Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I don't see any basis why the complaint is interesting - there's assertion that the ice cream machine manufacturer is copying features of the competitor's device, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do and, in the absence of patent protection (the word "patent" is not mentioned in the article) absolutely permissible; and there's some assertion of "stealing trade secrets" without asserting any actual compromise of a secret by someone entrusted to keep it, but rather an act which looks like reverse engineering a product (which, again, does not require a permission for physical devices not covered by patents or copyright; trade secret law explicitly states that reverse engineering is a lawful way of acquiring trade secrets) and its documentation, which should be considered a very reasonable thing to do for anyone with a hacker mentality. Trade secret applies only to things that you actually keep secret, all the things you sell or give to your customers aren't trade secrets any more.

"There was a concerted effort to not only obtain and copy our device and follow everything we were doing, but then also, when it hit a critical mass, to actually put us out of business," - that's pretty much textbook definition of market competition, not an indication of anything shady.

"Kytch argued in its initial legal complaint that the company didn't truly copy Kytch's device to try to fix McDonald's ice cream machines, but simply to have a competing product it could tout to McDonald's—and McDonald's franchisees—in order to prevent Kytch from fixing those machines." - again, it's perfectly legitimate to try and make a competing product to tout to McDonalds; unless they're violating a specific patent, it's their right to do so; more competition is a good thing to have.




I haven't been following this super closely but I think you're missing an entire angle of this. The copying part is just a symptom, the real issue was that

1. McDonald's forced all franchise owners to use this machine that would break often, and could only be fixed by this other company McDonalds had close ties to.

2. McDonald's didn't allow franchise owners to allow this other tool that allowed franchise owners to keep their machines up and working

3. (What you mention) now the other company just copied this tool for themselves.

1 and 2 is much more problematic, given the close ties between McDonalds and Taylor Company.


Well, 1. and 2. is about contracts between McDonalds and their franchisees, so if a franchise owner feels unfairly harmed by this restriction, then they can sue McDonalds, it's not something about which Kytch should be able to sue Taylor. And, once again, it's perfectly reasonable and very common for franchise agreements to mandate certain suppliers for some products, goods and services, and the close ties don't make it problematic, it's common for some of the suppliers to be wholly owned a subsidiary of the mother company, and it's common for these suppliers to be not very good but as the shared money-maker for the franchise scheme.

There's no fundamental difference between McDonalds franchise contract saying that franchises must use only this ice cream machine and the same contract saying that franchises must make BigMacs only according to this exact recipe. If the franchise operator thinks that the BigMac recipe sucks, they don't get to change it or demand a fix - if McDonalds thinks that's good enough, they can take it or leave it and stop being a McDonalds franchise. The same is regarding McDonalds ice cream process; it may legitimately suck, but it's part of the package deal. If McDonalds wants to buy from Taylor and not from Kytch, that's their choice, effectively McDonalds (and not the franchise operator) is the customer here; and if they are a lousy customer, there are other customers to fight for - IIRC McDonalds bought 25% of Taylor machines, so there are many others out there.

And #3 is not a bad or even a neutral thing - reverse engineering other products is great, please everyone do more of it! Good features should be copied and adopted across the whole market (both in hardware and in software), that's the exact kind of competition that benefits the community; and that's a manifestation of the hacker spirit that should be celebrated, not get shamed about. While legal restrictions such as the excessive patent regime and the excessive length of copyright often prevents people from doing that, in cases where it is not prohibited, this is a good thing to do.


You're missing an important aspect of the lawsuit. Kytch is alleging loss of business due to defamation by McDonald's, be because McDs falsely claimed that the Kytch could harm the Taylor machines.


If Taylor hasn't certified the Kytch product to safely integrate with the Taylor product, it seems reasonable for Taylor to say it could cause problems. If they said it will cause problems, that seems a bit different.


It could cause problems to your already broken machine!


Considering they are connected to each other electrically, yes!


No, because it's already broken. That's the point that was being made and you are not addressing that here.


Your car's broken: oil pan needs to be replaced and it's in the shop. $2,000 repair.

While it's in the shop, it falls off the lift: $10,000 damage. Now your formerly "broken" car is even more broken? Is the situation still the same?


What sort of argumentation is this? You know full well that something broken in one regard can be further broken in an unrelated regard.


