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.