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Inmate Sues Taco Bell Over Doritos Locos Tacos

I can't say that I've tried Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Tacos, but it seems as though I'm in the minority. The menu item introduced last year has been so popular that it's helped create 15,000 new jobs for the fast food chain, Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed says. More than 1 million of the tacos are reportedly sold every day, with more than 500 million sold since the product was launched. [This Fast Company article provides an in-depth look at the origins and impact of the chain's "disruptive faux cheese-dusted taco."] Creating a taco shell out of Doritos chips was clearly an inspired concept -- and a federal prison inmate is now claiming that idea was all his.

The Dallas Observer reports (via Consumerist), that Gary Cole, an inmate at a high-security prison in Colorado, filed a federal lawsuit in Texas this week alleging that Taco Bell stole his idea for the Doritos tacos. As proof, Cole offers a copy of a 2006 letter sent to his attorney, in which Cole recorded ideas for a number of potential products, including "Tacos [sic] Shells of All Flavors (Made of Doritos)." Among the other merchandise ideas listed were some items branded "Divas and Ballers," including body oils, "health mix" and hot sauces.

Cole claims that his idea for the Doritos tacos must have been stolen through the mail. After reading newspaper articles about the launch of the Doritos Locos Tacos, Cole took action, the Dallas Observer writes. 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."

Among the intriguing items in Cole's handwritten complaint is some correspondence about the case from the Denver, Colo., office of Arnold & Porter. Cole apparently wrote to the firm in preparation for his suit, requesting copies of the 2006 letter with the product descriptions that he sent to his attorney, partner Ed Aro. The complaint contains a cover letter for the documents, and a letter from Aro that mentions the documents and also includes this helpful advice:

"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."

It's not clear whether Cole's "knife" threat is related to the Doritos Locos case. The mentions of "the staff" and "retaliation" suggest that he might be juggling some non-taco-related legal issues as well.

Posted by Laurel Newby on May 17, 2013 at 04:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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