Read the article in the latest issue of the World Intellectual Property Review (issue 4/2022) written by our European Trademark Attorney Riikka Palmos.
Woodcast: the material changing splints and casts forever
Our client company Onbone is revolutionizing the world of breaks, strains and bone protection with its bio-composite casting material Woodcast. Broad IP protection is at heart of Onbone’s growth strategy.
The technique to immobilize an injured limb with a splint or cast is thousands of years old.
The earliest evidence is two splints dating from 2500 BC, unearthed in the excavation of an Egyptian tomb. In 350 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates described making casts from bandages soaked in wax and resin. Other materials used for early casts include clay, tree resin, and a combination of flour & egg white.
In the 19th century, plaster of Paris emerged as the material of choice, remaining so until glass-fiber casts began appearing in the 1970s. Since then, not much has changed.
The next step forward for the practice looks set to come from a sustainable biocomposite material called Woodcast.
Made by combining wood with biodegradable polymers, Woodcast is now used in more than 25 countries for casting, splinting and bracing in both people and animals. The material is also used to create shin pads, groin guards, and to relieve the pressure on diabetes-related foot conditions.
Woodcast’s bio-based material is more sustainable and safer than common alternatives, and it allows medical practitioners to work at a much faster pace than they’re used to.
“The key advantage to using Woodcast is speed,” says Jimmy Takki, CEO of Onbone, the company behind Woodcast. “You don’t have to do any preparation work, such as blending materials. This means physicians can take care of patients immediately, and therefore can take care of more patients overall.”
“The other big advantages are that X-rays go through Woodcast, and the material has none of the toxic chemicals that can cause anaphylactic shocks,” says Takki. “Woodcast is also remoldable. The practitioner can easily reheat the material to remold a splint or cast into the perfect fit.”
The veterinarian’s cast of choice
Onbone was founded in 2008 by two chemists from the University of Helsinki who combined their expertise in cellulose and polymers. Today, Woodcast splints and casts are manufactured on Finland’s west coast. From there, the material is shipped to hospitals and veterinary clinics around the world.
Woodcast need only briefly be applied to a flatbed heater before it becomes moldable at 70 degrees Celsius. The material has been CE and FDA approved since 2010, and has been featured in several peer-reviewed studies. Woodcast consistently performs well in comparison to traditional casting materials.
“Woodcast has an advantage whenever casting speed, custom fit or non-toxicity are important,” says Takki. “The veterinary field is a great example. Dogs and other animals chew on their casts, so the use of microplastics and toxic materials can be harmful. With Woodcast, you get a great custom-fit that can be applied quickly and safely.”
Onbone is seeing a surge in interest from European veterinary clinics. Woodcast is so good for use on animals that the University of Helsinki’s veterinary practice is now using it as the primary immobilization material. Uppsala University in Sweden has also started using Woodcast.
Early protection, sustained advantage
Intellectual property is central to Onbone’s growth strategy. The company has several granted patents and new applications pending or in the making for materials and applications. There are multiple more initiatives in the R&D pipeline. Onbone’s trademarks have also been protected in many countries.
“It’s important for us to be very precise in our IP, as we are both a materials company and a brand company,” says Takki. “We develop products in close cooperation with our partners in different fields, and being clear on our IP helps us to protect ourselves.”
“In this industry, it takes many years and sustained investment to develop good solutions,” says Takki. “Working with Papula-Nevinpat helps us to think on how we should protect ourselves and prepare for any potential disputes.”
Onbone has been working with Papula-Nevinpat patent, design and trademark attorneys since mid 2020. The team is led by European Patent Attorney Linda Norrgård.
“Onbone has very big and inspiring visions for the future of Woodcast,” says Norrgård. “The company is operating in areas where there is a lot going on from the IPR perspective.”
“In the patent world, you cannot eliminate risks completely – but you can minimize them,” says Norrgård. “Planning ahead is key, and Onbone is making all the right moves when it comes to IP protection.”