Rival Claims Anheuser-Busch Swiped Its Bottle


     ST. LOUIS (CN) – Two Dutch companies claim in state court that Anheuser-Busch InBev stole trade secrets to market a “bag in a bottle” beer bottle – and that that the beer giant actually brags about stealing intellectual property.



     Afa Dispensing Group and Dispensing Technologies sued Anheuser-Busch InBev and affiliates in Federal Court.
     Afa claims that Anheuser-Busch bragged about stealing trade secrets: “Former A-B executives told Afa of InBev Director of Draught Development Daniel Peirsman’s crude boasts about how InBev misappropriates other companies’ intellectual property rights, using an obscene story about bulls fencing in young cows and then raping them,” the complaint states.
     Afa claims that Anheuser-Busch InBev swiped their Draftmark beer bottle from Afa.
     Afa says it developed its “bag-in-a-bottle” design in 2005. It’s a plastic bottle with a flexible plastic bag inside, which uses air pressure rather than high-pressure gas to compress the inner bag and dispense the contents, according to the complaint.
     Afa says it approached InBev in December 2007 about forming a partnership to develop the technology and continued discussions about the partnership until Jan. 28, 2008, when InBev informed Afa that it was going in another direction.
     During those talks, Afa claims, it disclosed several trade secrets about the bag-in-a-bottle, “including its use of a release agent to coat the inner preform from sticking together during blowing.”
     Afa’s managing director Ariel Gratch, “who was a practicing lawyer, was very sensitive to the need to protect Afa’s trade secrets from misappropriation,” the complaint states. “At the outset of the [Jan. 9, 2008] meeting, Mr. Gratch told the InBev representatives that Afa was only willing to disclose its trade secrets on condition that InBev strictly limit its use of considering a business partnership with Afa, which clearly meant that InBev could not use Afa’s trade secrets in its own products or disclose them. No one from InBev refused Mr. Gratch’s express condition nor did anyone request that Afa not disclose its Flair trade secrets or state that InBev was unwilling to honor Mr. Gratch’s precondition to their disclosure.”
     Afa claims that at the time, InBev was working on its own bag-in-a-bottle prototypes and had filed two patents with the U.S. Patent Office, which inaccurately claimed that two preforms could be blown to create an interior bag without the need of a releasing agent. Shortly after their Jan. 9 meeting, Afa says, InBev withdrew its patent application and in April 2008, the beer giant filed international, European and U.S. patent applications featuring Afa’s release agent technology.
     “Former A-B executives told Afa of InBev Director of Draught Development Daniel Peirsman’s crude boasts about how InBev misappropriates other companies’ intellectual property rights, using an obscene story about bulls fencing in young cows and then raping them,” the complaint states.
     In December 2011, A-B InBev introduced its Draftmark product, which allegedly uses Afa’s bag-in-a-bottle technology. Afa claims it has learned that InBev and Peirsman have been involved in a number of lawsuits regarding misappropriation of other companies’ intellectual properties in Europe.
     Afa wants the defendants permanently barred from using its bag-in-a-bottle technology, actual damages and $150 million in punitive damages for violations of the Missouri Uniform Trade Secrets Act and breach of contract.
     Afa is represented by Jim Shoemake with Guilfoil Petzall & Shoemake.

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