By Megan Davies and Serena Christiansson, Hague Development and Promotion Section, Hague Registry, WIPO
Eleven years ago, former classmates Hoyoung Ban and Young Choi came up with an innovative idea that would go on to make an enormous difference in many people’s lives, helping them to regain independence.
Fueled by their own personal experiences with severe disabling conditions – Hoyoung lost his father to, and has watched his two uncles struggle with the effects of, a stroke – they set up 'Neofect', a company that creates smart gloves and boards for use in rehabilitation following injury or illness.
"We build hope for healthier lives, providing opportunities for rehabilitation through technological innovation." – Neofect
Very aware of the frustration felt by many patients, they took their idea a step further and integrated digital games such as darts and baseball into their products, making the slow road to recovery more fun and engaging.
It's a tough job convincing people that things can improve. Keeping them motivated through gamification elements and an easy user interface is, therefore, an essential part of our development.Hoyoung Ban, Neofect
In just one decade, Neofect has grown from a small startup to a pioneer in the creation of robotic orthoses, with some 80 staff spread between the Republic of Korea – where it debuted as a public company in 2018 – the United States of America and Germany.
Featuring high amongst Neofect's rehabilitation products is Neomano (literally "new hand"), a modern and practical three-digit leather robo-glove that enables people with hand paralysis – due to, for example, spinal cord injuries or nerve injuries – perform everyday actions such as opening doors, brushing their teeth or using knives and forks.
Neofect have created an innovative device that changes lives, enabling people with hand paralysis to grab and hold objects. (Photos: Neofect)
Wires, activated by a remote-controlled motor, make the glove's fingers contract, thereby gripping or releasing objects. Users can feel the objects they are touching with their palm and their other two fingers. The glove opens and closes slowly to ensure a maximum of control and comfort to the end user.
Neofect has perfected the glove from a design perspective. Anti-slip material makes it safer to use and as a bonus, the glove is easy to take off and clean, meaning people can keep their Neomano for many years.
User testimonies speak volumes about the gloves’ positive contribution – thanks to Neomano they can once again take part in activities like photography and exercising on an elliptical trainer.
"It's like a security blanket," says one user, who has ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a motor neuron disease that affects neurons' ability to control muscles. "I'd stopped using my left hand because I didn't want to drop something. Now, I'm going to use it more."
Through the Neomano robotic orthosis, Neofect is pioneering a new category of device to help people regain mobility and ultimately improve their quality of life. Assistive technology is evolving quickly, and for products like exoskeletons good design is a vital ingredient of success. As shown by WIPO's own research, a well thought-out design, that is both appealing and interesting, massively increases a product’s chances of reaching and helping more end-users. (Find out more...)
Hoyoung knows first-hand the importance of a comfortable, discreet design that naturally blends with the user. Both in terms of comfort and looks, Neomano needed to be something strong, durable and ingenious that people would want to wear every day.
People want to pick up their phone; to hold things that weigh maybe two kilos. It took many test versions to make the product [Neomano] strong and ergonomic.Neofect
Neomano's design has earned a number of awards including a "Red Dot Design Award" in 2019.
Neofect's growth and success are built on securing and optimizing intellectual property rights. Their innovative designs are key business assets whose protection is essential.
Neomano has been registered under the Hague System since 2018, providing Neofect with protection in many of the world's major markets – the European Union, North America and the Republic of Korea.
Find out more about Neomano in WIPO's Hague Express database.
WIPO's Hague System provides a unique international mechanism for securing and managing design rights simultaneously in multiple countries or regions through one application, in one language with one set of fees.
(September 23, 2021)