I highly recommend the book "Screw it, let's do it" by Richard Branson.
Basically the point is, if had had stopped to patent or protect his great ideas when he had them, rather than switfly acting on them with ferocity, he would have been a nobody.
Designers should focus on designing things really really well. If you can design something that is untouchably better, the knock offs will have no chance.
Let the lawyers sort of the nonsense. Or when your firm becomes large enough to hire one, you can use them accordingly.
My last thought, or realization I suppose (and by no means am I singling you out!), is that most people, previously myself included, think this...
#1. Great idea
Which is simply not the case. There is no "Extremely hard work" in there anywhere.
In reality, it goes something like this...
#1. OK idea
#2. Extremely hard work
#3. Get screwed, stopped, lied to, stolen from
#4. Find a way around it
#5. Extremely hard work
#6. Extremely hard work
#7. Discover a better idea or refine the existing one
#8. Extremely hard work
#9. Extremely hard work
#10. Maybe break even with profits (this is a big maybe)
#11. Extremely hard work
#12. Extremely hard work
#13. Maybe make your first bit of profit ($100 or $1000)
#14. Extremely hard work, followed by a lot more Extremely hard work
By no means is it anyone's fault to think in the 3-step manner. I think we all saw too many fairy tales growing up, where wishes are magically granted, and the poor turn into princes and princesses overnight. Ideally, our ideas would be so brilliant they could make us all rich. Ideas are free, they require no work other than a nap. Its the hard work after these ideas that make them utterly priceless.