Moderna sues Pfizer, BioNTech over COVID vaccine, alleges patent infringement

Moderna believes Pfizer, BioNTech unlawfully copied its technology

Moderna announced on Friday that it is suing Pfizer and BioNTech over patent infringement in the development of the first COVID-19 vaccine approved in the U.S. 

The company said it believes that the vaccine infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 "covering Moderna's foundational mRNA technology," including two "key features" that were critical to the success of mRNA vaccines.

It said that neither of the rival companies had Moderna's level of experience with developing mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases when the pandemic emerged and that "they knowingly followed Moderna's lead in developing their own vaccine."

"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," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. "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."


The lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany.

Moderna said that it pledged not to enforce COVID-related patents in October 2020, updating its pledge in March of this year. 

A shot of the Moderna vaccine

A health worker administers a dose of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Norristown Public Health Center in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke / AP Newsroom)

"It made clear that while it would never enforce its patents for any COVID-19 vaccine used in the 92 low- and middle-income countries in the GAVI COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC 92), Moderna expected companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights and would consider a commercially reasonable license should they request one for other markets," the company said in a press release.

Pfizer and BioNTech, according to Moderna, have "failed" in this regard.


Behrouz Mehri/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Test tubes are seen in front of displayed Pfizer and BioNTech logos in this illustration taken, May 21, 2021.  (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo / Reuters)

"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 AMC 92 countries, 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."

Vaccine COVID

A pharmacist holds a vial of the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in West Haven, Connecticut, U.S., February 17, 2021.  (REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo / Reuters)

Moderna said it is not seeking to remove the companies' Comirnaty vaccine from the market and is not asking for an injunction to prevent its future sale. 

It is also not seeking damages related to Pfizer's sales to AMC 92 countries, or damages for Pfizer's sales where the U.S. government would be responsible for any damages and is not seeking damages for activities occurring before March 8, 2022.


Pfizer told FOX Business that it had not been served and was unable to comment at the time of reporting. 

BioNTech issued a statement stating it will vigorously defend against all allegations of patent infringement, but noted it would not comment on its legal strategy.

"BioNTech also values and respects valid and enforceable intellectual property rights of others and remains confident in its intellectual property."