If you’ve visited a McDonald’s in the last century, you’ve probably had the harrowing experience of being denied the frosty treat you crave because the McFlurry machine has broken yet again. According to a lawsuit filed against the company that manufactures the McFlurry machines, being broken is sort of a trademark: not only are they inherently fragile—needing to withstand both cold ice cream temperatures and the heating cycles that blast them during the cleaning process—but they’re also powered by janky software and “flawed code that caused the machines to malfunction.”
The company that manufactures McDonald’s ice cream machines has been served with a restraining order following allegations that it attempted to steal trade secrets about repairing the machines.
According to Motherboard, Kytch, a company that makes a device to assist McDonald’s franchisees in repairing McFlurry machines, now has a restraining order against Taylor, the machine-maker, in connection with a lawsuit Kytch filed in May. Kytch claimed in its May lawsuit that Taylor used a McDonald’s franchisee to steal trade secrets related to Kytch’s repair devices. On July 30, a California judge issued a temporary restraining order against Taylor, ordering the company to hand over its Kytch devices within 24 hours.
During the 2010s, the McFlurry machines were notorious for breaking down; one customer even created the website McBroken to track which McDonald’s locations had ice-cream machines that were currently out of service. Kytch began testing a device in 2019 to assist franchisees in making simple repairs to the machines without having to call a certified Taylor repair technician.
Taylor went to great lengths, according to Kytch’s May lawsuit, to obtain one of the repair devices, including through two private investigators who used dummy email addresses.
Taylor eventually obtained one, according to Kytch, after it “induced” a McDonald’s franchisee to breach his NDA with Kytch. According to the lawsuit, Taylor intended to mine the device for trade secrets in order to “stay one step ahead of Kytch’s diagnostic capabilities.”
According to Kytch’s lawsuit, Taylor told McDonald’s that its restaurants should stop using Kytch’s devices because they were dangerous. According to Kytch’s co-founders, McDonald’s sent an email to franchisees warning them that the devices could cause “serious human injury” and urging them to stop using them. Both McDonald’s and Taylor told Wired that Kytch’s devices were potentially dangerous.
Taylor’s use of Kytch’s confidential information, according to Kytch’s lawsuit, cost the company “untold millions of dollars, and they will undoubtedly cause Kytch further damage in the future.”
Taylor, according to Kytch, began working on its own alternative device after obtaining the device.
According to court filings, Taylor’s chief operating officer stated that the company obtained a Kytch device “in order to evaluate and assess its potential technology-related impacts upon our Soft Serve Machine.”
However, the executive denied that Taylor mined the device for trade secrets or that it would “require such information.” Kytch sought unspecified monetary damages and demanded that Taylor return “all materials and trade secrets wrongfully misappropriated.”
In the lawsuit, Kytch claimed that Taylor “designed flawed code that caused the machines to malfunction,” and that this may have been done on purpose.
In May, McDonald’s told Vice that there was no collusion between Taylor and the company, and that it had a dedicated team working to improve the reliability of its McFlurry machines.