Judge Allows McFlurry Machine Repair Lawsuit to Proceed

The court will allow a restraining order filed a year ago to proceed with some small changes.

State of Repair is Motherboard's exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.

The McDonald’s McFlurry is a delicious treat that people have a hard time finding because the machine breaks down all the time. Thanks to a third-party device made by an independent company called Kytch, the machines can be made to be easier to maintain and break down less. Taylor, the company that makes the McFlurry machine, has been engaged in a long-running legal dispute about whether Taylor could prevent Kytch devices from being used on the machines. Kytch just won an important victory in that long-running legal battle.

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Before Kytch came along, Taylor had a repair monopoly on the McFlurry machine. When the thing broke down or hadn’t been cleaned, the machine would shut down, and only a certified Taylor technician could get it going again. That’s why it can be so hard to find McFlurries: the machines often break down and a tech has to be dispatched to get them running again.

Kytch invented a device that allows McDonald’s franchise owners to do basic repairs on the machines and get them running again. Taylor didn’t like that and, according to a lawsuit filed by Kytch, started telling its franchise partners that Kytch devices could cause “serious human injury.” 

In July 2021, Kytch filed a restraining order against Taylor claiming that the company had stolen Kytch’s trade secrets. Taylor had begun selling a device similar to Kytch’s and Kytch has alleged that Taylor stole one of their devices and reverse-engineered it. The court granted the restraining order.

Kytch went further and filed a First Amend Complaint. Taylor pushed back on these allegations and the lawsuit, filing what’s called a demurrer, a formalized objection to Kytch’s request for a restraining order. 

In a court document filed on August 26, 2022, a judge allowed Kytch’s restraining order to proceed. In its original filing, Kytch alleged 10 different claims against Taylor, including that it had falsely advertised its product and engaged in unfair competition. The judge agreed with Kytch on seven of these points. “The court will sustain Taylor’s demurrer as to the second (tortious interference), sixth (intentional interference with business expectancy), and seventh (negligent interference with business expectancy) causes of action,” the filing said. “The court rejects Taylor’s other arguments and will overrule its demurrer on those grounds.”

Does all this mean it’ll be easier to get McFlurry’s in the future? Maybe not for a while. The battle between Kytch and Taylor will continue, but Kytch has won an important legal battle. When Kytch filed its restraining order in 2021, Taylor was supposed to turn over all of the allegedly reverse engineered Kytch devices within 24 hours.

“This is an important milestone because we now have the opportunity to pursue justice beyond the egregious misappropriation of our trade secrets,” Jeremy O’Sullivan, co-founder of Kytch, told Motherboard. “Taylor couldn’t compete fairly, so they decided to compete unfairly including false advertising, trade libel, and violation of the Computer Data Access and Fraud Act… just to name a few.”

Kytch has struggled to keep its own version of the device in the hands of its customers since Taylor told McFlurry machine owners that it could be dangerous. The end result of this fight for the McFlurry enjoyer is that the machines will keep breaking down and that some will be scared to use a Kytch device. That means we could be waiting for the golden age of on-demand McDonald’s ice cream just a little longer.

Tagged:

McDonald's, mcflurry, State of Repair

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