By Dianne Frazee-Walker
Everyone has said at least one time in their lives “Wow, I wish I would have thought of that!’

Texas maximum security federal inmate Gary Cole claims he did think of that. Visualize inventing a snack that tastes “out of this world” and it becomes the most popular food item of the 21st century, but no credit is given because you are incarcerated.

Photo courtesy inmateaid.com

Cole alleges he came up with the idea of using Doritos flavors for taco shells. He thought the food combination was so sensational that he sent his unique idea to Taco Bell.

Taco Bell liked the food combination so well that the fast food chain marketed the tacos by naming them Doritos Locos Tacos. (translation: Crazy Gold Tacos) More than half a billion sold in the past 14 months.

The only problem for Cole is his accusation that his list of tasty concoctions, which included the suggestion of using different flavors of Doritos chips to create a delicious tasting taco was intercepted through the U.S. postal mail and submitted toFrito Lays [sic], Taco Bell, Pepsi Co, Yum Brands.

Cole says in September, 2006, he originally sent the list to Janice B Cole and Keoiana K. Cole. Relation to Cole is unknown.

A substantial check was issued for the Doritos taco shell rights, but the proceeds never reached Cole’s hands. The recipient of the check is unknown. That will be left to the imagination.

On May 15 Cole filed a lawsuit which included a 35-page hand-written complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Taco Bell, Frito-Lay, PepsiCo and Yum Brands for stealing his invention. However, the district court insists Cole’s taco tantrum has no credible validity.

Taco Bell’s retort to the claim is that the crazy golden tacos were created by their product developers at a meeting that took place at Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

Cole is ordering Taco Bell to release documents that prove the company invented the Dorito flavored taco shells. He is adamant the papers will reveal that his recipe was stolen.

Whether it’s cool ranch or regular Doritos, Cole is not giving up on being financially rewarded for his Taco Bell menu attraction.

Should prison inmates be permitted to own the rights of an invention?

It certainly would improve their reentry resources.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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