Verdict against self-proclaimed Bitcoin inventor balloons to $143 mln

A representation of the virtual cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen in this picture illustration taken October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su
  • Judge adds $43 million to $100 million IP verdict
  • Computer scientist's joint venture entitled to damages from 2013 onward

(Reuters) - Self-proclaimed Bitcoin creator Craig Wright must pay another $43 million to a joint venture he co-created, adding to a $100 million verdict against him last year, a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, ruled Wednesday.

A jury in December found Wright unlawfully seized intellectual property belonging to the joint venture with late computer forensics researcher Dave Kleiman, W&K Info Defense Research. U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom awarded the additional $43 million in interest on damages W&K suffered from when he took control of the IP in 2013 until the court's final judgment.

Wright had argued that W&K should only be entitled to interest measured from October 2021, when the IP's value was highest, through December.

Wright's attorney Andrés Rivero of Rivero Mestre said in a statement that the award was still "but a fraction of the amount plaintiffs claimed" and does not affect the jury's finding that Kleiman did not co-invent Bitcoin with Wright.

W&K's attorneys said in a statement that the decision, like the verdict, "sets a historical precedent in cryptocurrency and blockchain."

Kleiman's brother sued Wright on behalf of his estate in 2018, alleging he stole intellectual property related to blockchain technology from W&K along with 1.1 million bitcoin.

According to court papers, the bitcoin was mined by Satoshi Nakamoto, who wrote a white paper describing the framework for what would become bitcoin. Wright has said that he is Nakamoto, which has been disputed.

Jurors awarded W&K $100 million for Wright's conversion of its intellectual property but cleared Wright of other claims including theft and fraud, and found W&K and Kleiman were not entitled to any of the disputed bitcoin.

Kleiman said in the lawsuit that the assets were worth over $11 billion. Today, the 1.1 million bitcoin would be worth $43 billion.

The case is Kleiman v. Wright, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 9:18-cv-80176.

For Kleiman: Vel Freedman and Kyle Roche of Roche Freedman, Andrew Brenner, Steve Zack, and Max Pritt of Boies Schiller Flexner

For Wright: Andrés Rivero of Rivero Mestre

(NOTE: This story has been updated with comment from Wright's attorney.)

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Self-proclaimed bitcoin inventor largely prevails in $54 billion bitcoin trial

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com