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By | Shaun Nichols 19th September 2016 21:09

HP Inc's rinky-dink ink stink: Unofficial cartridges, official refills spurned by printer DRM

Software timebomb blasts ersatz Officejet Pro supplies

A Dutch ink seller is accusing HP Inc of deliberately programming its printers to reject refurbished cartridges with a covert firmware update.

123inkt.nl claims that the PC and printer half of the HP split-up planned months ago to have its printers spontaneously spit out third-party and refurbished cartridges from September 13 onwards.

HP Inc's cartridges feature a chip that the printer firmware interrogates to ensure they are official expensive merchandise. If this chip isn't detected, or doesn't respond as expected, the printer now refuses to use the cartridge.

The affected HP printer models are apparently: the Officejet Pro 6830, 8610, 8615, 8620, 8625, 8630, 8640, 8660, x451dn, x451dw, x476dn, x476dw, x551dw, and x576dw.

According to 123inkt, customers who use its "private label" replacement cartridges are now unable to print and, though the issue can be solved with a firmware rollback, fixing the problem is tricky for normal folk.

The DRM-like mechanism reportedly results in the printer returning an error message that the cartridge (both third-party and refilled HP units) – which had previously been working fine – is "damaged" and needs to be replaced with a new, HP-branded unit.

The ink seller alleges that the mass-rejection was set up in March of this year with a firmware update from HP; this software activated in September 13 to reject unofficial cartridges. 123inkt said that printers not connected to the network have been experiencing the same error, suggesting that HP has intended all along for its printers to begin snubbing the third-party and refilled ink reservoirs.

The report might prove unnerving to the millions of Samsung printer customers who now find themselves subjects of HP Inc's printing policies.

A spokesperson for HP Inc told us:

Beginning in 2015, HP implemented updates to the firmware related to the security chip in HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X printers that maintains secure communications between the cartridge and the printer. The purpose of this update is to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property. These printers will continue to work with refilled or remanufactured 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 does have a history of going to great lengths to protect its printer ink racket. The IT giant has in the past used both technical tricks and its own legal team to ensure it will be the one who profits from its printers' healthy appetites for ink. ®

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