A lawsuit details the efforts of Taylor Company — the firm that manufactures McDonald’s ice cream machines — to maintain its monopoly over repairs.
Two years ago, a startup called Kytch created a device that circumvents the need for franchise owners to solicit help from Taylor repairmen — who, according to the lawsuit, are notoriously slow.
Kytch’s lawsuit alleges:
For almost two decades, it appeared that Taylor’s broken machines would never be fixed. Until a small California tech startup called Kytch, Inc. cracked the code in April 2019. During product testing and development, Kytch used a proprietary combination of hardware, software and machine learning to demystify the finicky machines.
Kytch soon uncovered a repair racket whereby Taylor designed flawed code that caused the machines to malfunction. Whether Taylor intentionally designed these flaws or merely did not care enough to ensure bug-free code will become clear during discovery. Either way, Taylor’s web of partners profited millions in repair fees for the malfunctions that it manufactured.
In response, Taylor made several attempts to obtain Kytch devices.
Because Kytch Solution reduces the need for Taylor service technicians to repair the machines, Kytch’s leadership was not surprised when Taylor attempted to obtain the Kytch Solution. First, one of Taylor’s distribution managers tried to purchase a device, but Kytch’s security protocol flagged and blocked the purchase. Then, a lawyer employed by Taylor’s outside counsel attempted to purchase the Kytch solution. Kytch blocked the second attempt. After that, two private investigators associated with Taylor used aliases and dummy email addresses to get their hands on the device. Once again, Kytch canceled the orders.
The lawsuit alleges that after the unsuccessful attempts, Taylor solicited Tyler Gamble — a leading McDonald’s franchisee — to acquire a Kytch device.
On July 30, however, Kytch was granted a temporary restraining order against Taylor by a California judge. Taylor was forced to turn over any Kytch devices in its possession and is now restricted from using information potentially gleaned from its dissection of the machines.
“We are optimistic that the truth will prevail,” Kytch co-founder Melissa Nelson told Vice. “It’s disgusting that such lengths were taken to steal our trade secrets, destroy our business, and to stand in the way of modernizing kitchens. Kytch is just a small piece of the broader right-to-repair movement. But our case makes clear that it’s past time to end shady business practices that create hundreds of millions of dollars of unnecessary repair fees from ‘certified’ technicians.”