Hmm. If Kytch will never certify 3rd-party products, isn't it still irresponsible to say it could. The moon could be made of cheese if nobody checks.


Irresponsible? I don't know, maybe? What responsibility does Taylor have to Kytch in the first place? Certainly no obligation to say "Their product is safe to use on our machine."

Defamatory? I don't think so, but I guess the courts will decide.


The copying invalidates the claim that the original device was harmful.

It was safe enough that they decided to literally copy it. Unless they can provide contemporaneous evidence that they felt there was a specific aspect of it that was harmful.

At this point it seems like the only reason they said it was harmful was to avoid franchisees from using it, which would quite clearly qualify as defamation.


> It was safe enough that they decided to literally copy it.

They "copied" parts of it. We don't know they "copied" it all. I don't know how the device could be harmful, but presumably the harmful parts were not "copied".

Note that i used quotes around copied. I wouldn't use that term because it implies something that is protected by copyright and that doesn't seem to be the case.


> Well, 1. and 2. is about contracts between McDonalds and their franchisees, so if a franchise owner feels unfairly harmed by this restriction, then they can sue McDonalds, it's not something about which Kytch should be able to sue Taylor.

A contract between two parties can unfairly harm a 3rd party. Especially if one of the two parties is abusing its market power to push anticompetitive clauses. For example requiring "authorized" car mechanics to buy only overpriced Ford-branded repair tools. This way Ford uses its car marketshare to push into the repair tool market. Tool manufacturers that don't have a car manufacturer backing them simply can't compete.

Of course Ford would probably argue that the markets are related, and that it has a legitimate interest in ensuring its mechanics use adequate tools. That only its own tools qualify as good enough is just a big coincidence..


1. - As an ex employee - it’s a little bit more complicated than that. The machines have strict daily/weekly protocols for cleaning/maintenance and when they’re not met they “break” and need to have a tech reset them. It’s obviously due to the manufacturer not wanting to be liable for anything from a food poisoning standpoint. I don’t think they have a lower MTBF for “real” failures than competitors.


They do have a lower MTBF than other Taylor machines sold to other fast food chains. McDonalds requires franchises to purchase specific models that are more prone to failure and harder to repair.


Why would they do that?


Maybe because McDonald's and/or Taylor think the average McDonald's employee is less reliable than the industry average restaurant worker. Or maybe McDonald's simply tolerates less liability than the rest and requested the machines be configured in this way. As far as I'm aware, McDonald's hasn't sued Taylor over this, maybe because it was their idea in the first place?


It is the franchisee who pays for repairs. Of course it was McD's idea. They make a cut.


I doubt they make more from repairs than by selling ice cream made by functional machines.


True, but ice cream is expensive. Soda and fries are cheap. Burgers and ice cream get people into the store where they buy soda and fries. And I’m sure many a person has gone to McDonalds wanting ice cream and upon learning the machine is down, decided to get a drink and fries instead.


I haven't seen any actual evidence that Taylor is giving kickbacks to McDonald's. I've only a lot of insinuation and accusation of such a kickback, because the accusers don't seem to consider other possibilities. One possible reason other than a kickback: McDonald's wants the machines to error on the side of food safety and don't trust their own employees to not fuck it up.


McDonalds and Taylor have a very close relationship.


And why would the manufacturer build that? Is it really the razorblade business model?


> I don't see any basis why the complaint is interesting

Hard disagree. I'm finding this saga fascinating. You don't think Taylor lying to Wired journalists, and being called out for doing so, is interesting?


I have always found our putting up with Corporate PR lies so crazy. This wasn’t a stretch of the truth, or a belief what they were saying was true and missed a single internal email. Taylor’s statement was knowingly completely untrue.

Say what you want about the China social credit system but if there was a way the associated press could blackball Taylor/the spokesperson for Taylor from ever publishing another statement I think the world would be a better place.


No reason to go so far. Just prepend "documented liar" to every instance of "Taylor spokesperson".


I think OP is being specific. The civil complaint is not particularly interesting, I agree, but the overall saga is.


It's an interesting case to be sure.

McDonald's Franchisees are independent business owners. McDonald's is refusing to fix a problem, and has pushed a potential fix for the problem "out of business".

Not sure what the chances of this succeeding, but now we have Taylor and McDonald's hands dirty in trying to "buy this device and copy it's features and user interface". And lying about it when they said they had "no interest in the device". It's not pretty.


