Wright. W&K (not the estate management) was awarded $100 million in damages and $43 million in interest. Wright said, “Apart from shares I gifted to Dave, W&K’s intellectual property has nothing to do with Dave.” In addition to the cash, Wright’s reputation may have been damaged as well. The judge in the case wrote that she found him to have forged documents and that she did not believe the Tulip Trust actually existed: “All of the evidence in the record fails to establish the existence of the Tulip Trust.”
But Wright may still have the last laugh. His second wife, Ramona Ang, and his ex-wife submitted filings claiming that Ira Kleiman did not hold stock in W&K and that they are partial owners, suggesting that the ruling may be attributed in part to Wright’s own family. While a federal judge in Florida declined to intervene in the dispute, Wright said he is researching the intellectual property owned by W&K. “The only intellectual property the company has is in my head,” he wrote in an email to Forbes. He added that all documents were with Dave Kleiman, but he evidently did not keep them in a way that people could access them.”
In February, Wright launched another attack. He said that Tulip Trading, a company under the Tulip Trust, had sued 16 Bitcoin developers, including van der Laan, in the Royal Courts of Justice in the UK, alleging that they had a fiduciary duty to maintain the Bitcoin code, effectively stealing $3 billion from him, not including the $33 billion in Bitcoin that W&K claims to own.
随后在 6 月，英国高等法院表示， COBlocking 案、比特币开发者案以及另外两起案件将从 2024 年 1 月开始联合审理。特别是，他们将研究法院所说的对每个案件都适用的「身份问题」。「在 Craig Wright 证明他是中本聪之前，这些案件都不会取得任何进展」，专利律师 Pearce 说。「它们都是与知识产权相关的东西。但他们都依赖于 Craig Wright 就是中本聪的前提。但他不是。」代表从事加密货币相关项目开发者的 Bitcoin Legal Defense Fund 的首席法务官 Jess Jonas 则不那么乐观。「人们不能只是把头埋在沙子里说，『嗯，你知道，他不是中本聪，所以法院会弄清楚这一点，一切都会结束。』」她补充道，「开发者和其他行业参与者因必须回应这些索赔而付出了巨大的代价，他们必须这么做，因为现在的情况是关乎最重要的开源许可证之一。如果这种保护不存在，那么人们为什么要把自己置于危险之中并开发免费开源软件供公众使用呢？」当被问及他是否担心他的专利可能对比特币和其他开源开发者产生影响时，Wright 回答说：「它们是公开的。如果人们不核验这些事情，那不是我的错。」 尽管 Wright 表示有计划更广泛地执行他的知识产权，但他目前的重点是当前案件以及从愿意支付费用的人那里获取许可费。未来可能的被告之一是苹果公司，Wright 声称该公司在某些设备上分发比特币白皮书侵犯了版权。当 Wright 为 1 月份高等法院听证会做准备时，他表示，他的大部分法律策略将取决于比特币代码库向 Github 的迁移，以及涉嫌规避其管理员控制权的行为。他将其描述为违反 1990 年英国《计算机滥用法》的行为。Wright 表示，「这是刑事犯罪。」