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Most of the small companies just create designs and do not apply for a copyright. How does copyright come into play if the designer or the company has not copyrighted their work?

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First of all, it depends on the region but the most common of all copyright "laws" is the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

Which basically states that you automatically have the copyright to any work you create even without notice on the work itself. There isn't an official register of copyright.

I started with "it depends on the region" therefore here is a List of parties to international copyright agreements

That's about all there is to it from what I know, you can also apply for trademarks and patents if you have something that qualifies. Also, if you are really worried about intellectual property, you might want to seek some legal advice from a lawyer that specializes on these kinds of things.

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    Yes, the way you “apply for a copyright” is to apply a creative tool to a creative medium (e.g. pen to paper) and create something unique and original. The copyright is automatic, at least in North America and Europe (which I am familiar with) and you would have to specifically declare the work to be public domain in order to give up your copyright. – Simon White Feb 7 '16 at 12:12
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    Note that, in the case of "works for hire" things get more complicated. If you create a website for yourself, you own the copyright in that; if you are an employee of a company, the company almost certainly owns the copyright in the work you do on the company's website; if you're freelancing and do work for a company, the copyright belongs to whoever you agree it belongs to. – David Richerby Feb 7 '16 at 22:01
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This may be a long ago answered question but on reading the content I noticed there was no reference to "file info". This exists in AI (found under File> file info) and mirrors the way photoshop users add metadata to each file so that it follows the digital version at least where ever that goes. No protection from thieves as such but it labels your work as yours and enables you to tag the work as copyrighted with your details and much more. Apologies if you know this it can help as far as posting work on the internet though of course will not be displayed with printed work and then Alins input is correct.

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