Apple has filed for a patent that describes a system where 3D codes could be used to identify official products and parts as a means to help curb counterfeit devices. The company is going for literal 3D in this case because the codes would actually have depth, although they could be obscured in device designs so they won't detract from the sleek and clean look Apple prefers.
Apple wants to use 3D codes to stop counterfeit devices
The 3D codes, according to Patently Apple, could be etched into parts in places where they aren't visible when the device is assembled, set in locations where they're difficult to see -- like openings in etched letters -- and behind glass elements. They might also be small enough to seem invisible to the naked eye.
The tiny etched codes can include multiple layers, hence the 3D description. Apple thinks its etched code design will be difficult enough to copy as to be an effective system for tagging legit gear and an easy way to quickly identify knock-off products.
Based on the patent description, the codes won't be limited to iPhones and iPads because it also mentions using existing holes, like speaker grills and iSight camera sensor points to avoid placing the ID marks in easily visible points.
Dealing with counterfeit products is apparently a big enough issue for Apple to look for new ways to help combat the problem. Finding a way to hide the codes to keep device surfaces looking clean is a typical Apple touch.