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Intellectual Property/Intrinsic Value

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Please understand before I say this, that I am playing "devil's advocate"
here. I don't own stock in AISC, and I certainly don't want to pay any more
than I have to for software or technical reference books, heaven knows.

But I think there is a fundamental flaw in this particular way of thinking,
which I will attempt to explain by example.

Just today, I attended the last of ten weekly seminar sessions on building
your small business. This was put on by the University of Houston Small
Business Development Center, and was a worthwhile endeavor. The young woman
who taught the course is a marketing consultant, so there was heavy emphasis
on marketing techniques, and the "whys and wherefores" of branding,
trademarking, establishing a logo, etc. Things we don't normally think about
in the course of our engineering activities but which are very important to

She gave an example today, of the newly-unveiled logo for the Houston Grand
Opera. She mentioned that it cost $75,000. (You can see the $75,000 logo at
their home page: She said, "now why in
heck would somebody pay that much money for that? Heck we do stuff like that
all the time in our firm, and I know I could come up with a design that
simple for $750!"

Well, the answer, she said, is that it is about MORE than just how the logo
looks, what color it is, etc. It is about the fact that it was batted around
and cussed and discussed and finally obtained acceptance by the Opera Board.
It represented a satisfactory design that was acceptable to the client.

In this case, it had INTRINSIC value. If that logo was to represent the
Houston Grand Opera, a world-class opera company, it had to have ACCEPTANCE
by people who are very powerful and well-connected. There was a lot of "buy

Now, in the case of AISC's data, there is a lot of "buy in" involved. The
numbers, I presume, represent a certain degree of acceptance by the member
companies of AISC, and a sort of official imprimatur. If you came up with a
set of numbers, and everyone knew that you had arrived at them
independently, that they didn't necessarily represent the "official" section
property values endorsed by AISC, I think you can see they would not have
near the "intrinsic value". Oh, they might be acceptable to YOU; you might
have a great deal of confidence in them, but they wouldn't be the "real
McCoy" in the terms of perception by others.

This is just one aspect of how intellectual property can have intrinsic
value, based not just on the real, direct action that led to their
development, but the behind-the-scenes stuff that went into their becoming
accepted and adopted by AISC, and presented to the engineering world as

We used to have to explain to one particular client, why He was paying for
"our own overhead." Certainly, if you just take into account the salaries,
fringes and other direct expenses of each employee, it doesn't add up to the
typical hourly rate charged the client. But the fact is that it isn't worth
our time to go through the pain of assembling a technical staff, and
administering and maintaining the business that we erect around that staff
to enable them to do their work, if we're going to get a paltry pittance for
our efforts.

Likewise, this is more than a question of the cost of the "process of
inputting data, comparing, making logical decisions as required ... and
manipulating that data into an easily used format." I think that the AISC
data has intrinsic value. The question then becomes "Is it worthwhile to the
member companies of AISC, to make this data available to the engineering
community free of charge? Does this help ensure that they use our products?
Do we get a return on our investment?"

As always, the answer to that question is not readily apparent. AISC has to
listen to the market, and adjust accordingly.

As I say, I'm interested in having that data FREE if I can get it, and in
turn using it to turn out my work. I think it is also in AISC's interest if
I do that. But there is a difference in perception as to the efficacy of
free availability of the data to all comers, between me and AISC. I have to
admit they have a say in this as well as I.

Their market will in time provide the answer as to who is right.

William L. Polhemus, Jr., P.E.
Polhemus Engineering Company
Katy, Texas
Phone 281-492-2251
Fax 281-492-8203

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Privett [mailto:eqretrodr(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 1:46 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: AISC Latest Move

When the first steel manual was published, and even 25
years ago this was a monumental task and I understand them wanting
compensated for their efforts.  However, with today's technology, the
process of inputting data, comparing, making logical decisions as
required to document a "useable" t, k, d and other properties, andlâ·©nipulating that data into an easily used format, is less complicated

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