In the UK, design right can be viewed as a form of copyright as found in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (‘CDPA’). The design needed to be original, and be in the form of a shape or configuration. Items such as surface decoration ie a pattern was not protected. So here we would rely on the work being an artistic work- but often the work cannot be said to be an artistic work so in the absence of a registered design, the next best protection is to look to the EU.
The EU introduced the unregistered Community design right (UDR). The first decision of the UDR was back in 2007 in The Procter & Gamble Company v Reckitt Benckiser (UK) Limited  EWCA Civ 936. These regulations only protect the design for three years.
In the absence of the unregistered aspect of the design then you may wish to consider the registered design law. This allows for a monopoly on the design but you need to file a registered design either through the UK or through the EU.
So to sum up:-
1. Community Design Registration (“CDR”) granted pursuant to Council Regulation EC 6/2002. 2. Part three of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988
Both 1&2 deal only in unregistered designs.
Where you wish to protect a registered design you need to rely on the registered right where you can register a design either in the UK or EU by virtue of the 1949 Act or the CDR which allows for a maximum term of protection of 25 years.
Michael Coyle Solicitor Advocate