Software Expert Witness

qualifications of Philip Greenspun, updated October 2012
This document summarizes my qualifications to be an expert witness in software-related lawsuits as well as in matters before the International Trade Commission.

Testimony

I have testified in two bench trials, one jury trial, and in one claim construction hearing. I have also testified as an expert at approximately 20 days of depositions. My declarations and deposition testimony have been submitted to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) for three covered business method reviews.

I have also provided two claim construction tutorials in Federal court.

Education

Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999. Bachelor's and Master's degrees from MIT as well.

Teaching Experience

Have taught all of the core Electrical Engineering and Computer Science courses at MIT. Designed and wrote the textbook for MIT Course 6.171, Software Engineering for Internet Applications (full text online; published in hardcopy by MIT Press).

I am the author of five computer science textbooks in total, including Database Backed Web Sites (Macmillan; 1997) and an SQL language tutorial.

Software and Software Business Experience

My software background can best be summarized as having three main components: Internet applications, especially Web sites backed by with relational database management systems; computer-aided design for electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering; digital electronics.

I started my first full-time programming job at the age of 14 in 1978 at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, building a database management system for scientific data being streamed back from the Pioneer Venus orbiter.

I worked my way through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, paying for tuition and living expenses with a series of computer programming jobs. I graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and went to work for Hewlett-Packard Research Labs, building design tools to assist with the development of the HP Precision Architecture RISC computer, which came the core of the HP product line and eventually formed the basis of Intel's 64-bit CPU chips.

During the 1980s, I was the author of a computer system that automated the design of large steel structures, such as offshore oil rigs. After a mechanical engineer specified a set of design rules, a manufacturer of semi-custom products could type in the customer specifications and the software would generate a three-dimensional model and blueprints. I also built a computer system to assist civil engineers and earthmoving contractors.

Starting in the early 1980s, I built a series of collaborative Internet applications, computer programs that enabled people to work together, even if they were sitting at separate computers, perhaps in different parts of the world, and possibly at different times. Beginning in 1993, I transferred my efforts in collaborative Internet applications from custom interfaces to the World Wide Web. One of my first projects, was photo.net, an online community for photographers. Photo.net incorporated all of the features commonly referred to as "Web 2.0", including an emphasis on user-generated content. In 1994, I built the world's first Web-based electronic medical record system for Boston Children's Hospital. This used the Oracle RDBMS as its backend.

In 1995, I moved to Manhattan to supervise the construction of Hearst Corporation's Internet infrastructure. As Hearst owned magazines, newspapers, TV stations, and cable TV networks, we built virtually at least one of everything that a 1990s Web publisher ever built. I built a catalog-shopping ecommerce system with shopping carts, one-click ordering, referral tracking from other sites, ad serving, clickthrough tracking, and user session tracking. I built a classified ad system that had a user reputation system, auctions, and most of the other features of the early eBay. I built discussion forums, user comment facilities, moderation systems, publishing workflow systems, contest systems, and polling systems.

Upon moving back to Boston, I refocused my energies on photo.net, which became the testbed for my Ph.D. thesis at MIT. With a small group of friends, I packaged up the software behind photo.net and released it as the ArsDigita Community System (ACS), which became a popular toolkit for companies worldwide who were developing online communities and ecommerce sites. As part of photo.net or ACS, I supervised the design and construction of modules for content management, user directories, data warehousing, university course management, online file storage and sharing, "homepage" construction, broadcast email to registered users (called the "spam" module), ticket tracking, social bookmarking (similar to the popular Delicious service), project management, and WimpyPoint, a collaborative Web-based replacement for PowerPoint. ACS became sufficiently popular with Fortune 500 companies that we were able to start ArsDigita, a support and service company for the free and open-source software.

After selling ArsDigita, which had grown to 80 programmers and $20 million per year in revenue, I scaled back my involvement in the commercial world to advisory and corporate board membership. I completed a new textbook for my software engineering course at MIT, which I was teaching on an occasional basis, and learned to fly (current holder of FAA Airline Transport Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates for both airplanes and helicopters). In 2006, I went back to a 24/7 desk job, taking over management of photo.net, which I had spun off to a group of entrepreneurs in 2000. They'd borrowed money and were hoping to turn my hobby/research site into a business. Their timing was unfortunate and by 2006 the debt plus interest had crippled the balance sheet. I led an effort to reengineer and document the software and hardware behind the site, update the content, and look for ways to boost revenue sufficiently to service the debt. The effort concluded with a 2007 sale of the enterprise to NameMedia, which enabled paying the original creditors in full, including promised interest.

More: resume.

Expert Witness Experience

Have served as an expert witness for Amazon.com, Xerox, and Google in patent cases. Have served as an expert witness for an enterprise software vendor defending a $250 million claim by another software company (contract dispute), testifying in Delaware Chancery Court (video). I have served as an expert in a variety of software patent cases as well as in cases involving software copyright (see this article on the Abstraction-Filtration-Comparison method) and software trade secrets. I was retained as an expert in a software patent case that was to be heard by the International Trade Commission in October 2012, but that did not go to trial.

Video Clips

Being an expert witness is a form of teaching, so here are a couple of video clips to show you what I sound like when teaching: My testimony in Delaware Chancery Court is also available as a streaming video.

Specific Software Litigation Areas of Expertise

In a software lawsuit, I should be qualified to testify on at least the following subjects:

Contact

philg@mit.edu or (617) 864-6832.

References

Upon request, I will be happy to provide references from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, Steptoe and Johnson, Sidley Austin, and Winston and Strawn.