Barnes & Thornburg expands life sciences IP practice into Ann Arbor


Ann-Arbor-based members of the life sciences patent group at Barnes and Thornburg are (l-r) patent attorney Robert Shereda, team lead attorney William Boudreaux, legal assistant Diana Schmidt, IP Technical Analyst Steven Sturlis, and attorney/Ph.D. biochemist Joshua Ney.
Photo by Cynthia Price

By Cynthia Price

Legal News

It is one thing to be at the top of your game in serving the patenting needs of what William Boudreaux calls “innovator-side pharmaceutical companies,” but quite another to be situated within a firm that can offer full services to those clients.

That was the main appeal of Barnes & Thornburg to Boudreaux and other members of the national life sciences group he has worked with for over a decade, which has now joined this national firm.

“I worked in-house with Eli Lilly in Bloomington years ago, so I’ve known about Barnes & Thornburg for many years,” says Boudreaux, who is based in Ann Arbor. “But as they’ve grown, their name has kept coming up more and more.”

Boudreaux co-leads the practice team with Allen Baum, an intellectual property attorney in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and their incorporation into B & T will result in three new offices, bringing the number to 18 locations. Barnes & Thornburg will now have a presence in the cities of both those attorneys as well as Salt Lake City, Utah.

From Boudreaux’s perspective, the move is also of great benefit to his practice team’s existing clients.

He and many of the others who worked in the life sciences patent practice of the Chicago firm Brinks, Gilson & Lione, which he chaired, had previously been in-house lawyers with pharmaceutical companies.

“At Brinks, we had a good story to tell. We had a lot of in-depth knowledge because we had walked in the shoes of our clients,” Boudreaux says. “But as we helped particularly start-up companies in the patent area, we were seeing a lot of other legal needs arise. And there were a lot of things about Barnes that really fit. We were speaking with several firms, but in the end it was because   of the firm’s philosophy.”

Boudreaux added that B & T’s “no-generics” client policy is favorable for the group because it is difficult to straddle both sides of the industry.

Boudreaux, who is originally from Louisiana, received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Louisiana State University, and his J.D. from Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center.

“I got into patent law fairly early. At age 25 I was working in the pharmaceutical industry and at 27 I was a patent attorney at a chemical company. You just learn by being there and being part of the discussions about drug development. If you’re young and you get involved in that it’s a great way to learn the process,” he says.

He worked for many years at Eli Lilly and then moved to Pfizer Inc.’s location in Ann Arbor. When the huge pharmaceutical company decided to eliminate its Ann Arbor complex, he was asked to come with them to New York City; but preferred to stay in Ann Arbor.

So in 2007, Boudreaux entered private practice; Brinks, Gilson & Lione allowed him to work from Ann Arbor, and he has stayed ever since.

Working with Boudreaux in Ann Arbor are University of Michigan Law School alumnus Joshua Ney, a litigator with a B.A. from Dartmouth College and Ph.D. from U-M; Robert Shereda, a patent agent with a Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin, in biomolecular chemistry and a U-M undergraduate degree in biochemistry; IP Technical Analyst Steve Sturlis, whose Ph.D. in chemical biology is from U-M; and legal assistant Diana Schmidt.

Boudreaux adds the far-flung nature of the practice team has not been an obstacle.

“Not a day goes by where we don’t talk with the others around the country. We’ve gotten very good at collaborating.”


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