Closely-Guarded Trade Secrets

Closely-Guarded Trade Secrets
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Closely-Guarded Trade Secrets
For some companies, their entire success is based upon a trade secret. (Or at least that's what they would like us to think!) Take for example, the secret recipes for Coca-Cola or KFC chicken.

Click through our gallery as we take a look at a handful of famous and not-so-famous closely-guarded company secrets.
In 2004 McDonald's acknowledged that they had lost the recipe for the Big Mac special sauce. As it turns out, McDonald's changed the original special sauce recipe to cut costs and lost the original. When a returning exec wanted to return to the original special sauce, no one could find the recipe. The exec remembered the name of the California company that supplied the sauce 36 years ago. They still had the sauce in their record books, and McDonald's was able to recover the recipe. (Source:
Only two KFC executives know the finger-lickin' recipe of 11 herbs and spices. A third executive knows the combination to the safe where the handwritten recipe resides. Less than a handful of KFC employees know the identities of the three executives, who are not allowed to travel together on the same plane or in the same car for security reasons. After being locked in a safe for 68 years, Colonel Harland Sanders' handwritten recipe was temporarily relocated to a secret-secure location as KFC modernizes its safekeeping. It was transported in an armored car and high-security motorcade.
According to many, the formula for Coke is the most famous trade secret. When Coke, at the end of the 19th century, decided not to patent its formula, it did so for one reason: to keep it secret, forever. In May 2006, a Coke employee and two others were charged with stealing and trying to sell guarded Coke secrets to Pepsi. Pepsi notified Coke of the breach and the FBI was called in.
The formula for WD-40 is locked in a bank vault and has only ever been taken out of the vault twice -- once when they changed banks and once on the CEOs 50th birthday. The CEO rode into Times Square on the back of a horse in a suit of armor with the formula. The company mixes WD-40 in a concentrated form in three locations -- San Diego, Sydney and London -- and then sends it to aerosol manufacturing partners.
Krispy Kreme got its start in 1937 when Vernon Rudolph bought a secret yeast-raised doughnut recipe from a French chef from New Orleans.
Steve Ettlinger, the author of "Twinkie, Deconstructed," counted 39 ingredients in the popular treat, and contrary to popular belief, they do not last forever. But a Twinkie can last weeks, maybe even months. According to Ettlinger, when doing the research for his book, Interstate Bakeries Corporation, the company that makes Twinkies, didn't exactly cooperate with his research. (Source: ABC News)
Bojangles wanted to take its fried chicken to Chinese consumers through local franchises. But how could the Charlotte, N.C.-based company protect its secret recipe in a country famous for all kinds of Intellectual Property (IP) theft? The answer was to license the recipe to a U.S.-based food distributor that would blend the spices and pass along the finished product to its Chinese subsidiary.
Up until May 2008, the inner workings of Google's data center operations were shrouded in secrecy. But then Google's Jeff Dean shed some light on parts of the operation to an overflowing crowd at a Google I/O conference. Google didn't reveal exactly how many servers it has, but estimates are easily in the hundreds of thousands. It did reveal that it uses more-or-less ordinary servers -- processors, hard drives, memory. (Source: CNET News)
For nearly three quarters of a century, a special variety of Jersey muck, Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud, has been removing the sheen from baseballs for just about every professional baseball team in the country. The exact location of the mud hole from which it comes (along the tributaries of the Delaware River) and whether any ingredients are added to the mud remain a secret.
A 49-year old man known only as Jeong (from Korea) copied more than 1,182 top secret plasma display technology-related files onto his personal drive before waltzing out of LG's doors for the final time in July of 2005. A few months later, Chinese manufacturer Changhong-Orion PDP-Chaihong welcomed him with open arms and paid him a fat salary of roughly $300,000 a year (not to mention a few perks: free apartment, vehicle etc.), while casually accepting both the aforementioned files and continued insider leaks at LG -- information supposedly valued at over a billion dollars.
Cadbury and Rowntree, the two largest British candy firms, sent so many moles to work in competitors' factories that their spying became legendary and inspired Dahl's 'Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.'
One of the most famous trade-secret licensing deals was struck in 1886 between J.J. Lawrence, the maker of Listerine, and the Lambert Pharmaceutical Co. By 1956, Lambert had paid more than $22 million in licensing fees to the Lawrence family. The trade secret, however, had been made public years earlier, and Warner-Lambert [now Pfizer Inc.] decided that fact voided the earlier agreement. The U.S. courts disagreed, ruling that royalty payments on Listerine should continue because the company had gained a clear advantage in the marketplace by getting the formula first.