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Anheuser-Busch sues rival for illegally obtaining its recipes

For many people who live in and around St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch is the quintessential brewer. Now, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the company behind Budweiser, Michelob and other popular brands, is wrangling in court with its rival MillerCoors.

The battle started this March when MillerCoors sued Anheuser-Busch over a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. The ad claimed that two of that company's popular light beers, Coors Light and Miller Lite, contained corn syrup. This September, Anheuser-Busch was ordered by a federal judge not to use the phrase "no corn syrup" on its packaging for Bud Light.

However, as part of its suit, MillerCoors reportedly included documents showing recipes belonging to Anheuser-Busch. So, how did the Colorado-based brewer get those?

That's the issue behind the counterclaim that Anheuser-Busch has filed -- in addition to appealing the original decision. It claims that a former employee who now works for MillerCoors gave their new employer its recipes, which are "extraordinarily valuable" to the business.

Anheuser-Busch asserts that this person got the information from current employees -- in violation of their confidentiality agreements. The company alleges that someone took screenshots of the information and texted them to the former employee, who shared them with people high up at MillerCoors. The suit claims that MillerCoors' chief executive officer was included in emails about the recipes.

In a statement, the St. Louis brewer said, "We will enforce our right to uncover how high up this may reach in the MillerCoors organization. We take our trade secrets seriously and will protect them to the fullest extent of the law."

A MillerCoors spokesperson countered, "MillerCoors respects confidential information and takes any contrary allegations seriously, but if the ingredients are a secret, why did they spend tens of millions of dollars telling the entire world what's in Bud Light? And why are the ingredients printed on Bud Light's packaging in giant letters?"

Of course, recipes are different than a list of ingredients. Moreover, if recipes and other trade secrets are protected as intellectual property (IP), unauthorized disclosure or misuse of them is a violation of IP laws. Companies on either side of a case where IP violations are alleged need experienced legal guidance.

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