Joya Williams a former Coca-Cola secretary was sentenced to eight years in federal prison after being convicted for conspiring to steal trade secrets from Coca Cola, the world’s largest beverage maker. Joya Williams, 42, was involved in a failed scheme to sell the materials to rival Pepsi for at least $1.5 million dollars. She was convicted on February 2 following a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, where Coca-Cola Co. is based. A co-defendant, Ibrahim Dimson, was sentenced to five years in prison.
The secret was offered to Pepsi in May 2006 when a letter appeared at Pepsi’s New York headquarters offering to sell the trade secret. Instead of exploiting this unique opportunity to get their hands on the world’s most famous trade secret, Pepsi officials immediately notified Coke of the offer. Coca Cola executives contacted the FBI and a sting operation was initiated. “We were just doing whatever any responsible company would do,”Pepsi spokesman Dave DeCecco said.
Had Pepsi accepted information about Coke’s products, it would have risked discovery. Furthermore, it would have told the consumer that Pepsi needs Coke’s formula.
Investigators linked Ms. Williams to the offer through images from a security camera and she, Edmund Duhaney and Ibrahim Dimsonwas were arrested Wand charged with fraud and stealing and selling trade secrets.
Coca Cola was invented by Doctor John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia in May, 1886. Published accounts say it contains or once contained sugar crystals, caramel, caffeine, phosphoric acid, coca leaf and kola nut extract, lime extract, flavoring mixture, vanilla and glycerin. Merchandise 7X is the “secret ingredient” in Coca-Cola and has apparently remained a secret since its invention in 1886. Alleged syrup recipes vary greatly, and Coca-Cola reluctantly admits the formula has changed over the decades. For example, the formula was changed in 1935 with the help of Rabbi Tobias Geffen of Atlanta to allow it to be certified kosher. The current original “classic” formula was changed in the United States at an unknown point to replace cane sugar with corn syrup. Elsewhere cane sugar or sugar from sugar beet is used. The closest version of Coca Cola to the original is the 1935 kosher formula which is still produced for Passover (Pesach), since most observant Ashkenazi Jews of the United States do not eat corn derivatives on Passover. -Funnily enough, Maize (i.e. sweet corn) was unknown when the prohibition against legumes (kitniyot) was enacted. Then again, many Hallachic authorities allow Kitniyot derivatives…
Coca Cola’s secret formula is the classic example and perhaps the only real example of a trade secret. It, or rather the myth, has stood the test of time, lasting for 120 years, where a patent currently lasts for 20 years.