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The McDonald's Soft Serve Machine War Now Involves a Restraining Order

A big victory for the tech company trying to fix the notoriously finicky machines.

When the somewhat humorous saga of the always-broken McDonald's soft serve machines turned ugly in 2020, at the center of it were two David-and-Goliath-esque opponents: a small tech startup called Kytch, and the food equipment giant Taylor. The companies were and still are embattled over the exclusive right to troubleshoot and fix these notoriously malfunctioning pieces of McDonald's equipment—Taylor, which makes them, wants to retain the monopoly on those rights, while Kytch created a third-party device that would enable McDonald's operators to do the work themselves.

In May, Kytch filed a lawsuit against Taylor, claiming the machine-maker runs a "repair racket" and purposely "designed flawed code that caused the machines to malfunction" in order to profit from the costly and frequent repairs shouldered by the McDonald's operators.

RELATED: There's New Legal Drama Around McDonald's Soft Serve Machines

When Kytch came up with and started selling a solution—an easy-to-use device that could diagnose and, in some instances, prevent soft serve machine malfunctions—Taylor used "corporate espionage and extreme steps" in order to prevent the use of Kytch's technology and eliminate the startup as a competitor, the lawsuit claims.

An additional defendant in the lawsuit is Tyler Gamble, a major McDonald's franchisee and a prominent member of the National Owners Association (the largest independent association of McDonald's franchisees). Kytch alleges Gamble worked hand-in-hand with Taylor in order to procure a Kytch device for the competitor in order to steal its trade secrets.

Additionally, Taylor told McDonald's operators that the use of the Kytch device was dangerous, while simultaneously working on "Taylor Shake Sundae Connectivity"—a user-interface device similar in concept to Kytch.

Now, in a first-step victory on July 30, Kytch was granted a temporary restraining order against Taylor, who was given 24 hours to turn over all of the Kytch Solution Devices in its possession. "Defendants must not use, copy, disclose, or otherwise make available in any way information, including formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process obtained by any of them," the court document said.

"We are optimistic that the truth will prevail," Kytch co-founder Melissa Nelson told Motherboard. "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."

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Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more