Moderna Sues Pfizer Over COVID Vaccine

Company sues rival, alleging patent infringement on mRNA technology
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2022 8:49 AM CDT
Moderna Sues Pfizer Over COVID Vaccine
A health worker administers a dose of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic in Norristown, Pa.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The biggest names in COVID vaccines are now embroiled in a legal fight. Moderna sued Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Friday, alleging patent infringement over the technology used to make the COVID shots, reports the Verge. Moderna accused its rivals of essentially stealing the mRNA technology it developed before the pandemic came into play, citing patents it filed between 2010 and 2016.

"We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna’s inventions" in order to make their Comirnaty vaccine, "and they have continued to use them without permission," says a company news release. Lawsuits were filed in US District Court in Massachusetts and in Germany. A spokesperson for Pfizer says the company hasn't yet been served and declined to comment.

  • No impact on shots: The suit won't affect the availability of COVID shots of either vaccine. Moderna is not seeking to have Pfizer's vaccine pulled from the market, notes the New York Times. Instead, it is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
  • Context: Patent lawsuits such as this one are relatively common in the field of biotech, per the Washington Post, and this one could take three to five years to play out. However, the stakes go beyond COVID, given the promise of future mRNA vaccines on everything from the flu to HIV. The term mRNA is short for messenger RNA, which the Times describes "as the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery."
  • From Moderna's CEO: "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 Stéphane Bancel.
  • A defense: While neither Pfizer nor BioNTech is commenting, the Post notes that BioNTech insisted in another patent lawsuit over the COVID vaccine (brought by CureVac) that its “work is original, and we will vigorously defend it against all allegations of patent infringement.”
(Read more Moderna stories.)

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