WTF?! If there’s one thing that’s reassuringly familiar in this scary world, it’s that the ice cream machine in your local Mcdonald’s will almost certainly be out of order. A company called Kytch decided to create and sell a device that would fix the perma-broken dispensers, and it’s led to the startup suing the fast-food giant for $900 million.
Wired reports that since 2019, Kytch has sold a phone-sized device designed to be installed inside McDonald’s ice cream machines. It works by intercepting the internal communications and sending them to a web or mobile interface so owners can remotely monitor and address any problems, of which there are many.
But the dream of making every ice cream machine work, thereby ruining an internet full of memes, turned sour in November 2020 when McDonald’s sent out emails asking all franchises to remove Kytch’s devices as they violated the machines’ warranties and intercepted “confidential information.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, McDonald’s also claimed that the devices were a safety threat and could lead to “serious human injury.” The messages also promoted a new ice cream machine built by long-time manufacturing partner Taylor, which offered similar features as Kytch’s device.
“Nothing is more important to us than food quality and safety, which is why all equipment in McDonald’s restaurants is thoroughly vetted before it’s approved for use,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a statement. “After we learned that Kytch’s unapproved device was being tested by some of our franchisees, we held a call to better understand what it was and subsequently communicated a potential safety concern to franchisees. There’s no conspiracy here.”
Kytch cofounder Melissa Nelson says the emails tarnished its name, scared off customers, and ruined its business. “They were anti-competitive. They lied about a product that they said would be released,” Nelson says. “McDonald’s had every reason to know that Kytch was safe and didn’t have any issues. It was not dangerous, like they claimed. And so we’re suing them.”
Kytch also sued Taylor and its distributor TFG for theft of trade secrets last May. The suit alleges that Taylor worked with TFG and one franchise owner to obtain, reverse-engineer, and copy the features from a Kytch device.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that McDonald’s warned other companies, including Coca-Cola and Burger King, not to buy Kytch products. The $900 million the suit asks for is the amount Kytch believes it would have been worth had McDonald’s not allegedly sabotaged the startup.
While it’s easy to understand why Taylor would want the ice cream machines to stay broken, it’s unclear why MacDonald’s would wish for their poor reputation to continue. “We’re going to continue to get discovery. And it’s going to keep on tunneling into this heart of darkness,” said co-founder Jeremy O’Sullivan. “We knew we would get to this point, and we know we’ll get to the truth. And we’re just going to keep tunneling.”
Make sure to read the full story at Wired.com