Earlier this week I got knocked out by some pretty serious food poisoning. The few times I would try to do some work or pop in on Twitter, all I was seeing was people mocking the London Review of Books’ somewhat insane 35,000-word-long profile of Craig Wright, the guy who earlier this year claimed to be the real Satoshi Nakamoto. While he even convinced Gavin Andresen (the guy who really turned Nakamoto’s original work into actual Bitcoin), many others quickly pointed out that Wright’s “proof” appeared to be a giant scam. Why write a 35,000-word profile on a guy who isn’t Satoshi Nakamoto? I don’t know, but thankfully the food poisoning and the few snarky tweets I saw saved me from digging into the entire thing and wasting an afternoon. Fusion posted a much shorter summary of the piece, in case you’re wondering.
Buried in all of this was a plot by Wright and a Canadian company named nTrust, to basically patent all the Bitcoin/blockchain stuff they could think of, and then after Wright was revealed to be Nakamoto, sell it off for ONE BILLLLLLLLLLION DOLLARS.
The plan was always clear to the men behind nCrypt. They would bring Wright to London and set up a research and development centre for him, with around thirty staff working under him. They would complete the work on his inventions and patent applications – he appeared to have hundreds of them – and the whole lot would be sold as the work of Satoshi Nakamoto, who would be unmasked as part of the project. Once packaged, Matthews and MacGregor planned to sell the intellectual property for upwards of a billion dollars. MacGregor later told me he was speaking to Google and Uber, as well as to a number of Swiss banks. ‘The plan was to package it all up and sell it,’ Matthews told me. ‘The plan was never to operate it.’
Elsewhere in the report, Wright talks about having “hundreds of patents and papers in progress — research from the beginning.” And later, a colleague of Wright’s mentions a plan to push for “upwards of four hundred patents.” It seems noteworthy, of course, that at least in the US you’re supposed to file for a patent within a year of any public use or description of the invention. If he’s trying to patent stuff “from the beginning,” he might be a bit late.
Either way, while the big reveal hasn’t worked the way they intended (because it appears to be bullshit), Wright is still moving forward on the patent front. He’s been applying for a ton of patents related to blockchain technologies:
Since February, Wright has filed more than 50 patent applications in Britain through Antigua-registered EITC Holdings Ltd, which a source close to the company confirmed was connected to Wright, government records show.
Interviews with sources close to EITC Holdings Ltd, which has two of Wright’s associates as directors, confirmed it was still working on filing patent applications and Britain’s Intellectual Property Office has published another 11 patent applications filed by the company in the past week.
Because nothing says revolutionizing money and technology like creating a giant patent troll to block such innovations.
“It looks like he is trying to patent the fundamental building blocks of any blockchain, cryptocurrency, or distributed ledger system,” said Antony Lewis, a consultant on bitcoin issues to whom Reuters showed the patent titles and some of the texts.
In seeing some of the talk about the LRB article, some people keep pointing to the fact that Wright is trying to patent all this stuff as some sort of evidence that he really knows a lot about Bitcoin and the blockchain. People seem to have this magical spell come over them in that they think patents actually connote some sort of special status on people — perhaps because they don’t spend much time wading through tons and tons of ridiculous patents and wacky inventors insisting the patents matter much more than they really do.
Either way, if Wright gets his patents, whether or not he’s truly Nakamoto, he could create an awful lot of problems for the advancement of Bitcoin and the blockchain. Because that’s what patents are really for: blocking innovation, rather than encouraging it.