By making an employee’s alleged theft of its trade secrets public, The Coca-Cola Co. accomplished three things, experts say. It managed to control the message about the incident, it demonstrated its commitment to prosecute such thefts, and it raised a red flag about the risks all companies face in protecting their most valuable possession — their intellectual property.

Ed Casey, a retired chief security officer for Cincinnati-based The Procter & Gamble Co., estimated that U.S. companies lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year in intellectual property theft. “Unfortunately, it is easy to do, though most large companies have programs to reduce the risk,” he said. “When companies have external business partners, suppliers, contractors, and independent consultants working off-site with PDAs or wireless devices, the risk increases significantly.”

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