A Dog Gone Lawsuit

How much for that doggie in the lawsuit; the Taco Bell lawsuit, to be more precise? More than enough to buy a few million tacos after a federal jury has awarded more than $30 million to two men who claimed that Taco Bell took their idea for a talking Chihuahua and used it in award-winning ads for the Mexican fast-food chain.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 1998 by Joseph Shields and Thomas Rinks, charged Taco Bell with failing to pay them for use of the Chihuahua character they created.

The men claimed that Taco Bell had breached payment on a contract after they worked with the restaurant chain for a year to develop the talking Chihuahua for use in marketing.

“It was a roller-coaster ride to get here, but we survived, and a jury got to hear our story, which is all we ever wanted from the beginning,” Rinks said.

The talking Chihuahua became a hit with the first ad, in which the character bypasses a female Chihuahua for a Taco Bell taco and declares: “Yo quiero Taco Bell.”

Taco Bell said it would appeal the verdict.

Source: USA Today, “Chihuahua idea men win Taco Bell suit,” June 4, 2003.