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HP’s firmware legal saga continues

February 19, 2018

The two-year dispute over HP’s controversial firmware update, which blocks third party cartridges, rumbles on with the filing of an amended complaint at the United States District Court in San Jose.

The Recycler first reported on this long-running software saga in September 2016, when the magazine received reports that HP 8610 machines had received a mandatory firmware upgrade “overnight”, which not only prevented the usage of refilled cartridges but reported the OEM’s own cartridges as being empty when they weren’t.

Complaints poured in from industry figures and from consumers, and although HP hastened to control the damage, issuing an apology and stating that it would reverse the firmware, legal proceedings were started by US law firm Girard Gibbs LLP, based in San Francisco.

Girard Gibbs alleged in their original complaint that HP had “intentionally sabotaged customer printers” and that the OEM “installed the disabling software update as a means of gaining an advantage over its competition in the market for printer ink cartridges.” The law firm accused HP of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law, and sought “restitution for customers and an injunction.”

The Recycler has viewed the original court papers filed by Girard Gibbs and the law offices of Todd M Friedman on behalf of a group of plaintiffs, constituting a motion for class certification “and memorandum of law in support thereof”.

The order certified two classes, the “Injunctive Relief Class”, consisting of all persons in California who own a Class Printer”, and the “Disablement Class”, consisting of “All persons in the United States who purchased a Class Printer and experienced a print failure while using a non-HP aftermarket cartridge during the period between March 1 2015 and December 21 2017.”

The redacted court papers claimed that, starting in 2015, HP “implemented secret “dynamic security” technology to disable aftermarket print cartridges installed in HP inkjet printers.” The papers also explained that the affected printers “falsely informed the consumers that the forcibly disabled cartridges were “damaged or missing.””

The plaintiffs stated that the OEM “has no right to interfere with customers’ printers” and they sought “certification of an injunctive relief class for the purpose of determining whether HP’s conduct violates the unfair prong of the Unfair Competition Law.”

They also proposed a class trial “on liability issues, with individualised damages proceedings to follow.”

The plaintiffs have since filed a new consolidated amended complaint, seen by The Recycler. These legal documents name the plaintiffs as Richard San Miguel, DeLores Lawty, Richard Faust, Christopher Ware, and James Andrews, and describe their individual complaints against the OEM, as well as giving extensive background information on the case and HP’s subsequent actions.

The papers state that the plaintiffs “bring this action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 on behalf of the following Class and Subclasses”, naming the classes as The Injunctive Relief Class, The Disablement Class, The Texas Subclass, The Washington Subclass, and The New Jersey Subclass.”

The complaint accuses HP of violating “the False Advertising Law, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the Consumer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the California Computer Crime Law” as well as constituting “trespass to 18 chattels”.

HP is also accused of “false and misleading advertising” and “wrong and intentional interference” with the printers and cartridges of those affected.

The complaint was amended from the previous filing in order to remove one of the plaintiffs originally named in the case, Robert Doty.  





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