The Seven Rules for Hiring a Wireless Technology Expert
There are a number of factors that make retaining a wireless technology expert a daunting experience. The field of wireless technology is wide, the topic is deep and the specifics are complex. This article provides seven things you should look for when hiring a wireless technology expert to help guide you through this minefield.
Nowadays, wireless technology is ubiquitous. We all carry cell phones, navigate via GPS, check our emails when sitting in coffee shops and hotel rooms, and connect to the Internet wirelessly from our homes and offices. Wireless technology is readily available, always on, and everywhere.
The use of wireless technology in litigation is also common. Wireless forensics is becoming widely used in both criminal and civil cases. Wireless technology can be used to remotely monitor phone calls, emails and Internet activity, track cell phones, determine the position of criminal activity, and establish the location of parolees and fugitives. In the intellectual property area, vast numbers of mobile, cellular and wireless patents are awarded annually. Wireless technology experts can support patent litigation by providing expertise and analysis on issues of infringement, validity, and value.
Here are seven things you should consider when hiring a wireless technology expert.
1. Choose the Right Educational and Professional Qualifications
Wireless technology experts should have at least one advanced degree in their field of expertise. As a specialized scientific and engineering discipline, a Master’s or preferably a PhD degree in either physics or electronic engineering is highly desirable. In addition, the expert should have an elevated membership in at least one relevant technical organization that is not open to the general public. For wireless technology, the expert should be a Senior Member or a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE is the world’s largest professional technical association, with over 395,000 members drawn from engineering, scientific and allied professional disciplines. Achieving a Senior Member or Fellow status within the IEEE means reaching the highest levels of experience and professional maturity within the electrical and electronic engineering field. Less than 10% of the general IEEE membership reach this elevated status. Make sure your wireless technology expert falls into one of these two professional levels.
2. Ensure Relevant Hands-on Experience
The Federal Rules of Evidence require that an expert be qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. Often university professors are chosen as expert witnesses since they seem to fit these criteria. However, the lack of real-world experience of some university professors can often be detrimental to more practical cases. It is important that the wireless technology experts gained their knowledge and working experience from time in the field and not merely information drawn from the ivory tower. For example, in a cell phone patent dispute, it is advantageous to have an expert who has actually assembled and disassembled a mobile device. A 20-year engineering veteran with one or two relevant cell phone patents would likely serve as a better expert than a 20-year tenured academic specializing in cellular devices. In establishing credibility with the judge and jury, it is important that the wireless technology expert be able to say “I have done that.”
3. Match the Expert to the Wireless Frequency
Imagine you have real estate to sell. Would you use the same realtor to sell a 1,000 square foot condo as you would to sell a 10,000 square foot mansion? How about a 100,000 square foot commercial property? Probably not. A specialized agent is required, as each property has unique characteristics. The same is true with hiring wireless technology experts. Frequency is the key characteristic for wireless technologies. Consumer applications like cell phones and GPS operate at frequencies of around 1,000 megahertz. Industrial wireless systems are typically 10,000 megahertz and above, and scientific work is often in excess of 100,000 megahertz. Each frequency has distinct characteristics and requires a specific wireless expert.
4. Review and Assess the Expert’s Publications
In assessing credibility and writing abilities, review the wireless expert’s publications. Has the expert written or edited a book? How many publications does the expert have? Where are they published? Are the papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals that demonstrate academic authority, such as the various IEEE transactions and journals? Or are the papers in general science periodicals or trade journals that display the expert’s technical communication skills? Choose a wireless technology expert with publications in all of the above! Also make sure the expert appears as the lead author in key papers. Unfortunately, with the academic necessity to “publish or perish,” there is a tendency to list large numbers of authors on important technical papers. If the expert is not the lead or second author, he or she may well have been a minority contributor, a reviewer, or a supervisor of the research.
5. Choose an Expert Teacher
Unfortunately, communication skills and technical expertise are often opposing dimensions in engineers. You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to understand wireless technology. Although it is often thought of as a black art, wireless technology is based on solid, well-established scientific and engineering principles. A good expert should be able to articulate these principles and explain wireless technology and any wireless expert opinions in simple, understandable language that a layman can understand. As examples: the propagation of radio waves can be compared to ripples moving across a lake; the operation of a radar system can be likened to echoes in the mountains; and, the effects of wireless interference can be compared to people trying to talk across a crowded room. Use of stories and analogies is an effective way of teaching the triers of fact and guiding them through the science and engineering towards the point where they can make informed decisions. Look for an expert who has given presentations at open, public forums, or who has written freely available white papers for evidence of teaching ability. Choose an articulate wireless technology expert with the communication skills to effectively teach the judge and jury the relevant aspects of the technology, guide them through the analysis, and have them understand the resulting opinions.
6. Avoid Experts Spouting Technical Jargon
The expert should not only avoid technical jargon, but also avoid being imprecise. As an example, a common term in wireless is “radiation,” or more precisely “electromagnetic radiation,” which describes the radio waves emitted by an electronic device. In most wireless applications, these emissions are necessary for the wireless device to carry and transmit communication information, such as voice or data. As such, wireless devices are often called “intentional radiators” since they deliberately emit electromagnetic radiation. These emissions are generally safe and are required to comply with and be certified against numerous safety and interference protection standards. If the expert uses the term radiation indiscriminately in front of an unknowing jury, a wide variety of possibly damaging images may be evoked. The wireless expert needs to know when to use technical jargon and how to use it wisely and effectively.
7. Previous Litigation Experience Helps
Although not a necessary prerequisite, choosing an expert with previous wireless litigation experience can provide additional insight to help you develop your case. Since wireless technology is a specialized field, an experienced expert can assist you with the complexities of your case. The wireless expert can help draft interrogatories for opposing expert depositions and provide alternative theories and possible evidence you may not discover on your own. For example, cell phone mapping can be used to determine where calls are being made from and determine the location of criminal activity. A sharp wireless expert with knowledge of cellular technology and wireless propagation theory can quantify the accuracy and precision of such mapping techniques and show that there may be errors associated with the analysis. It is also critical to have the wireless expert know and understand the rules of discovery prior to starting an analysis and expert report.
In summary, selecting a wireless technology expert need not be too daunting. Choose a professionally qualified candidate with real-world experience that is relevant to your case and that matches the wireless frequency of your case. Make sure the expert is well published in both academic and popular literature, and can communicate well with both peers and novices. Having an expert who has previous litigation experience is also useful. Finally, chose an expert who can connect and gain respect from the jury. No matter how ably qualified or experienced the expert is, if he or she does not appear credible to the triers of fact, they will never hear or understand the expert’s testimony.
Dr. Jonathan Wells is President of AJIS LLC, an independent consultancy specializing in wireless technology and litigation support. He is an expert on wireless devices and networks, wireless rules and regulations, and emerging wireless technologies. Dr. Wells holds BSc, PhD, and MBA degrees, is a Senior Member of the IEEE, and is lead inventor on three awarded patents.
Copyright Jonathan Wells, PhD MBA
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.