April 9, 2014— -- A group of former advertising interns are claiming that the Doritos Locos Taco from Taco Bell, which has made Taco Bell more than $1 billion since its launch in 2012, was their idea.
"The whole goal was to come up with a product ... and ours was the Doritos taco," former intern Roy Brown told ABC News' "Good Morning America."
In a photo they say was taken nearly 20 years ago, the former interns hold an mock-up ad for the Doritos Taco, which is an idea they say was born at a 1995 competition when they were interning for Taco Bell's then ad agency.
"It's funny to see it now that it did take off," Brown told "GMA."
The wildly successful menu item by Taco Bell, which is owned by Yum! Brands, introduced its third Doritos taco, the Fiery Doritos Locos, last August. Taco Bell calls the line the brand’s most successful product platform ever, selling 600 million from March 2012 to August 2013.
The former interns even claim their idea used the flavors Cool Ranch and Nacho Cheese, which are the same two flavors you can buy in taco form at Taco Bell today.
The irony was that the interns' idea fell flat at the time and the group lost the competition.
"I don't remember a very dramatic positive reaction," one said.
It's not the first time someone has accused Taco Bell of stealing the Doritos Locos idea. In May, a federal prison inmate sued Taco Bell, claiming the popular taco was his idea. But the case was dismissed.
In a statement to ABC News, Taco Bell said, "From interns to inmates, we've had no shortage of people claiming to have thought of the 'idea' of a Doritos flavored taco."
One intern told the Huffington Post that she doesn't expect Taco Bell to ante up with compensation, but "I would just like someone to recognize that it was a good idea," she said.
Todd Mills, an Air Force veteran and long-time Taco Bell customer who died on Nov. 28 at age 41, had also created a Facebook page in August 2009 with a mission to "convince FritoLay snack company to develop a taco shell made from Doritos."
But Taco Bell insists the idea was "conceived, developed, and successfully brought to market" by Frito-Lay and Taco Bell.