There is a poor little cousin in Intellectual Property and his name is ID which is an Industrial Design.
An industrial design protects the visual aspects of a product. This form of protection is almost rarely considered since a lot of clients are focused on obtaining a patent, a trademark or even some copyright registrations to protect their product. Hence the poor little cousin of IP.
Industrial Design protection should not be overlooked since in comparison to the cost required to obtain some form of patent protection, an industrial design is less expensive and faster to obtain a registration. In certain matters a product can be properly protected with the visual features protected since a utility patent would end up being so narrow and unenforceable unless the products were identical in appearance. While I recognize the last sentence might be a slight exaggeration, in some circumstances it is not far from the reality. The US patent and trademark office has recently been vigorously prosecuting all patent applications resulting in narrower and narrower protection being available through a patent.
An industrial design registration or design patents as they are called in the US when combined with a trademark registration can offer the proper layers of protection to ward off competitors. By creating these layers of protection, competitors can re-think copying your product since the competitor will not only need to avoid the trademark registration but also the industrial design registration which requires further effort. I think we can all agree that the majority of infringers are lazy!
An industrial design can also be a quick initial form of protection while the product is introduced into the marketplace. During this introduction to the marketplace, products often at times go through improvements which are the proper subject of a patent application. So, at the end of the day the poor little cousin of IP can provide a worthwhile layer of protection at a reasonable cost and may be the only protection needed or that even exists in your idea.