Singapore Court of Appeal issues landmark decision in first cryptocurrency related trial

Published on 09 June 2021

Quoine Pte Ltd v B2C2 Ltd [2020] SGCA(I) 02

The Singapore Court of Appeal (SGCA) has issued a landmark ruling in Quoine Pte Ltd v B2C2 Ltd, a breach of contract case involving the autonomous algorithmic trading of digital tokens. The SGCA affirmed in part the decision of the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) that Quoine, a digital token exchange operator, breached its contract with B2C2, a trader on Quoine’s exchange, for unilaterally reversing completed trades in digital currency, notwithstanding a catastrophic error in logic in Quoine’s platform software that led to a windfall profit for B2C2.

The central issue was how the doctrine of unilateral mistake ought to apply to contracts involving autonomous computerised processes. The majority was of the view that traditional principles governing unilateral mistake are capable of dealing with such novel circumstances and rejected Quoine’s defence of unilateral mistake. The SGCA was of the view that a programmer’s state of knowledge when programming was relevant as algorithms are bound by parameters set by the programmer and generally will only do what it was programmed to do. Any assessment of knowledge attributed to the parties at the time of contracting would thus differ in contracts made by way of deterministic algorithms.

While the SGCA did not decide on whether cryptocurrencies are capable of assimilation into general property concepts, such as being held on trust, the technology community should bear in mind the lessons from the earlier SICC decision and be mindful of pitfalls in modern contracts.

Recent investments made in AI, and the second being that the UK must prepare for the future by being forward looking and prepared to adapt to disruption caused by AI. EU Member States have produced similar documents in the past with commentators noting that such programme announcements have been partnered by notable financial investments from national governments (eg France and Germany setting aside a combined approx. €4.5bn). The Roadmap has been criticised for failing to put real meat on what are bare bones recommendations (aside from positioning of The Alan Turing Institute at the centre of national AI activities), giving the government significant commitment flexibility, although this is perhaps unsurprising in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.