New York Times 
Monday, November 16, 2009
Its distinctive feature is a design that doesn’t simply invite a user to pay attention to an ad — it also compels attention. The technology can freeze the device until the user clicks a button or answers a test question to demonstrate that he or she has dutifully noticed the commercial message. Because this technology would be embedded in the innermost core of the device, the ads could appear on the screen at any time, no matter what one is doing.
The system also has a version for music players, inserting commercials that come with an audible prompt to press a particular button to verify the listener’s attentiveness.
The inventors say the advertising would enable computers and other consumer electronics products to be offered to customers free or at a reduced price. In exchange, recipients would agree to view the ads. If, down the road, users found the advertisements and the attentiveness tests unendurable, they could pay to make the device “ad free” on a temporary or permanent basis.
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Would anyone have guessed that Apple, so widely revered, would seek patent protection of a gimmick not unlike one used to sell vacation timeshares? (Agree to attend the sales seminar and get a free weekend getaway!) Or could anyone have predicted that the Apple of 2009, a company with premium products, would file a patent application that could make it a latter-day descendant of Free PC and ZapMe, companies that in 1999 gave away PCs engineered to always display on-screen ads?
What the application calls the “enforcement routine” entails administering periodic tests, like displaying on top of an ad a pop-up box with a response button that must be pressed within five seconds before disappearing to confirm that the user is paying attention.
Full story here.