One of the less well-understood areas of intellectual property protection is that relating to the protection of designs. In part, this is because the protection of designs exists in two forms.
Design right, like copyright, is automatic and no formal application process is necessary. Design registration, on the other hand, needs to be applied for. In that regard, a design registration is similar to a patent.
Design right applies to three-dimensional objects only and lasts until either ten years after the object is first marketed or fifteen years after the creation of the design, whichever is earlier.
Design registration offers a greater degree of protection than does design right and the registration costs are quite modest. Design registration is obtained by application to the Patent Office, which is renamed the UK Intellectual Property Office from April 2007. A registration will only be granted if the design is novel and sufficiently unique. It lasts for five years, but is renewable for up to 25 years.
However, not all designs can be registered. In particular, a design which must be a particular shape because of its function (e.g. a replacement part) cannot be registered.
In general, when creating designs, you should make sure that proof of the date of creation of the design and its origin are retained.