In today’s world of free information, there are still people and companies that hold valuable pieces of information that are not freely available to the public.
Even though science has advanced to a degree where a competitor company can just reverse engineer a product, some companies still hold their own by holding secrets that make them exclusive in the market.
And they go to ridiculous extents to keep the secret a secret and have been successful at it since these secrets have not been revealed for decades.
1. The recipe of Coca-Cola
There was a time in the 1970s when the Indian government asked Coca-Cola to submit their list of ingredients so that they could open operations in the country.
Coco Cola refused and didn’t come for a long time until Indian government changed the rule.
Only two executives know the formula and it is very fiercely guarded by keeping it under lock in the Sun Trust Bank in Atlanta.
2. The classic trade secret case of Listerine – the mouthwash
How can a mouthwash so widely used, be a secret? It is, or at least, Pfizer thought so when it acquired its formula in 1880. For the next 70 years, it paid Dr. J.J. Lawrence, the inventor, royalty payments.
But in the middle, they go to know that the secret of this famous mouthwash is actually out there in the open.
So they sued the Lawerence family, but the court threw out the case, saying that the other companies acquired the formula by legal means.
So, technically, the mouthwash is still a secret, even though it isn’t.
3. The Hapsburg napkin folds, which is a national secret in Austria
The Hapsburg napkin fold is a national secret in Austria.
Only two anonymous government employees know how to fold a piece of napkin in the shape above. And there is no document where it is written how to fold a napkin into the shape we see. When the employees retire, they pass on the information to the new employees who will then fold the napkins laid out during state dinners.
Also, no one in the world has figured out a way to do it perfectly yet.
4. Stock market trading software that helps financial institutions by predicting stock market trends
Stock market software are extremely valuable. Most of the top financial institutions have their trademarked software, which they use to invest smartly and make huge gains in the process.
The access to such software is highly regulated, and one such computer programmer lifted some lines of this code and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
5. The symbols on Led Zeppelin’s album cover
No one knows what the first symbol in the above album cover means. This album contained their classic song Stairway To Heaven.
Not even the band members or the producers know the meaning of that symbol. Each of the four members agreed to contribute for the album cover with a symbol they chose.
That’s why only Jimmy Page knows what that symbol means, and by the looks of it, he is not going to tell us about it before he dies.
6. Genetic crops
Food is going to be one of the most fought for resource in the future. Companies are coming up with novel designer food grains and seeds that are resistant to harsh weather, pests, and disease. They also give higher yields per square kilometer.
This means that the genetic formula of such seeds is extremely precious. There have been cases where farmers have used these seeds without permission and companies have sued them for illegal use, burning whole farms to purge their seed usage.
7. The results of Academy Awards is known only to two accountants 48 hours in advance
Since the time the Academy Awards have started, there has been no leak about the information of winners, even though it is not computerized yet.
The ballots that contain the votes are handled by two executives of PriceWaterHouseCooper auditors. They count each vote by hand and note down the numbers on paper by a pen.
Then they each take half the results in two separate suitcases and are escorted to the venue by LAPD police officers.
8. Auto-Tune audio processor
Auto-tune was actually created for analyzing seismic data. Then its creators realized that the software can be used to analyze and correct digital voice files of recorded songs.
And thus came along auto-tune that changed the music industry forever. Almost all singers use the tool to make their songs sound flawless.
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The software is also one of a kind, with no competitor in sight.
9. A Mexican language called Ayapaneco is known by only two people and they refuse to speak to each other
It is not exactly a secret but only two people know how to speak the language. It used to be popular in Mexico before the Spanish invasion. Like all the old endemic languages, Ayapaneco also died out slowly.
The two people who speak it also refuse to teach it to other people so that the language somehow survives.
Looks like another language will die soon, buried with both these stubborn old men.
10. WD-40, the garage staple has a formula so tightly guarded that it has been inside a bank vault for 50 years
WD-40 is almost used for everything – from cleaning to greasing to polishing machine parts.
The formula to this popular industrial solvent is kept in a bank vault for the past 50 years and has been taken out only twice.
And just like the KFC spices, the product is mixed at 3 different locations in the country and then it is passed on to the manufacturers, just so that no one gets the complete formula of the famous product.
11. The New York Times Bestseller List
No one knows how The NYT comes up with their bestseller list. The simplest explanation would be that they count the number of copies the book has sold from the various bookstores. But this is not true. There have been cases where the book hasn’t sold a lot of copies but has still made it to the list.
How they make the list is a well-kept trade secret, because if the publishers come to know how they make the list, they could use this data to make the book more adept at making into the list.
12. A card trick called Berglas effect, that no top magician has been able to crack. A real-life Prestige.
The card trick goes thus –
- The magician hands over a perfect deck of cards to person A
- Then he asks person B to name any card and the position he wasn’t the card in the deck (for example Ace of hearts, 8th card from the top)
- Then the magician asks person A to reach out for the 8th card.
- And voila! It is the Ace of hearts 8th in the deck.
This card trick is known by only two people – Mr. Berglas and his apprentice Marc Paul. Every other magician has tried to crack this trick, but, until now, no one has been able to do it successfully yet.
13. The recipe of KFC spices is known to only two people in the world
Just like with Coca-Cola, only two KFC executives know the secret recipe of the spices used in the famous fried chicken everyone around the world eat.
The recipe is guarded in a facility that sounds like it is made to guard a treasure. The facility has 2 feet thick concrete walls, round the clock surveillance, armed guards and unique PIN codes for the two executives who can open it only when both of them are present there.
To go even further to keep it a secret, not all the spices are mixed in one place. Half the spices are mixed in one location and then this mixture is taken to another location to be mixed fully so that no one knows all the spices that are present.
14. Plasma display was an exclusive technology that belonged to Samsung until it was stolen
Not a lot of us know this, but the plasma screen television tech was researched and developed exclusively by Samsung. They would have had the monopoly in the television business had it not been for the person who stole all the secret files on his last day of employment and walked away with it.
Then, he gave the stolen secrets to a Chinese company and hence every manufacturer can build a plasma TV today.
The pen-drive the man stole is estimated to be worth over a billion dollars.
15. The recipe to Hershey’s bar, the first sweet chocolate bar, has been a trade secret for 100 years
When chocolate was manufactured in the past, it was always dark chocolate, and hence, it was not as popular as the chocolate we eat nowadays. It was bitter and sweet and had the popularity akin to coffee’s.
It was in 1900 that the first Hershey’s milk chocolate was formulated, where the dominant taste was sweet and not bitter.
This made the whole population love chocolate as we love it today. The formula to this sweet chocolate bar is still a secret, although many other companies have come up with their versions of sweet chocolate. Hershey’s still remains to have a unique taste among competitors.
As they say,