Every company promises a better product -- a better burger, a better search engine, a better hotel room. For the companies below, the secret to a superior product is worth millions -- or even billions. To protect their secrets, companies have built vaults, hired detectives and gone to court. And as the technologies used to protect trade secrets advance, so do the technologies of the secrets themselves. Once, the Carthusian monks' blend of 130 mystical herbs gave Chartreuse a distinctive flavor and a valuable brand; today, the ones and zeroes of Google's superior search algorithm reside in a virtual reality that is less tangible, but no less valuable.
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