Guy Who Wants Everyone To Believe He Created Bitcoin, Now Patenting Everything Bitcoin With An Online Gambling Fugitive
from the because-reasons dept
As you may recall, there was a giant fuss last year, when an Australian guy named Craig Wright not only claimed that he was "Satoshi Nakamoto" -- the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin -- but had convined key Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen that he was Nakomoto. That was a big deal because Andresen was one of the first developers on Bitcoin and regularly corresponded with Nakamoto (Andresen's own name sometimes popped up in rumors about who Nakamoto might be). Even with Andresen being convinced, plenty of others soon picked apart the claims and found the claims severely lacking in proof.
Then, last summer, Andrew O'Hagan published an absolutely massive profile of Wright that only served to raise a lot more questions about Wright, his businesses, his claims to having created Bitcoin, and a variety of other things. However, as we noted at the time, buried in that massive article was a bizarre tidbit about how Wright was actively trying to patent a ton of Bitcoin related ideas. As we noted, the article stated that Wright's plan was to patent tons of Bitcoin stuff, reveal himself as Nakamoto and then sell his patents for a billion dollars.
Of course, part of that plan fizzled because basically no one believes Wright was Nakamoto. But, apparently the patenting has continued. Earlier this months, Reuters released a big "investigation" showing that Wright is rushing to get as many Bitcoin-related patents as possible, and has partnered with an online gambling mogul who's a fugitive because of his business dealings (add this to the long list of sketchy connections between Wright and other businesses):
Craig Wright, the Australian computer scientist who made the Satoshi claim, has the backing of Calvin Ayre, a wealthy Canadian entrepreneur, according to people close to Wright and documents reviewed by Reuters. Ayre has been indicted in the United States on charges of running online gambling operations that are illegal in many U.S. states – an accusation he rejects.
Wright’s expertise combined with Ayre’s support make a potentially formidable force in shaping the future of bitcoin and blockchain, the ledger technology that underlies digital currencies. Wright and his associates have lodged more than 70 patent applications in Britain and have plans to file many more, according to documents and emails reviewed by Reuters and sources with knowledge of Wright’s business. The patents range from the storage of medical documents to WiFi security, and reflect Wright's deep knowledge of how bitcoin and blockchain work.
Their total compares with 63 blockchain-related patents filed globally last year and 27 so far this year by multinationals from credit card companies to chipmakers, according to Thomson Innovation.
And, because it's patents we're talking about, there's a shell company here, because shell companies are quite popular in the patent trolling world. But Reuters claims that Ayre and Wright are behind this particular shell company and point to lots of close connections between the two. The report further notes that there are plans to file 150 patent applications, and maybe up to 400, and again repeats the claim from last year about the "ONE BILLLLLLLLLION DOLLARS!" sales plan:
The range of patent applications lodged by Wright and colleagues is wide. Five, registered on Dec. 14, were made by EITC Holdings with the bland description “computer-implemented method and system,” public filings show. One, registered on Dec. 28, was described as “Determining a common secret for two blockchain nodes for the secure exchange of information” - apparently a way to use the blockchain to exchange encrypted data. Other applications by Wright and his associates relate to sports betting and a blockchain-based operating system for simple electronic devices.
Emails from Wright to Ayre’s associate Matthews, reviewed by Reuters, set out plans to file 150 patents. A person with direct knowledge of Wright’s businesses said he and associates ultimately aim to file closer to 400. None has been approved so far and it’s not clear whether the patents would be enforceable if granted, but Wright’s associates have been quoted as saying the patents could be sold “for upwards of a billion dollars.”
The Reuters article argues that this "rush to patent applications poses a threat to the original conception of bitcoin as a technology available to all." Of course, that also seems like a pretty big strike against the idea that Wright is Nakamoto.
But it also seems like a misunderstanding about patents themselves. First off, just because you file for a ton of patents, it doesn't mean you're going to get them. And, thankfully, lately the USPTO has actually gotten much, much better at rejecting really bad patents. These things may be worth talking about if he's actually granted these patents -- and, even then, it may only really matter if he (or any later holder of the patents) seeks to enforce them. The really crazy thing, though, is that this once again demonstrates the sheer silliness of our patent system. Rather than actually trying to build a viable business by leveraging the useful features of Bitcoin/blockchain, you have someone trying to lock it up by putting tollbooths wherever possible. Tons of work is being done to advance Bitcoin and blockchain these days, because of all the opportunities it will create... not because of patents. And, once again, it shows the folly of believing that patents are a key incentive for innovation. That's rarely the case. Often, they're a key incentive for putting hurdles in the way of actual innovations, so that you can shake the actual innovators down for cash.