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ENGLISH COURT RULES THAT ANONYMOUS PARTIES ARE NOT ENTITLED TO PARTICIPATE IN LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

Pseudonymous Bitcoin Blogger “Cøbra” Ordered To Reveal Identity If Participating In Proceedings Brought By Dr Craig Wright


London 24 November 2022 – In a ground-breaking ruling, London’s High Court today ordered that “Cøbra”, the pseudonymous operator and publisher of the bitcoin.org website, is not entitled to participate in the proceedings unless and until it identifies itself and its address.


In June 2021, the High Court granted ONTIER LLP ’s client and Bitcoin creator, Dr Craig Wright, default judgment in his copyright infringement action against the defendant, following the latter’s refusal to remove Dr. Wright’s Bitcoin White Paper from the website, where it had been published without Dr Wright’s consent.


In October 2021, Dr Wright – who authored the Bitcoin White Paper under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” – commenced detailed assessment proceedings for his costs of the action. “Cøbra” served Points of Dispute in response. In July 2022, Dr Wright applied for an order that, unless the defendant identified themselves, they be debarred from participating in the detailed assessment proceedings, and Cøbra’s Points of Dispute be disregarded.


Dr Wright’s application was heard by Costs Judge Rowley on 6 October 2022, at which “Cøbra’s” legal representatives argued that there was no prohibition on a pseudonymous or anonymous party participating in costs proceedings.


The Court disagreed and, in finding for Dr Wright, held that the “[civil procedure] rules, taken as a whole, clearly expect a party to identify themselves at the outset of proceedings… it is plain that a party is expected to identify themselves when first actively involved in the proceedings. That requirement is clear from the rules concerning the commencement of a claim and the filing of a response to that claim.”


The defendant has been granted permission to appeal, and otherwise has until 29 December 2022 within which to identify themselves, failing which Dr Wright will be entitled to apply for a Default Costs Certificate.


This is the first time that the English Court has been asked to determine whether a party has the right to make submissions at, or otherwise participate in, proceedings whilst maintaining their anonymity / pseudonymity to the Court and another party to the proceedings.


Dr Wright successfully argued that a party to proceedings should not be permitted to participate whilst refusing to identify themselves to the Court, as to do so would amount to an attack on the fundamental principal of open justice on which the English legal system is founded.


Simon Cohen, Managing Associate at ONTIER LLP and a member of the legal team which advised Dr Wright on this action, comments:


“We welcome this important decision by the English Court, which reaffirms the sanctity of our open justice system. Whilst there are some, limited, situations where a party can be anonymised to the public, there are no circumstances in which a party can participate in proceedings whilst maintaining their anonymity in the face of the Court.”

Dr Wright is advised by ONTIER Partner James Dixon, with Managing Associate, Simon Cohen. Shaman Kapoor of 39 Essex Chambers is instructed as Counsel.

 

Notes to Editors:

ONTIER LLP specialises in international commercial disputes and transactions.

This costs litigation is the latest in a series of legal claims issued by ONTIER LLP on behalf of Dr Wright and his associated entities to uphold his right to protect his lawfully-held digital assets and his reputation as the creator of Bitcoin and his associated intellectual property.

  • In August 2022, ONTIER received a judgment in favour of its client, Dr Wright, in his defamation claim against podcaster Peter McCormack.

  • In May 2022 ONTIER defeated a strike-out attempt in London by digital currency enthusiast, Magnus Granath, following Dr. Wright’s defamation action, the trial of which will heard by the High Court in late 2023.

  • Last year ONTIER also launched a landmark claim against the developers of BTC, BCH, BCH ABC and BSV to restore control to addresses containing Bitcoin and other digital assets. The defendants’ jurisdictional challenge to this claim is currently being appealed by the claimant, Tulip Trading Ltd. set to be heard by the High Court in London on 7/8 December 2022.

  • ONTIER is advising companies connected with Dr. Wright in their passing off claims against exchanges Kraken and Coinbase, filed in the High Court earlier this year.

  • Dr. Wright is also advised by ONTIER on his defence and counter-claim to the Crypto Open Patent Alliance’s (COPA) challenge to Dr. Wright’s authorship of the Bitcoin White Paper, which will be heard in 2024.

ONTIER LLP is increasingly recognised for its high-profile and market leading Bitcoin related and cybercrime litigation and has an established and growing practice for recovering lost and stolen Bitcoin.


The firm has offices in 18 cities in 13 countries, giving an international capability.


A copy of the judgment is available on request.


Issued on behalf of ONTIER LLP by:

Bell Yard Communications bellyard@bell-yard.com

Melanie Riley melanie@bell-yard.com +44 7775 591244


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