Design right gives you automatic protection for the internal or external shape or configuration of an original design. Design right allows you to stop anyone from copying the shape or configuration of the product, but does not give you protection for any of the 2-dimensional aspects, for example patterns, which you can protect using copyright <http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy/c-about.htm> or registered designs <http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/design/d-about/d-protect.htm>.
Design right lasts either 10 years after the first marketing of products that use the design or 15 years after creation of the design, whichever is earlier.
For the first 5 years you can stop anyone from copying the design. For the rest of the time the design is subject to a License of right. This means that anyone is entitled to a licence to make and sell products copying the design.
Design right is effective only in the United Kingdom. Protection may be available in other countries, but usually any protection will not be given automatically and must be applied for.
As design right is an automatic right, there is no application process, but it may be wise to keep a note of when the design was first recorded in material form, and when products made to the design were first made available for sale or hire.
This information may be useful if someone challenges your rights in the design or if you believe someone is infringing your rights and you wish to take the alleged infringer to court.
If design right is automatic, then why register your design? Registering your design gives you exclusive rights for the look and appearance of your product. The existence of your design registration may be enough on its own to stop others from trying to exploit your design. If it does not, it gives you the right to take legal action to stop them exploiting your design and to claim damages.
A registered design also allows you to sell your design and the intellectual property (IP) rights to it, license your design to someone else and retain the IP rights to it.