Satoshi Nakamoto surfaces to file for a UK patent application … or does he?


Last year provided many surprises, from the emergence of a global pandemic to Liverpool winning the Premier League. However, an unexpected event which appears to have gone under the radar was the possible emergence of Satoshi Nakamoto, the unidentified and elusive inventor of Bitcoin, at a patent hearing at the UKIPO.

Was this the real Satoshi Nakamoto, or a chancer thinking they may be able to cash in on patenting the largest crypto-currency around?

What is clear is that, whether this person is Satoshi Nakamoto or not, they paid the price for not consulting a patent attorney prior to filing their patent application.

The hearing, and subsequent decision, related to UK patent application GB1503131.3 filed on 11 February 2015 (many years after the 2008 Bitcoin whitepaper was first published). The applicant stated that the invention in question related to Bitcoin technology “which he claims to have invented in 2007, under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto” (see para. 5 of the decision), thus solving one of the greatest mysteries of the internet age.

At the hearing the applicant explained that his application relates to “Bitcoin technology which is a network system and describes how to connect the computers interconnected to the network system by a specific sequence of nodes. It relies on complex mathematical systems using various algorithms.”

The hearing officer found that the invention was not described in enough detail such that a skilled person in the relevant field could recreate the invention without undue burden. Specifically, they stated that it only gives “a very brief indication of the underlying principle behind that aspect of the technology does not present any technical features for the purpose of defining an invention.” The application was also let down by the claims, which should define the scope of protection, which were not in the correct format and did not set out the technical features of the invention. The patent application was ultimately refused.

There are many rules and formalities around filing patent applications ranging from the level of detail required, to the type of language and format of the claims. These are things that a patent attorney can advise on given their experience in dealing with these rules and formalities everyday.

Perhaps if the present applicant would have consulted a patent attorney the outcome may have been different, or at the very least they may have saved their time and money in pursuing this application all the way to this hearing.

Due to these fundamental issues it appears that the application did not even get to the point of assessment of novelty and inventive step at the hearing. As a result the fact that the original Bitcoin white paper was published years prior to the filing of this application was not commented on, which most likely would been a further fundamental hurdle in obtaining a granted patent in itself as new inventions need to be new and inventive over prior publications.

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