Dynamic Printing Cartridges Power Away Consumers

The business model for home and small business printing has not changed in many decades. Inexpensive to produce printing cartridges continue to power manufacturers’ profit margin in the printing business. As consumers embrace cloud technology, sustainability, and digital communication, should printer manufacturers double down on dynamic printing cartridges or innovate through customer experience?


HP has been in the printing/printer business for many decades. Like others selling printers, its business model is to sell printers at a reasonable or lower price and make up the profit margins through printing cartridges sale.

Over the years, third-party ink manufacturers were able to produce inexpensive alternatives for consumers to purchase online. They were snapped up quickly by consumers who may not observe the differences or care about authentic versus third-party inks. This practice led HP and other manufacturers to protect themselves through dynamic printing cartridges.

The Rise Of Dynamic Printing Cartridges

Dynamic printing cartridges allow HP to scan and ensure that the ink being used came from the manufacturer. Regular printer firmware updates will detect the printing cartridges used and verify that data for authenticity. If the cartridge used does not match a specific set of serial numbers, the printer could be blocked from printing temporarily or permanently, as first reported by Ars Technica.

First introduced in 2016, the authentication process was HP’s method to “protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our intellectual property.”

One Reddit user, u/grhhull, says they will be able to use third-party ink cartridges with the HP printer due to an alert message displayed. That alert cannot be bypassed or skipped until an authentic cartridge is inserted.

Some HP printers will not print if third-party printing cartridges are installed and detected // Source: u/grhhull via Reddit

As reported by Verge, “The indicated cartridges have been blocked by the printer firmware because they contain a non-HP chip,” the message shown on the screen of u/grhhull’s printer reads. “This printer is intended to work only with new or reused cartridges that have a new or reused HP chip.” According to u/grhhull, an HP customer support specialist told them that this is part of a “recent update.”

Dynamic Security

Per HP Customer Support – Knowledge Base “Dynamic security equipped printers are intended to work only with cartridges that have new or reused HP chips or electronic circuitry. The printers use the dynamic security measures to block cartridges using non-HP chips or modified or non-HP electronic circuitry.* Original HP cartridges that retain the original HP chip or electronic circuitry enable the refilling, reuse, or remanufacturing of the cartridge and are unaffected by dynamic security.​ 

Firmware updates delivered periodically over the internet will maintain the effectiveness of the dynamic security measures. Updates can improve, enhance, or extend the printer’s functionality and features, protect against security threats, and serve other purposes, but these updates can also block cartridges using a non-HP chip or modified or non-HP circuitry from working in the printer, including cartridges that work today.

Most HP printers can be configured to receive updates either automatically or with a notification that allows you to choose whether to update or not. To configure the online firmware update settings, please consult the user guide or manual for your printer. Manuals and other documentation can be found online by searching for your printer at https://support.hp.com/us-en/printer. Please note that enrolling your printer in certain HP programs such as Instant Ink or using services such as HP ePrint will require configuring the printer to accept automatic online firmware updates. 

HP printers and Original HP cartridges deliver the best quality, security, and reliability. When cartridges are cloned or counterfeited, the customer is exposed to quality and potential security risks, compromising the printing experience.”

Implication To Consumers

A Brand may not always be a Retailer — dealing with end customers at the front lines — but woe betides the Brand that forgets about the customer completely. As HP has quietly rolled out chip-activated “dynamic security” updates to their branded ink cartridges. This practice allows the printing giant to remotely brick printers loaded with non-HP cartridges via firmware updates in the United States, Europe, and Australia.

It means that the HP printer you thought you bought outright was merely the entry fee to a forced subscription service for printing cartridges priced at double the cost of others.”

HP Instant Ink subscription service

This will be a costly move for HP for multiple reasons
Last year HP was forced to pay a US$1.35M class action settlement to customers in 4 European countries and a US$1.5 million settlement with American customers who bought printers without knowing they were equipped with cartridge locking chips. HP claims this move ensures a high-quality printing experience, which makes sense since the low-quality print is usually blamed on the printer, not the cartridge.

But the somewhat mysterious way the company has chosen to roll this change out, the lack of communication about why, the high cost of the cartridges, and the lack of reasonable options for people who already own a printer hurts the good name HP established when they sold their first laser-jet printer in 1984.

Aim Higher With Customer Experience Innovation

Printer sales globally are steadily waning as cloud sharing makes the need for physical printing redundant. Any company banking on profits from printing cartridge sales is thinking incredibly short-term. Now would be the time for HP and others to build up their brand reputation by doubling down on customer love rather than bricking its printers without warning.

Manufacturers who focus on punishing consumers with fine print money grab will quickly lose brand trust which could affect other product lines (e.g., computer/laptop sales, cloud storage, etc.)

When it comes to printing, perhaps this is the time to embrace printing cartridge sharing, make them more affordable, and create access to recycled cartridges easier — anything to align your brand with a better customer experience. Then use this as a springboard to boost those flagging laptop sales as you innovate your way into new, more relevant product categories.

HP dynamic printing cartridges may hurt the brand more than protect its intellectual properties and profits // Source: Fernando Arcos

This is also the time to reimagine how consumers use printers today and into the future. This enables HP and others to play a larger role in content creation through partnerships, and acquisitions (e.g., it would be great to see HP work with content creation brand Canva, to incorporate printing).

While printing may not disappear in the near term, providing loyal customers with negative customer experiences will drive them to competitors or worse yet to other non-printing solutions.

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