A Federal Prisoner is Suing Taco Bell for Stealing His Idea for the Doritos Locos Taco

doritoscoolranch_brobible.jpg
BroBible
You've no doubt spent the 14 months since Doritos Locos Tacos were introduced wondering how Taco Bell came up with the brilliant idea of turning the popular chips into popular taco shells. If you just assumed this was the work of a dedicated, and probably high, Yum Brands food scientist, Gary Cole is here to tell you that you're wrong.

To be accurate, Cole isn't here exactly. He's in the super-max prison in Florence, Colorado.

Cole's home is become famous for housing convicted terrorists, including Zacarias Moussaoui, shoe bomber Richard Reid and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Cole's crime isn't quite as high-profile. He's nearing the end of a 25-year prison sentence for "delaying interstate commerce, conspiring to do so, and using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence."

But that's not the issue at hand. What's important here is that Cole claims that he, and not Taco Bell, invented Doritos Locos tacos. So he filed a federal lawsuit yesterday in Dallas alleging that the fast food chain, along with Pepsi, Plano-based Frito Lay and Taco Bell parent Yum Brands, stole his idea.

As proof, Cole offers a notarized document he mailed to his attorney in 2006. It's a list of nine products that Cole lays claim to. Most of them fall under an imagined "Divas and Ballers" brand: hot sauce, alcohol, "health mix," body oils, et cetera. Ignore all those. The key item on the list is No. 2: "Tacos (sic) shells of all flavors (made of Doritos)"

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Six years later, when he came across pieces in Time and USA Today describing the introduction of Doritos Locos Tacos, he concluded that his idea must have been stolen through the mail. He wrote to the FBI demanding an investigation. To the IRS he wrote "a check was made out to a person for a large amount by Taco Bell, Frito Lay, and Pepsi Co. Inc. for an idea or invention that was submitted to them by theft and fraud," going on to ask for "the person, the name, address, the amount of the check, how much taxes paid on the check." He also sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Taco Bell calling for the release of any and all documents related to the invention of the Doritos Locos Tacos.

Cole received no response, hence his decision to sue. He is representing himself in the case, but court filings indicate that he did attempt to enlist the help of a Denver law firm. He doesn't include the letter he sent them, which is a shame, because their response suggests it was incredible:

Dear Gary:

Thanks for your April 25th letter, which we received on May 3. By now you should have received the taco documents. Hopefully, the stress they caused will be relieved.

Do not "put a knife" to the staff. That won't do you, or us, any good. I understand your frustration, but we're working on the retaliation issue and would ask that you leave it in our hands.

Cole's frustration is indeed understandable. He spent countless hours in his prison cell dreaming up the Doritos taco shell, and now someone else is cashing in. That's a tough lesson to learn, but Cole should console himself with the thought that he has bestowed a tasty gift upon humanity.



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26 comments
ms.demi_urge
ms.demi_urge

I'm not saying I necessarily put any faith in the prisoner's claims.. Very probably it's bogus. However, I  should point out a bit of interesting "food for thought"

Most US prisons are owned by Corrections Corporation of America.   In turn, Corrections Corporation of America is owned by KFC.   KFC and Taco Bell are both owned by Tricon Global Restaurants.  (my opposition to for-profit prisons and "cash for convictions" scandals is why I personally boycott KFC and other Tricon spawned brands)

Once again, this doesn't necessarily prove the prisoner's claims, but it's kinda interesting to think about. 

rgreer0140
rgreer0140

? 7-eleven has been putting Doritos by their nacho cheese/chili machine for many many years. Seems they have as much right to the idea as anyone... Was a pretty logical easy mental leap to any taco bell r&d person who has ever been to 7-eleven and saw the bags there...

casiepierce
casiepierce

"... bestowed a tasty gift upon humanity." That assumes that a) Taco Bell is "tasty" and that b) Doritos are also "tasty".

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Oh, Cole.

Nevermind.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

Well, considering the fact that Frito-Lay (owner of Doritos brand) and Yum (owner of Taco Bell) are both owned by PepsiCo, I think this guy will be laughed out of court.

rzimmerman1
rzimmerman1

I'm not a lawyer, but isn't this the reason why we have patent laws? If you come up with a unique idea or innovation, you patent it so that it can't be stolen. You can't just write "solar-powered water taxis" on a dated piece of paper and then sue anyone who builds them at a later date saying, "Hey, that was my idea!"

rightsorlefts
rightsorlefts

Don't laugh. Seriously, maybe his attorney took the idea and sold it to Frito-Lay?? Why not?? I've read numerous documented accounts of things like this occurring. There have been writers who got "denied" by large publishers only to discover their work almost word for word published by another author, later. This is not so "out there". He very easily could have been scammed. What better patsy than an inmate? He's an idiot for representing himself however and I'm sad that no attorney took his case for him.

Hiram De La O
Hiram De La O

We can settle out of court with some menthol's .... Lol

Deja DeMoss
Deja DeMoss

...and what a great recipe for diarrhea.

Deja DeMoss
Deja DeMoss

The Patents Office seems to disagree.

John Travis Wilson
John Travis Wilson

Because, of course it's impossible that more than one person could associate one kind of curved pieces of crispy corn with another and decide that a bigger version of a corn chip dipping into beef and queso would eventually be a taco.

Deja DeMoss
Deja DeMoss

I thought of lots of things can I sue.

Thomas Herrera Jr.
Thomas Herrera Jr.

funniest shyt i've heard in a long time, brought a smile to my face!!! thanks dallas observer!!

DktrStrangelove
DktrStrangelove

Yeah, I'm gonna need to put a knife the staff on Sunday, mmkay? Thanks!

Greg Pulte
Greg Pulte

I really hope he gets a big Taco Bell settlement.

Daniel
Daniel

@rightsorlefts I'm not one of UFP's legal minds, but I'm pretty sure you can't make a patent or trademark based on someone else's proprietary brand. There's a licensing agreement, or something similar, between Yum Brands and Frito Lay, and he has nothing to do with it. I can't just say the magic words, "A Ritz cracker with Nutella hazelnut butter on it" -- as I just did -- and then sue those companies if they decide to partner in marketing such a product.  

Writers get their work copyrighted before they send it out, and if they don't, they're likely fucked if they get plagiarized. 

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