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Employee at center of international effort to steal trade secrets

May 31, 2021 | Trade Secrets

Coca-Cola’s formula is one of the most commonly cited examples of what a trade secret is. But the recipe for their soda is not the only intellectual property the company must protect.

A recent case highlights this, as a former Coca-Cola employee has been convicted of stealing information related to the company’s coating inside their cans.

International espionage

The case centered on the actions of a former Principal Engineer at Coca-Cola. Sources report that she accessed and took photos of protected information before leaving the company. The data was related to BPA-free formulas. She also moved data to an external hard drive before leaving Coca-Cola for another company, Eastman Chemical Company.

She reportedly also took protected information from that company before leaving to start her own business overseas. 

The allegations showed that she did not act alone in her efforts. She was going to report the information to a Chinese corporate partner, from whom she reportedly received millions of dollars in grants.

While it seems like the plot of a movie, the case will result in very real consequences for those involved. The former engineer was convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal trade secrets, economic espionage and other serious charges. 

Lessons to learn from this case

This case can serve as a reminder of just how much a company may have on the line when it comes to its trade secrets. Often, there is a lot more to protect than a single piece of data or product. Thus, comprehensive efforts can be crucial when it comes to securing intellectual property.

Companies can put several protocols in place to protect trade secrets, including thorough employee training, secured digital files and confidentiality agreements. One single measure may not be effective, but when there are several layers of protection in place, information can be more secure.

Additionally, note that these cases can involve international parties, further complicating the legal process and remedies available. Thus, working with an attorney to navigate these complex cases can be crucial.

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