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Heirs, cola and secret formulas

After the passing of a loved one in New Jersey or elsewhere, the heirs to the estate of the deceased may sometimes find themselves caught up in litigation. In some cases, this may be because the deceased did not undertake proper estate planning. However, in other cases, litigation may result either from circumstances that could not be foreseen or due to some unique aspect of the estate. The latter appears to be the case with one battle that erupted recently between the heirs to the inventor of Pepsi's formula and PepsiCo.

New Jersey residents may be aware that Pepsi originated in the late 19th century, but perhaps less well known is that its current formula only dates back to the 1930s. At that time, Pepsi-Cola Co. had been newly bought by another company. Seeking to revamp the formula, the head of the company asked one of its employees who specialized in candy formulas to concoct a better tasting beverage. The result was an obvious success as the formula has remained untouched since.

However, that formula is unsurprisingly considered to be a trade secret. Nonetheless, the inventor's heirs want to release that formula to the public, citing their first amendment rights. Documents detailing the ingredients were found in 2008 amongst items belonging to the late inventor's estate, but PepsiCo has sought to keep them under wraps.

As a result, the heirs have filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo to assert their right to share the documents. Of importance here may be that the company knew that the formula's inventor kept the original documents about the formula to himself. The copies that the cola company has are duplicates of his formula. As the case moves forward, it may be interesting to keep an eye on.

Source: USA Today, "Heirs of Pepsi formula developer sue company," Candice Choi, May 7, 2012

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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
Representing clients in Ocean City and communities throughout New Jersey.

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