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August 26, 2022

Why Moderna is suing Pfizer and BioNTech

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    Moderna on Friday announced it is filing lawsuits against Pfizer and BioNTech, alleging the companies' Covid-19 vaccine infringes on intellectual property owned by Moderna.

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    Lawsuit details

    The lawsuits—which are being filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and in the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany—allege that Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine "infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering Moderna's foundational mRNA technology."

    Moderna alleges two specific patent infringements. First, the company says the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has "the same exact mRNA chemical modification to its vaccine" as Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine.

    Second, Moderna alleges that Pfizer and BioNTech "copied Moderna's approach to encode for the full-length spike protein in a lipid nanoparticle formulation for a coronavirus." According to Moderna, it first developed that approach for a vaccine for the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

    "We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna's inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission," said Shannon Thyme Klinger, Moderna's chief legal officer.

    Moderna said it's not seeking an injunction to require Pfizer and BioNTech to remove their vaccine from the market. However, it is instead seeking monetary damages for vaccine sales that occurred after March 8, 2022, when the company said it expected other vaccine developers to respect its patents aside from developers located in 92 low- and middle-income countries.

    According to the Washington Post, patent lawsuits typically take years and often end up in federal appeals courts—meaning it could be years before Moderna's dispute with Pfizer-BioNTech is resolved.

    "We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the decade preceding the Covid-19 pandemic," said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.

    Jerica Pitts, a spokesperson for Pfizer, said the company has yet to be served with the lawsuit, so it was "unable to comment at this time." (Moderna release, 8/26; Walker, Wall Street Journal, 8/26; Gross/Robbins, New York Times, 8/26; Rowland, Washington Post, 8/26)

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