Here’s Why Moderna Just Filed a Lawsuit Against Pfizer/BioNTech


Source: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis.


By Leah Barkoukis

Moderna filed a lawsuit on Friday against competitors Pfizer and BioNTech, alleging copyright infringement over the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

The company claims its competitors’ Comirnaty vaccine “unlawfully infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering Moderna’s foundational mRNA technology,” according to a press release.

“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 Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel. “This foundational platform, which we began building in 2010, along with our patented work on coronaviruses in 2015 and 2016, enabled us to produce a safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccine in record time after the pandemic struck.”

Moderna said because of its commitment to ensuring global access to vaccines, it decided against pursuing legal action during the height of the pandemic. As of March 2022, however, when the fight against COVID-19 “entered a new phase” and vaccine availability was no longer an issue in many parts of the world, its pledge had been updated.

“We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna’s inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission,” said Moderna Chief Legal Officer Shannon Thyme Klinger. “Outside of the [92 low and middle-income countries in the GAVI COVAX Advance Market Commitment], where vaccine supply is no longer a barrier to access, Moderna expects Pfizer and BioNTech to compensate Moderna for Comirnaty®’s ongoing use of Moderna’s patented technologies. Our mission to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients by delivering on the promise of mRNA science cannot be achieved without a patent system that rewards and protects innovation.”

The company said it is not looking to take Comirnaty off the market, nor is it seeking an injunction to stop future sales. Furthermore, Moderna is not seeking damages for activities prior to March 8, 2022.

A Pfizer spokesperson told Reuters the company was “surprised” by the legal challenge.

“Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint but we are surprised by the litigation given the COVID-19 vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.”