Design rights can protect the visual appearance of a product or a form of packaging.
Some countries have unregistered design rights; these come in to existence automatically but are generally of limited scope. For example, unregistered design rights provided under the regulations of the European Union only last for three years and can only be enforced if the proprietor can prove ownership and copying of the design.
Stronger rights can be secured by Registered Designs. For example, a European Union Registered Design can last for up to 25 years, is prima facie proof of ownership of the design and can prevent commercial use of the same or similar designs irrespective of whether there was actual copying.
There are significant differences between the design laws of different countries. Some countries require you to file a registered design application before public disclosure of the design; other countries provide a grace period in which a valid registered design application can still be filed.
ARC-IP will be happy to advise on an appropriate strategy for your particular project.