Seems Cupertino’s been looking at Second Life for a little inspiration here, and has won a patent that suggests the company could in future create its very own 3D universe online.

Filed in April 2008, Apple’s patent first suggested a Second Life-located Apple store. Today, One of Apple’s Virtual Store Patents have been granted, paving the way for Apple to venture into this new and exciting 3D Internet under construction at this very moment, as reported by Patently Apple.

The intention is to create an online crowd, so when you pop into the online Apple Store you’ll be rubbing virtual shoulders with other folk shopping around. ‘Course, you’ll also get all the search and immediacy benefits you’d expect from shopping online. It’s all more fun with people around you (is it?)

In the figure above, the figure is a notional character called Alice and she’s visiting the virtual shop at noon. That means she sees a sun on the screen, if she turns up at night she gets a moon or star. You get the picture.

“If the patent even covers minute detailing such as natural outdoor lighting that reflects the time of day and/or seasonal outdoor schemes, then we could be assured that Apple’s 3D Virtual Store environment will be very extensive in and outside of the store.”

Patently Apple adds: “Sounds like it could entail a more developed Virtual World beyond just their store. Apple has gone out of their way to make sure that the patent graphics are painfully dull so as to keep the impact of such a virtual address a stunning revelation when Steve Jobs unveils it as some future event.”

Roll over to the report for a bunch of other interesting recently-revealed patents…

via 9to5mac