The High Court has held that cryptoassets (in this case Bitcoin) can be treated as property under English law. As such, the owner of a cryptoasset can, in appropriate circumstances, avail itself of the various proprietary remedies that a court is able to grant.
The practical significance here was that an insurer that had paid a Bitcoin ransom on behalf of its insured was entitled to take action to recover the sum from Bitfinex (the cryptocurrency exchange holding the funds), compel Bitfinex to provide information identifying the individuals who had received the Bitcoin and for the funds to be held on a constructive trust: AA v Persons Unknown who demanded Bitcoin on 10th and 11th October 2019 and others [2019] EWHC 3556 (Comm).
This is not the first case in which the English court has taken the view that cryptoassets are (or are likely to be) property under English law, a conclusion which also has wider significance for cryptoasset owners and investors more generally. However, the decision is noteworthy for the considerable weight the court appeared to give the recent UK Jurisdictional Task Force (“UKJT”) Legal Statement on Cryptoassets and Smart Contracts (on which we previously commented here).

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Andrew Moir
Andrew Moir
Partner London
+44 20 7466 2773
Rachel Lidgate
Rachel Lidgate
Partner London
+44 20 7466 2418
Charlie Morgan
Charlie Morgan
Senior Associate and Digital Law Lead UK
+44 20 7466 2733
Martin Hevey
Martin Hevey
Senior Associate
+44 20 7466 2631