As a firm, there are some basic ways we can protect our designs. To begin, we keep detailed records of our design process documents, meaning we keep an active file on every drawing that we do, and any related written correspondences we have with manufacturers to ensure there is a definitive trail of design origins. With these records, we can then file for copyrights with the US Copyright Office, which is enforceable with US trading partners.
However, contrary to thought, we don't take steps to copyright in order to protect designs, but rather, we do this to protect our firm from frivolous law suits from others claiming they came up with the designs first; there are simply too many designers in the world who could potentially be working on similar ideas without our knowledge.
As a design firm though, we are ambivalent to copyrighting because we believe it hinders innovation and creativity. Independent designers at home should have the freedom to design whatever they want without ever having the threat of a larger brand shutting them down for similar products, after all, a competent designer should always be ahead of the curve so he or she doesn’t have to worry about what is in the rear view mirror.