Lying is shitty (but usually legal), however "buy this device and copy it's features and user interface" is not "dirty hands" but a completely legitimate course of action. They would have hands dirty if they had bribed some Kytch engineers for schematics or hired someone to steal a prototype, but there's nothing wrong about buying a product and reverse engineering it. In fact, I would consider placing restrictions on that - e.g. software EULAs that prohibit reverse engineering - as immoral.


Completely agree. I don't understand why copying is so vilified. It should be the norm. It's also weird how people can somehow sign away their rights via contracts. Courts shouldn't allow them to do that. A clause saying people can't reverse engineer should simply be considered invalid and not enforced...


Part of the vilification of copying has to do with some existing injustices baked into modern capitalism. We're told that if you're a little guy, you can beat the Goliaths through innovation and outmaneuvering. But if BigCo can just copy SmallCo's innovations, that becomes untrue. Do patents help here? Yes, but it's quite expensive, in practice, to amass and defend them. In many cases, smaller players don't have the resources to patent every innovation, even if those innovations are objectively patentable. So I think, in general, although people recognize that copying of unpatented innovations is legal, there's a feeling that a BigCo, which already has many advantages because of its size, should be competing based on its own innovations, not by copying from smaller players.


I wouldn't call it competition since McDonald's specifically forbade franchisees from using Kytch's device.


Yeah, and for some reason McD thinks you need a technician to fix something hard like "container overfilled" or something. And apparently even Taylor thinks this is stupid. Sounds like an "ok boomer" moment. (or maybe something involving financial incentives, can't exclude that)

"Who mitms their own machine?!" Well, did Taylor fire the engineers that built this? Or they just want to keep the same limited hw and work the diagnostics part around it?


If McDonald's want's to error on the side of caution, isn't that their prerogative?


Problem is McDonald's isn't paying for all the unnecessary service calls, it is the restaurant owner that have to buy the McDonald's mandated machines that end up paying. So you have McDonald's which has no incentive to change things, Taylor which profits from the situation since their devices are mandated and the restaurant owners who have to foot the bill for hundreds of pointless service calls.


But what does McDonald's gain from the PR backlash? Is there some perpetual contract between McDonald's and Taylor, and they just screwed up by buying a worse model? You'd think that the corporate overlords would perfer the machine to be working so they make money from the sales...


Nothing. But the alternative isn't great either.

Its more costly and vastly more negative from a PR perspective, for McDonalds to force franchisees to change ice cream machinery vendors.

Same thing for Taylor upgrading their own machines - with the added cost that they don't have any goodwill to start.

There's an added incentive here that McD wants the legal shield up at all times - they are incentivized to keep machine error rate very low, to the cost of $$ in sales lost.

Consumers greatly benefit from it - we get worse availability of ice cream when we walk in, and we are paying slightly more in menu prices, but the risk of getting poisoned from eating ice cream at McD ends up extremely low.


> You'd think that the corporate overlords would prefer the machine to be working so they make money from the sales...

And that's where the intrigue and accusations of foul play are coming in. It seems like McD's has mandated this model of Machine and Taylor agreed to make it worse (they supply better machines without these issues to other fast food chains). Taylor profits from the service calls and I'd bet some McD's exec are getting kickbacks to keep it that way (by mandating a worse machine that makes franchise owners less money). The Kytch device came along and upset that status quo.


Sure, it's their prerrogative to continue squeezing their franchisees as much as they can and make their work as hard as they can.

If I wanted to lose money there are less painful ways than being a McD franchisee.

McD's actual business is on real estate/franchise fees. The food business is secondary and is a justification for the first. Guess which part is risky and complicated?


Abusive monopolistic behavior if left unchecked can lead to great evil. This was recognized a long time ago and led to anti monopoly legislation and enforcement. Just think what would have happened to the internet if AT&T‘s stranglehold over the connection of equipment to telephone lines had continued.

Strangling is not a prerogative of the strongest.


"There was a concerted effort to not only obtain and copy our device and follow everything we were doing, but then also, when it hit a critical mass, to actually put us out of business,"

That is NOT market competition...at all and it is 100% shady. Competition is "I make something, you make something better". It's not "You make something. I make something to make it better. YOU try to put me out of business by LEGAL means." That is not competition.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: