Royal Philips is being a royal pain in the arse with a new technology to make TV watchers unable to skip commercials. Their recent patent filing indicates that broadcast flags would be inserted into commercials in order to allow supported TVs to disable channel changing during breaks. In addition, the flags would also be recognized by digital video recorders so viewers can't fast forward even if they've seen the ads already. Great job on tapping into the consumer zeitgeist, Philips. Oh yeah, and we also hear you're going to follow this patent up with one on telemarketing calls between 6 and 8PM. Good luck with that.
Invention: The TV-advert enforcer [New Scientist]
Update: Philips has released a statement clarifying the patent.
New York, United States, April 19 2006. To clarify any confusion regarding the intent of this application, Philips stated,
"Inventors from Royal Philips Electronics (Philips) filed a patent application, as yet not granted, that enables watching a television movie without advertising. However, some people do want to see the ads. So, we developed a system where the viewer can choose, at the beginning of a movie, to either watch the movie without ads, or watch the movie with ads. It is up to the viewer to take this decision, and up to the broadcaster to offer the various services.
Philips never had the intention to force viewers to watch ads against their will and does not use this technology in any current Philips products, nor do we have any plans to do so."