More than twenty years ago, Kenya Williams was working in a lab at UCLA. As a recent Stanford graduate with a degree in biological sciences, she was thrilled to be supporting PhD students and a principal investigator as they researched pediatric bone cancer in pursuit of a cure for Ewing’s sarcoma. As they sent out DNA for sequencing, Williams got her first exposure to the products and services of what would later become Thermo Fisher Scientific. Today, she’s in charge of protecting that company’s brands.
Williams’s career came full circle when she joined the global scientific instrument, reagents and consumables, software, and services company as its trademark enforcement counsel in 2020. The years between her time at UCLA and Thermo Fisher have uniquely prepared her for the role.
After two years in Southern California, Williams moved to Tennessee to pursue a career in medicine, then accepted a full-time position conducting qualitative science education research at Tennessee State University’s Center of Excellence for Research and Policy as an associate investigator. Because the university offered employees free tuition, Williams took a few public administration classes “just for fun” and ended up getting a masters of public administration degree with a certificate in health administration and planning.
That experience opened her eyes to emerging issues in law and policy, so she took the LSAT, enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law, and finished her degree at Whittier Law School.
Upon graduation, Williams started her career as a contract attorney and eventually landed a position as a trademark and litigation associate at one of the oldest boutique intellectual property firms in Los Angeles. The firm’s twenty attorneys kept Williams—the only trademark associate for much of the six years she spent at the firm—busy. She engaged in extensive trademark and copyright prosecution, dispute management, and litigation, and was an integral member of the team on a trade secret infringement case.
In 2018, Williams moved to Arent Fox to get big firm experience. There, she worked as a trademark attorney and spent two years identifying and prosecuting unauthorized use of her clients’ trademarks and copyrights. She also started working with large clients’ internal teams to identify and execute business objectives related to intellectual property. In 2020, poised to make a change prompted by the pandemic, Williams was ready for an in-house role and joined Thermo Fisher Scientific.
As trademark enforcement counsel for the large life sciences company, she leads the team that is in charge of securing trademark registrations, maintaining Thermo Fisher’s large trademark portfolio, and leading anticounterfeiting measures to help prevent knock-off products from entering the market. As a former scientist, Williams knows that her current work makes a real difference.
“A Thermo Fisher Scientific trademark on a product is significant,” she says. “That’s how our customers can feel confident they’re getting a safe, quality product they can trust.”
Consumers might assume that counterfeiting only happens in industries such as retail and fashion, but Williams says it takes place in science as well. “As long as you have a quality product that’s popular in the marketplace you will attract bad actors who want to profit off of you,” she explains, adding that her team advises colleagues on the correct use of Thermo Fisher’s trademarks and how to help the company maintain strong trademark rights by engaging in active enforcement. Inferior products can ruin experiments and bring damaging results.
In recent years, Thermo Fisher employees discovered counterfeit products in South Korea after receiving reports of problematic test results. Internal teams investigated and identified multiple customers who’d received fraudulent products from third-party vendors. Thermo Fisher made sure these customers were able to get the correct products to meet their needs. Williams and her team continue to monitor all markets for similar activity.
Top brands like Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Gibco, Invitrogen, and Patheon drive more than $40 billion in annual sales, and the company sends its products and provides services to many clinical and research laboratories throughout the world. Since 2020, Thermo Fisher Scientific has also been working with pharmaceutical companies to provide testing kits and other COVID-19 solutions.
As the company expands into new areas and grows its existing product line, Williams leverages her unique background to act as an interpreter between research and development teams, product managers, and company leadership. “I’m trained in science and law, which means I can understand the nuances and intricacies of what we do as a company to develop products and how we then market and bring those products to the public,” she says.
Additionally, Williams’s training in public administration and health policy helps her understand the intricacies related to a global pandemic response and work with commercial partners to address COVID-19. Thermo Fisher Scientific has produced diagnostic tests, in-air surveillance machines, COVID treatments, and other solutions for users in corporate, healthcare, and municipal settings. Williams and her trademark team regularly work behind the scenes to quickly get appropriate legal protections in place as the company pursues these new endeavors at scale.
A diverse résumé gives Williams the ability to contribute to the business, and she’s finding new ways to get involved. “A company’s IP portfolio, including its trademarks, copyrights, and patents, can add significant value and should help guide the strategy for any organization,” she says.
Thermo Fisher’s trademarks team consists of several attorneys and paralegals who work together with brand protection providers and outside counsel to accomplish what other companies do with much larger teams. The set-up affords each person involved a greater opportunity to learn and develop new skills as they encounter unique situations. Williams, who benefited from dedicated mentors early in her career, looks to invest in the company’s more junior professionals.
In late 2021, Thermo Fisher completed the acquisition of PPD, Inc., a global company that supplies clinical research services to biotech and biopharma industries. The move signals a more concentrated focus on services. Williams is pivoting her team with the company and changing her trademark strategy in response.
With the deal complete, Thermo Fisher entered 2022 as a global company with comprehensive services that work together to improve outcomes and keep patients safe. Moving forward, the company will continue its pursuit of innovative solutions, and Williams and her team will do their part to protect Thermo Fisher Scientific’s trademarks and copyrights in the process.
“Kenya Williams, and the entire Thermo Fisher team, has been a pleasure to work with to solve their brand protection issues—transparent dialogue and clear directives empower the Appdetex team to quickly take action against bad actors who were taking advantage of Thermo Fisher‘s brands.”
–Colby Hall, Customer Success Manager