Most people have a case on their tablet as a form of protection, to keep all the potential scratches and dents away from the device's fragile display. Apple's newly discovered patent suggests that the iPad's official Smart Cover should be for more than just protection, which is why it could be getting displays built into it.
There are a number of different designs detailed in the patent, but the general idea seems to be that they are for allowing access to essential information without opening the case and having the tablet's full display turn on. The designs include something akin to HTC's Dot View case, a hole in the cover that gives you access to a small portion of the screen (similar to the window cases you can get for some smartphones), and a display that's actually built into the Smart Case itself.
Since the purpose of the fancy case is to access notifications, check the time, and other quick things, the first two sound like fairly reasonable ideas. Though, personally, I feel that having a case with a screen built into is is a bit daft, and not to mention potentially expensive.
So will this ever see the light of day? It's not entirely clear. Patents like this tend to be fairly old when we first hear about them, and as Mashable points out the iPad and Smart Cover in the images appears to be fairly old. It's also not the first time we've seen ideas like this pop up. But who knows? Maybe Apple is planning something to coincide with the reveal of the iPad Pro, whenever that may be. [US Patent and Trade Office via Mashable]