Earlier today a pending non-provisional utility patent application assigned to Apple Computer published. This application, US Patent Application 20090265214, is titled Advertisement in Operating System, and covers exactly what the title implies; namely an operating system that is capable of displaying a variety of advertisements to users. You are likely to have heard of the first listed inventor, Steven Jobs, the CEO and co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc. While it is difficult to know the purpose and strategy behind a patent application, the attorneys at Fish & Richardson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who drafted and filed the patent application certainly did a very good job describing just about every conceivable feature and alternative that could coincide with the displaying of advertisements to users of an operating system. …


This could never happen in the OpenSource world.


  1. #1 Russell
    October 24, 2009

    Corporations are neither evil nor good. They are trial-and-error profit-seeking organizations, which works out well for some purposes, and which overall serves society providing their is legal infrastructure that channel their profit-seeking to methods that enhance technology and satisfy consumer demand, without too much exploiting external cost.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    October 24, 2009

    Russell, you must watch the documentary “The Corporation.” Then come back and we’ll talk about evil.

  3. #3 RC Nelson
    October 24, 2009

    Go to http://video.google.com/ and search for:

    “The Corporation Part One”
    “The Corporation Part Two”
    “The Corporation Part Three”

  4. #4 EMJ
    October 24, 2009

    I recommend Linux. And The Corporation is one of the best political documentaries ever made. I can’t praise it enough.

  5. #5 Crudely Wrott
    October 24, 2009

    I shall continue to not click on ads. I am not a shopper though I do make purchases after research and due consideration. Those purchases are made from local merchants, in person. Usually with some mutual exchange of jocularity in addition to the valuables that change hands. I like to look ’em in their eyes.

    I am not a consumer. I am a producer. And my money is worth more to me than it is to any salesman.

  6. #6 peter
    October 25, 2009

    on the bright side, now that someone has a patent on it, no one else can do it without licensing the patent.

  7. #7 Ian Tindale
    October 25, 2009

    Sorry, what were you saying? I wasn’t concentrating. The ads on this scienceblogs page were distracting me so I started reading those instead.

  8. #8 David Barrett
    October 25, 2009

    “This could never happen in the Open Source world” What?!? Of course someone could make advertisements appear in an open source operating system. I understand what you meant, though. There would not be much point in going to that effort because it would be so easy for someone else to remove that capability, but there is a difference between ‘could never happen’ and ‘not much point in happending.’

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    October 25, 2009

    Sorry, what were you saying? I wasn’t concentrating. The ads on this scienceblogs page were distracting me so I started reading those instead.


    Anyway, there is a difference between an OS pushing ads and a browser always having ads because site have ads. I mean, who uses a browser for most of their …

    Oh, never mind.

    David: It is too early on a Sunday morning for me to come up with the snark you are asking for right now…. let me have a couple of cups of coffee and get back to you on that….

  10. #10 Pierce R. Butler
    October 25, 2009

    Even without the extra vowel, I gave up any remnants of such beleiefs about Apple when they unilaterally canceled the contract of their only local dealer within a hundred miles of where I lived (along with the contracts of many other “underperforming” small-town operations), back in the early ’80s.

    And that was long before they rubbed salt in it by unilaterally aborting the paid-for extended warranty on ImageWriters and other peripherals about a decade later.

    That couldn’t happen with open-source operations, of course: no warranties to begin with…

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    October 25, 2009

    We don’t need not stinking warranties.

  12. #12 llewelly
    October 25, 2009

    This patent isn’t evil. This is wonderful. Apple has generously protected hundreds of millions of users of non-Apple operating systems from having advertising integrated into the operating system.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    October 25, 2009

    Right, I was actually thinking that too. Unless they sell the use of the patent, of course.

  14. #14 Tobias
    October 26, 2009

    As far as I can remember, MS patented the same thing a few years back.

  15. #15 konrad_arflane
    October 26, 2009

    It can’t very well have been the same thing. That would sort of defeat the point of having patents. Similar, maybe, but there has to be some distinctive difference between the two patents.

  16. #16 llewelly
    October 27, 2009

    It can’t very well have been the same thing. That would sort of defeat the point of having patents.

    Actually, patent litigation uncovers pre-existing conflicting patents all the time. Prior art gets uncovered all the time too. The US patent office does not seem to do a good job of screening patents to see if they cover stuff already patented, or technologies already widely used. Probably they receive too many patent applications and too little money.

  17. #17 rpsms
    October 27, 2009

    Luckily, the moment this becomes a reality at the OS level, there will be an open-source firewall distro with a built-in blocking mechanism.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    October 27, 2009

    rpms: I agree, but an OS that, to be functional (i.e., not have ads popping out all the time) requires filtering from the user is an OS FAIL.

  19. #19 Ian Tindale
    October 27, 2009

    I wonder what the public feeling was when it was first demonstrated effective to insert interrupting advertising into radio and television programming?

    It’s interesting watching the advertising industry change these days. On one hand, it’s seeing increasing opportunities to present itself in novel places. On another hand, it’s demonstrating a curious mix of understated professionalism that doesn’t quite know how to behave in those new spaces, versus some utterly amateur attempts at advertising with clearly no background or experience in the practice, growing up in public as it were. On yet another hand, I suspect that the advertising industry will be the next thing to go the way that the print media newspaper industry is currently going, although there’s plenty of time yet for the newmedia ad industry to wallow in.

    Ultimately, I don’t think advertising will be effective in these new spaces unless it’s entertaining or adding value in some way (besides simply promoting something in our faces). In my opinion, the ‘review’ will supplant the advert, but then again, we’ve got the same problem only worse, there – reviews are increasingly written by utter amateurs, rendering much of them valueless.