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Apple wins patents on 3D tech in desktop user interfaces

The technology may not actually come to future versions, given the "flatter" design in Apple's latest OS X effort, Yosemite.

OS X Yosemite, unveiled Monday, has little design need for 3D effects. Tim Stevens/CNET

Apple was granted 62 patents on Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office, but it seems unlikely that at least one of them will ever come to OS X.

Apple has been granted a patent for a 3D graphical user interface in a desktop PC environment. According to the patent, which was earlier reported on by Patently Apple, the technology would provide for a 3D-like effect in which users see the entire front of a window in addition to at least one side. Icons built into Apple's familiar Dock at the bottom of the operating system would have depth to them, adding a 3D component.

The patent is notable for its relative irrelevance to Apple's software plans. Since Jonathan Ive, the company's design guru, took over software look and feel, he has made Apple's operating systems "flatter" in their design. That was made abundantly clear in last year's iOS 7 launch, and again in the iOS 8 expose Apple offered up Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conference.

Although Ive wasn't mentioned by name at WWDC, it appears his flat design aesthetic is also making its way to OS X. Apple on Monday showed off the next version of OS X, Yosemite, that comes with flattened windows and icons, making the platform more iOS-like in its appearance.

For that reason, it appears unlikely that the patent Apple was awarded on Tuesday will ever make its way to the company's platform. Like many companies, Apple files for patents all the time and while some technologies eventually make their way into its products, many more do not. It appears this one might join Apple's collection of patents that won't be integrated into its products but kept for safe-keeping in the event they're ever needed.

In addition to 3D, Apple was also granted a patent on Tuesday that allows for audio-based user interfaces. With the feature enabled, visually impaired individuals can make requests to the operating system and hear responses, enabling full interaction with the platform.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.