Anheuser-Busch Accuses MillerCoors of Stealing Trade Secrets

Ongoing legal dispute over corn syrup is expanding in scope

Three bottles of Bud Light with a man holding a playing card behind them
The new filing concerns the recipes for Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.
AB InBev

There’s no end in sight to the ongoing legal disputes between Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, the subsidiary of Molson Coors.

The legal issues between the two beer giants started brewing in February, when Anheuser-Busch aired a Bud Light ad during the Super Bowl suggesting that other competitors, such as Miller Lite and Coors Light, use corn syrup in their products. Now, in a new heavily redacted court filing, Anheuser-Busch is accusing MillerCoors of obtaining trade secrets, specifically the recipes to Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.

Today, we filed in federal court claims alleging that MillerCoors violated state and federal law by misappropriating our trade secrets, including our beer recipes,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. “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.”

According to CNN, Anheuser-Busch stated in the filing that a Budweiser employee sent information to a MillerCoors employee (who is also a former staffer at Anheuser-Busch) during the Super Bowl ad timeframe. The information included screenshots of the recipes, which Anheuser-Busch claims that the MillerCoors employee asked for.

“Anheuser-Busch has lost three major federal rulings in this case, and now they are simply trying to distract from the basic fact that they intentionally misled American consumers,” a MillerCoors spokesperson told Adweek. “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?

“As for their tired claims about corn syrup, the same residual elements they are talking about are also found in Bud Light and Michelob Ultra. If this is their argument, it’s no wonder they have lost three rulings in this case already.”

After the Bud Light Super Bowl ad aired in February, MillerCoors sued Anheuser-Busch over the corn syrup claims. Since then, the courts have largely sided with MillerCoors, asking in May for Anheuser-Busch to no longer use any wording about corn syrup. Then in September, the court also ruled the company could no longer use the phrase “no corn syrup.”

Anheuser-Busch has not responded to a request for more information concerning the filing.

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