Before publishing my own patterns, I kid you not, I looked at every single Ravelry photo of baby hats and socks that could have even remotely been in the same category as mine, to make sure my designs were original. Then, I went back and did it all over again to make sure my pattern names were original. Then, I checked out other knitting pattern sites. Anal? Maybe, but if the hat or the socks had been close enough to someone else's design to make me squirm, I wouldn't have published the patterns. Instead I would have added them to my Ravelry Projects page, with the acknowledgement that, yeah, my hat/sock is pretty similar to Yada Yada's, and here's what I did and here's a link to Yada Yada's pattern.
I know--Jelli, STHU. This sort of thing has been going on since the second person learned to knit, crochet, sew, write, etc. It ain't gonna stop any time soon. BUT. Out of respect for your own creative abilities, when you purport to present the world with your original design, you're obligated to go the extra mile and make sure it's really original. Pain in the ass? Yep, but as one designer put it, "Just hoping that she will soon find out that it's more successful to do your own thing!" Amen, sister.
It probably doesn't feel good to figure out that what you thought emanated from your own creative genius has already been done, but sometimes you have to put on your big girl underpants and admit that, no, I'm not the second coming of Elizabeth Zimmerman. My own fear is that I'll inadvertently come up with the same design as Franklin Hobbit and he'll send Dolores to smack me into next year. In my dreams will I ever come up with anything like Franklin! Seriously, have you seen that guy's biceps? If I weren't a spoken for woman... I'm a pushover for buff, bald guys who knit.
And if you just out-and-out cheated and slapped your name on someone else's design? Karma's a bitch, my friend, and you don't want to go there. Sooner or later it'll catch up with you.