The inventor of Apple's "light-show patent" is a member of the Jonathan Ive-led Apple industrial-design team, it has emerged.

The patent application has led to speculation that an iMac that glows in a variety of different colours – depending on what you like or what's happening in the box – is in the offing.

Apple's application is for a patent for what it calls an "Active enclosure for computing device". As described, the technology might make future Macs change their appearance using a light effect.

Published yesterday, the patent application was filed by California-based law firm Beyer Weaver & Thomas LLP, which specializes in intellectual property.

The firm lists Apple, Sun Microsystems, Nikon and other major industrial manufacturers as clients.

The inventor's name is listed as Duncan Kerr, who is a member of Apple's industrial design team, working with Jonathan Ive and others. According to the record, the patent was filed on February 13, 2002.

With each successive model of CRT-based iMac, Apple offered colours inspired by nature – first the original Bondi Blue models, named after a popular surfer's locale in Australia, then to fruit colours, then to colours named after gems, pigments, and herbs.

With the introduction of the flat-panel iMac, Apple returned to a white chassis colour alone. This patent could lead the way for Apple to provide iMacs or other computers tinted using light itself – either in a single colour or "a plurality of colours".

The requested patent calls for what Apple calls "chameleonic" computers to be built using "an illuminable housing", using a light source comprising Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The housing would also contain "a light pipe" used to distribute illumination to spots within the computer's chassis.

The invention goes beyond just changing an iMac's colour to suit its surroundings, however. Apple also describes a potentially useful application for its "active enclosure": showing you what's going on inside the box. Apple said that its technology could adapt to display input and output, for example. Or, the chameleon Mac could change colour depending on the specific task or event that is taking place.

Apple said that "dynamic light effects" – such as rainbows, stripes, dots, and flowers – are also possible.