Gary Cole, federal prisoner: Taco Bell stole his Doritos Locos Tacos idea

Norman Byrd's picture

Because there just aren't enough meritless lawsuits taking up room in countless clerk offices across the nation, federal inmate Gary Cole has sued Taco Bell, claiming that the fast food chain stole his Doritos Locos tacos idea with the help of a postal worker. And there's a catch.

Yes, that is correct and not a misprint. Federal prisoner Gary Cole (not the actor) has indeed filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell, Frito-Lay, PepsiCo and Yum Brands in an effort to get back what he claims is rightfully his: The rights to the idea (not to mention the money made from the idea) of the Doritos Locos taco shells. The Dallas Observer reported on May 16 that Cole, from his cell in the supermax facility in Florence, Colo., filed a 35-page handwritten complaint against the companies and asked for an immediate lean be put on the proceeds made from his alleged stolen idea.

According to the Huffington Post, the lawsuit was filed on Cole's behalf by a Denver law firm in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on May 15.

So why does Gary Cole, current Big Housemate to the likes of Atlanta Olympics bomber Gary Rudolph, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and shoe bomber Richard Reid, think he has a case against Taco Bell, et. al.?

Cole claims that he came up with the idea of the Doritos-flavored shells for tacos back in 2006 and included the idea in a list of nine product ideas, like hot sauce and body oil, all to be sold under the brand name "Divas and Ballers." The No. 2 item on the list was: "Taco Shells of All Flavors (Made of Doritos)."

Fast forward to September 2010 when Cole claims he sent a letter with the list of ideas to Janice B Cole and Keoiana K. Cole. However, they never received the letter.

Then in 2012 Taco Bell releases what has become the best selling fast food item in the history of the industry, the Doritos Locos tacos. The chain has reportedly sold half a billion of them in 14 months. Cole finds out about the Doritos-flavored taco shells via USA Today and Time, puts two-and-two together, and comes up with intellectual property theft via a postal worker.

So he fires off letters to several places. He wrote the FBI and demanded an investigation into the mail theft. According to the Observer, he wrote to the IRS, maintaining that "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." He asked the federal agency to supply him with "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 that asked for the release of any and all documents concerning the invention of the Doritos Locos Tacos.

But nobody bothered to reply to Cole's demands and requests. So he filed a lawsuit.

The catch in all of this? Cole, who is near the end of a 25-year sentence for using a weapon in an attempt to hijack a commercial vehicle, offers as proof a notarized copy of the product list he sent to his lawyer in 2006.

According to Taco Bell, the Post wrote in April, the idea for the Doritos Locos taco shell was developed at a summit of Frito-Lay executives at their headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and were originally going to call the product a Mexagon.

Taco Bell tells Huffington Post in an email: "We have not been served with the lawsuit, but the claims we’ve read in online news sources are completely false and without merit."

Maybe. Maybe not.

But while all parties await a court date (if the case goes that far), Gary Cole has appealed to the court to order Taco Bell, et. al., to relinquish all documents regarding the invention of the Doritos Locos taco shell. He further asks the court to order "a lean on Taco Bell, Frito Lays, Pepsi Co, Yum Brands, to stop the production and sell of taco shells made of Doritos flavors." [sic]

Cole's allegations may have no basis in reality. But if they do and depending on the authenticity of the notarized list, his claims could be found to have at least some merit. Still, it might be a difficult case for him to prove that his idea was stolen. The same ideas can be generated at different locations by different entities at relatively the same time. Doubtless a few hundred stoners popped themselves in the forehead when they saw the first Doritos Tacos commercial and cried out how they've been putting Doritos in their tacos for years.

(Read: Make your own before Taco Bell launches Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos)

At the same time, Gary Cole, supermax federal prisoner, might want to brush up on his communications skills.

In one communique to the inmate, his law firm wrote to tell him that he should have received the documents he requested from Taco Bell, then advised him, obviously referencing something he had written to them: "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."

Good advice. What good would the money do him if he does something that keeps him in prison? And even if Cole is feeling the frustration of a man helplessly on the victim's end of what might amount to a corporate stick-up, he could console himself with the idea that, if he gets to take his claim to court or Taco Bell decides to settle out of court, all that money can pay for quite a few anger management classes.

(photo credit: Anthony92931, Creative Commons)

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