Alumna entrepreneur finds success at the intersection of chemistry and law

March 2, 2016

When Katherine Kim (CSH MS ’97, JD ’04) enrolled in the Master of Science in chemistry program at DePaul, she never imagined that one day she would be the founder of a boutique law office—or that her foundation in chemistry would prKatherine1120-075high resove instrumental to her company’s success. As principal of Spark IP Law, Katherine assists start-ups with patent and trademark law, as well as IP and business strategy. “We not only mentor start-ups, but we also invest in and review start-ups for investors,” she says. “We’re involved in all stages—that’s what makes us unique.”

Katherine’s path to entrepreneurship included stops at a biotech start-up, a large pharmaceutical company and a law firm focused on litigation. “After I graduated from DePaul, I never had a problem finding a job because not only did I have experience working with the various analytical instruments used in the pharmaceutical field, but also I had co-authored multiple publications,” Katherine explains. She recalls working closely with Professor Gregory Kharas in the polymer organic chemistry lab and publishing extensively in that area of study. This experience paid off when a California-based start-up hired Katherine as a polymer chemist. When the company went under, Katherine found work as an analytical chemist and was on track to become a research scientist in organic chemistry, but she decided to return to school for a second advanced degree.

Back at DePaul, Katherine joined a cohort of students studying patent law. Even though she missed the labs and research projects that played such a central role in her first program at DePaul, Katherine followed through on law school and soon found herself working grueling hours as a novice attorney. “I decided I didn’t like law at all,” she admits. “But somebody gave me a small client, I helped them out, and I enjoyed it so much that I started trying to get other clients.” This shift ultimately allowed Katherine to find a career at the intersection of her dual degrees.

Today, Spark IP Law provides clients with various solutions paired with personal attention that smaller start-ups often need and appreciate. “It’s more than just filing patents for people,” she asserts. In fact, Spark IP Law recently expanded to include a technical advisor and a licensing expert to ensure it remains a one-stop shop for all of a start-ups business and law needs. “I’m personally involved with the start-up world at the beginning and at the end, so my strategies for these smaller companies are different based on my own experiences,” Katherine says. “Spark IP Law is just really well-rounded and really focused on helping start-ups succeed.”