HP confirms new firmware may block many third-party printer cartridges

Kevin Parrish
HP confirms new firmware may block many third-party printer cartridges
Hewlett Packard has admitted that firmware released to a large number of OfficeJet printers may prevent third-party ink cartridges from working altogether. One company claims the firmware has a scheduled cartridge block that kicked off days ago.

Printer manufacturers make their money selling ink. The cartridges aren’t cheap, and their total sum over the years can cost more than the printer itself. For instance, a black-ink cartridge may retail for $17 whereas the color cartridge for the same printer would cost $35. If you do a lot of printing, finding cheaper brands is utterly important for your wallet.

Unfortunately, those cheaper options are now banned on a number of Hewlett-Packard printers.

HP reportedly updated the firmware of numerous OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X printers to reject ink cartridges manufactured outside the company, according to one third-party supplier. These printers will only communicate with cartridges packed with HP’s in-house security chips, preventing customers from installing off-brand, third-party ink cartridges, like those supplied by Dutch printer ink vendor 123inkt.

Related: HP buying Samsung’s printer business for more than $1 billion

“Research by 123inkt technicians indicated a large scale problem regarding the functioning of 123inkt private label cartridges in various HP printers,” the company said recently. “Subsequently 123inkt.nl has e-mailed customers informing them about the possible inadequate functioning of their HP printer. To get a better understanding of the scale of the problem, 123inkt.nl asked its customers to check whether the printer still functioned. Within one day more than 1,000 consumers reported the problem.”

After determining that firmware was blocking the third-party cartridges, the company contacted HP’s branch in the Netherlands for clarification. At the time of the query, the company was not aware of a problem but later confirmed that new firmware was unintentionally blocking third-party labels. 123inkt discovered that HP distributed new firmware to these printers in March, but the sudden halt of third-party cartridge support did not happen until September 13 — indicating a possible timed execution.

123inkt is not taking the banning lightly. The company is already working with its printer chip manufacturer to create a version that will work on the affected printers. The company also determined that the affected printers will continue to accept third-party cartridges if they are not updated to the latest firmware. The firmware 123inkt used to test its off-brand cartridges dated back to 2014.

In a response to reports of HP blocking third-party cartridges on its printers, the company said that it began implementing updates to the firmware related to its security chip to maintain a secure connection between the printer and the cartridge. These changes affected OfficeJet printers as well as the previously mentioned OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X models.

“The purpose of this update is to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property,” HP said in a statement. “These printers will continue to work with refilled or re-manufactured cartridges with an original HP security chip. Other cartridges may not function. In many cases, this functionality was installed in the HP printer and in some cases, it has been implemented as part of an update to the printer’s firmware.”

HP causing havoc on third-party cartridge suppliers is not anything new. The company updated the firmware of its 364/564 printers back in 2014 that imposed a higher hardware requirement for third-party printer chips in cartridges, forcing companies to upgrade their cartridge offerings. OfficeJet printer firmware is typically updated by HP itself and does not involve the customer’s intervention.