A design protection covers the aesthetic appearance as such of a product, a part of a product or an ornament. The technical function of a product is not included in the protection, and can instead be protected using a patent. Like patents, designs are national and can be obtained by application with a national patent office.
However, there is for example the possibility to apply for a Registered Community Design (RCD), covering all EU member states. There is also an automatic, non-registered design protection valid throughout the EU area, with a shorter protective term and more limited scope of protection.
Note that the US term “design patent” corresponds to “design” in Europe, and that the US “utility patent” is simply a “patent” in European jargon.