A design is a type of intellectual property based on the appearance of an object rather than its function. The types of protection available in the UK are Design Right and Registered Designs.
To be registered a design must be new and individual.
A registered design can be protected by being registered with the Intellectual Property Office for an initial period of 5 years and renewed for up to 25 years. The protection covers the 2D aspect of the object as well as the 3D aspect and so includes patterns as well as shape and configuration. A fee is payable to register a design. This is a UK protection which can be extended to include other countries.
Design Right gives automatic protection only for the 3D aspect of the object so does not include patterns or surface decorations but prevents anyone from copying the shape. This protection last s for 10 years after marketing the articles or 15 years from creation, whichever is earlier. No registration is required for Design Right and no fee is payable.
For more information on designs go to: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/design.htm