Man claiming to be bitcoin's creator wins dispute over $50B in bitcoin

Craig Wright, who says he's bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, is still on the hook for $100 million.

Julian Dossett Writer
Julian is a staff writer at CNET. He's covered a range of topics, such as tech, travel, sports and commerce. His past work has appeared at print and online publications, including New Mexico Magazine, TV Guide, Mental Floss and NextAdvisor with TIME. On his days off, you can find him at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque watching the ballgame.
Julian Dossett
2 min read
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A computer scientist who claims to be bitcoin's inventor came out on top Monday in a civil trial against a deceased former business partner's family, which alleged it was owed half of a bitcoin fortune worth more than $50 billion.

The verdict means Craig Wright will get to keep all of the 1.1 million bitcoins that were in dispute in the trial. The family of David Kleiman, a friend and collaborator of Wright who died in 2013, had claimed Wright and Kleiman created bitcoin together.

Though Wright won't have to share any of the bitcoin fortune, he must pay $100 million in damages for the unpaid use of intellectual property to W&K Information Defense Research, a joint venture founded by the two men. 

Wright says he's the true Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for the mysterious creator of bitcoin. The 1.1 million bitcoins Wright secured with the verdict are among the first bitcoins ever mined, and experts say that only someone involved with bitcoin from the beginning would have access to the wallet containing the bitcoin, which is worth about $54 billion.

The quest to identify Nakamoto has been dramatic but journalistically perilous. Attempts by Newsweek and The New Yorker unraveled, and Wired was forced to back off its 2015 assertion that Wright probably is Nakamoto after close scrutiny revealed problems with the proof. Gizmodo, too, tentatively fingered Wright as the cryptocurrency's creator in 2015.

The trial didn't address the question of Nakamoto's identity, as both sides claimed Wright was either partially or wholly responsible for the creation of bitcoin. However, Wright has yet to access the wallet with the 1.1. million bitcoins inside, which would go a long way toward proving once and for all that Wright is Nakamoto.

Attorneys for W&K and Kleiman's estate said the parties are "immensely gratified" over the $100 million intellectual property rights judgment, despite Wright's refusal to give the Kleimans "their fair share of what Dave helped create."

Attorneys representing Wright didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.