The most infamous of all trade secrets in America is the recipe for Coca-Cola's Coke. At the end of the 19th century, Coca-Cola had a choice: Patent the recipe for its popular soft drink, which would mean disclosing its ingredients, or brand it a trade secret and keep things under wraps. Execs chose the latter route. Part of the reason might have been because the recipe contained a small amount of cocaine, a fact the company may have wanted to keep to itself. Whatever the reason, its decision has had repercussions.
Since its invention, there have been numerous rumors about Coke's ingredients, including one that said the recipe contained bugs. Another rumor says two employees each know just half of the recipe, and only two people know the combination to the safe where it's stored. "Over the years, the rumors have taken a life of their own," says Scott Testa, assistant professor of business at Cabrini College.
Despite its stringent security measures, in 2006 a Coca-Cola employee and two accomplices tried to sell the Coke recipe to Pepsi, says Testa. To its credit, Pepsi promptly notified Coke officials, and the group was busted.
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