According to Forbes.com, a federal court has upheld the conviction and eight year prison sentence of Joya Williams, the former secretary at Coca-Cola company who was found guilty of conspiring to sell the trade secrets of Coca-Cola to its competitor. The convictions of Williams’ co-defendants, Edmund Duhaney and Ibrahim Dimson, were also upheld.
This trade secrets case related to the formulas for new drinks being designed by the Coca-Cola company. This type of theft would have very little chance of happening with the actual formula for Coca-Cola, the so-called “Merchandise 7X”, because of the precautions the Coca-Cola company takes to protect that recipe. A secretary like Williams would never be allowed access to Merchandise 7X.
You could learn a lot about protection of trade secrets from the Coca-Cola company. When they want to protect something, they make sure it’s protected. The protection of Merchandise 7X, the “secret ingredient” in Coca-Cola, gives you an idea of the levels to which companies can go in protecting trade secrets. Merchandise 7X has remained a secret since its invention in 1886. It’s been said that only a few employees know the full recipe at any one time, and those employees are not allowed to fly on the same plane and cannot be left alone with strangers while they are together.
I certainly am not suggesting that your company has to go to such extremes, but I think this example gives you an idea of the breadth of strategies available for trade secrets protection beyond minimums such as non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements and employee exit interviews.
So after all the media scrutiny and conjecture (including on this blog which you can find here, here and here), the infamous Matt Walsh finally testified before members of Congress and said that he had no tapes of the Rams walk-throughs prior to Super Bowl XXXVI (commonly referred to as Spygate II). The Boston Herald, who first reported this story, has issued a retraction and apologized to the New England Patriots. See the story here.
The Boston Herald retraction reads as follows: “On Feb. 2, 2008, the Boston Herald reported that a member of the New England Patriots’ video staff taped the St. Louis Rams’ walk-through on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walk-through ever existed.”
What is more interesting is that Bill Belichick appears not able to let it all go. Instead of leaving well enough alone, Belichick has gone on the defensive calling out Matt Walsh and his football intelligence relating to Spygate I (the taping of teams defensive signals). You can read about that here. Why he would do this is unclear. It’s already of record that Belichick has taped defensive signals and been punished for it. According to Belichick, it was a matter of rule misinterpretation–a suspect rationalization given the evidence, and Roger Goodell didn’t buy it either. “I didn’t accept Bill Belichick’s explanation for what happened,” Goodell said Tuesday, “and I still don’t to this day.”
The NFL could still have problems as Sen. Arlen Specter has not yet washed his hands of the matter. He has said that he hopes the NFL will handle their business, but that he has not eliminated the potential that a judiciary committee could be formed to investigate the matter further. See that article here. However, as far as this blog is concerned, the unique issues relating to trade secrets and the Super Bowl walk-through appear to be at an end.