In the latest escalation of the legal battle between Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, the Bud Light brewer is accusing its rival of stealing secret recipes for its beers, including Michelob Ultra and Bud Light.
MillerCoors, the U.S. subsidiary of Molson Coors, first filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch in March after its rival aired a Super Bowl commercial that shamed Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup. In September, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against Anheuser-Busch, preventing the beer giant from using Bud Light packaging that says "no corn syrup." Anheuser-Busch is appealing the decision.
In a redacted counterclaim filed Thursday, the Bud Light brewer alleges that a former employee who now works at a MillerCoors brewery in Colorado was obtaining information from current Anheuser-Busch employees who were violating confidentiality agreements in the days before and after the Super Bowl. Some of his questions involved the use of corn syrup in the brewing process, Anheuser-Busch claims in the filing.
Senior executives from MillerCoors were asking for the information, and CEO Gavin Hattersley was included on email chains about the findings, the filing alleges.
MillerCoors has also allegedly produced documents that show the recipes for Bud Light and Michelob Ultra as part of its ongoing case against Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch believes that those recipes were printouts of screen shots that were folded up, taken out of its brewery and send via text.
Anheuser-Busch's filing called these recipes "extraordinarily valuable," citing Bud Light's status as the bestselling beer in the U.S. and Michelob Ultra's as the fastest growing.
"We will enforce our right to uncover how high up this may reach in the MillerCoors organization," Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. "We take our trade secrets seriously and will protect them to the fullest extent of the law."
MillerCoors spokesman Adam Collins said in a statement that Anheuser-Busch has lost three rulings in the case and is trying to distract from the fact that they misled American consumers.
"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?" Collins said.