A UK High Court has ruled that bitcoin can be ‘property’ and can therefore be the subject of a proprietary injunction. In reaching its conclusion in AA v Persons Unknown and Others, Re Bitcoin, the High Court adopted the detailed analysis of the issue set out in the UK Jurisdictional Task Force’s November 2019 Legal Statement on Crypto-Assets and Smart Contracts, thereby providing a far more detailed judicial basis for the finding than found in previous cases.
The analysis identifies that under English law, property traditionally falls into two distinct categories:
‘things in possession’ (ie, tangible assets); and ‘things in action’ (eg, debt or contractual rights). However, following a detailed analysis of the relevant case law, the legal statement considered that other categories in addition to things in action and things in possession are capable of being property. Property could potentially extend to novel kinds of intangible asset that are not things in action, such as crypto-assets. Accordingly, the judge proceeded on the basis that bitcoin is property.