Craig Wright quietly bidding for bitcoin patent empire

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Craig Wright quietly bidding for bitcoin patent empire

Filing fast in Britain.

Craig Wright, the Australian who claimed to be the inventor of bitcoin, is attempting to build a large patent portfolio around the digital currency and its underpinning technology.

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, according to government records.

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.

Wright did not respond to requests seeking comment.

The granting of even some of the patents would be significant for banking and other industries that are trying to exploit bitcoin technologies, as well as dozens of start-ups scurrying to build business models based around the technology.

Financial institutions are expected to spend more than US$1 billion this year and next on projects linked to the blockchain at the heart of bitcoin, according to a survey by boutique investment bank Magister Advisors.

The blockchain is a public database that bypasses money-based payments by recording all transactions digitally. It forms the core of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies by maintaining a decentralised record of all transactions.

Proponents say it has the potential to disrupt financial services by making payments and the settling of securities transactions, in particular, far cheaper.

Patents that Wright has applied for range from a mechanism for paying securely for online content to an operating system for running an "internet of things" on blockchain.

A patent schedule, one of a number of documents relating to the applications, outlines plans to apply for about 400 in total.

Satoshi Nakamoto

The London Review of Books on Saturday ran an article by novelist and journalist Andrew O'Hagan quoting associates of Wright's as saying they were working on filing several hundred patents.

O'Hagan, who has spent extensive time with Wright and others close to him, quoted the associates as saying Wright's patents would then be sold "for upwards of a billion dollars". 

The article did not explain how this valuation was reached, how far the process of contacting purchasers had gone, or whether it was still active.

Nearly all the British filings involve the term "blockchain" or its more generic description, the "distributed ledger". The patent approval process typically takes several years.

"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.

Wright, 45, has cut a controversial figure after some media last year identified him as the mysterious "Satoshi Nakamoto", who distributed a paper and later software that launched bitcoin in early 2009.

Wright failed to persuade a skeptical bitcoin community in May that he was Nakamoto, performing a u-turn on his promise to provide further proof and claiming he lacked the "courage" to put "years of anonymity and hiding behind" him. He has since kept a low profile and declined interviews.

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