Just Drop the Tacos and Step Away from the Counter …

Just Drop the Tacos and Step Away from the Counter …
June 18, 2013

David L. Applegate

David Applegate is a Chicago-based trial lawyer and partner at the law firm of Williams Montgomery... (read full bio)

Taco Bell®, long a young person’s favorite place for inexpensive and tasty late-night snacks and likely an occasional target of late-night robberies, now finds itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit for alleged stealing--brought by a prisoner in the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

One Gary Cole, whose fellow inmates include convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and “Unabomber Ted Kaczynski,” claims that he--not Taco Bell--invented the “Doritos Locos” taco, a hard-shell taco flavored to taste like Doritos®  brand tortilla chips.

Cole is close to finishing his 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” (whatever happened to simple “armed robbery”?) and likely needs a source of future income.

So on May 15, 2013, from behind his supermax prison walls, he sued Taco Bell®, Pepsi-Cola®, Frito Lay®, and corporate parent Yum Brands® in federal court in Dallas, near where Frito-Lay® is based, alleging they stole his idea.

As proof, Cole cites notarized documents that he mailed to his criminal defense attorney--who is not representing him in this action--back in 2006, listing nine products Cole claims to have conceived under the brand name “Divas and Ballers,” including body oils, “health mix,” hot sauce, alcohol, and taco shells “of all flavors (made of Doritos).” When his letters to the FBI and the IRS and his Freedom of Information Act request to Taco Bell® all went unheeded he decided to file this suit.

Based on the response of his Denver-based criminal defense attorneys when he attempted to enlist their aid with the civil suit, things could have been worse: “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.”

Source: Eric Nicholson, “A Federal Prisoner is Suing Taco Bell for Stealing His Idea for the Doritos”, Dallas Observer, May 16, 2013; see also, Nick Rallo, “Fine, Taco Bell is Going to Release the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos, OK? January 29, 2013

David L. Applegate

David Applegate is a Chicago-based trial lawyer and partner at the law firm of Williams Montgomery... (read full bio)