"Is he paying you in bitcoins?"
The question directed by a court security guard to the legal counsel of New York resident Theo Chino yesterday, highlights a central issue long facing regulators considering the technology – is bitcoin a currency or commodity?
As the industry has found out, time and time again, that just depends.
But that answer isn't quite good enough in New York, where early rules were put in place for startups on the basis that money transmission laws applied. While most businesses have resigned themselves to the rules, getting practices in shape or else shipping out, Chino hasn't given up the fight.
Two years after initially filing court documents, Chino's lawyer argued in court yesterday that the so-called BitLicense regulations brought an early end to his client's career as a bitcoin entrepreneur, as many others have claimed.
On one side, Chino's legal counsel argued that the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) overstepped its mandate when it issued the BitLicense. On the other, the defendant's lawyer argued that Chino had no grounds for his complaint.
But rather than dismissing the underdog claim, Judge Carmen Victoria St. George issued what may be one of the more surprising statements in bitcoin's short legal history.
"Court reserves decision."
Instead of formally weighing in on the case, Judge St. George set a future court date for the participants to reconvene on January 11, 2018.