In a surprise order today Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the “Tulip Trust III”—the document which may contain the keys to $10 billion in bitcoin—unsealed.
The Tulip Trust III is the latest in a series of trusts revealed by Craig Wright, who claims to be Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright claims the trusts hold the private keys to a cache of 1.1 million bitcoins Nakamoto mined at the beginning of the first blockchain. The vast majority of the cryptocurrency community believes he is lying.
The lawsuit was brought by the estate of Dave Kleiman, a former Wright collaborator. Ira Kleiman has said his brother helped create Bitcoin and argues that half of those bitcoins and the Bitcoin intellectual property should go to him
It is significant that the Trust is dated 2017—after Wright initially shared emails with the Kleiman family of Dave’s involvement back in 2014, but before they brought the lawsuit in 2018.
The Kleimans tried to fight Wright on making the document public. However, the judge overruled their requests and agreed that the nChain chief scientist could redact the document and submit it for viewing.
Buried in this legal filing is the often overlooked “Tulip Trust II” document dated 2012. This is significant because Dave Kleiman was very much alive and would have had to sign off on any agreements with his name on them.
The date is important because the original, Tulip Trust I was dated June 9, 2011. That was almost two years before Dave Kleiman passed away. Under the rules of discovery, this 2012 document would also have to have Dave Kleiman’s name on it to be used in this case.
This is all good news for us—the people following this case—as it keeps everything out in the open where we can inspect and weigh in. And the judge agrees. There is “a general presumption that criminal and civil actions should be conducted publicly . . . includ[ing] the right to inspect and copy public records and documents” Magistrate Judge Reinhart said.
There is generally pressure in civil cases like this to find a way to settle out of court. Judges and courtrooms are very expensive. If a reasonable agreement can be found, the courts will encourage claimants to find it.
But the $10 billion price tag on this case prevents that from happening.
For the crypto community, however, it’s in everyone’s best interest to see this case to its conclusion. The ramifications of splitting the bitcoin intellectual property could be massive. It would be one thing if Craig Wright owned patents that could prevent blockchains like Facebook’s Libra coin from using certain protocols. But it’s quite another if the Kleiman family gets the rights to half of these patents.
Who has voting power when two people own 50% of a patent?
As for Tulip Trust III, Wright has until March 20, 2020, to propose redactions and make any further claims. And then Ira Kleiman gets a turn. So, it’ll probably be a while before we see what is (or isn’t) in Tulip Trust III.