Unregistered Design right in the UK automatically protects your design for 10 years since it first sold or if you have not sold any then 15 years after it was created. Whichever is earlier. Its important as you can use it to stop someone copying your design but only applies to the shape and configuration of the design and NOT to 2 dimensional designs such as graphics textiles and wallpaper. So there is no point in relying on this in the fashion industry!
However we now have the Unregistered Community Design Right ( UCDR). This right prevents unauthorised copying of the design throughout the European Union. But you dont get a monopoly as in the case of registered rights but you can prevent a third party producing an article by copying.
An unregistered Community design is given protection for a period of three years from the date on which the design was first made available to the public within the territory of the European Union. After three years, the protection cannot be extended.