Per a statement shared on Friday, Moderna alleged that Pfizer and BioNTech infringed upon mRNA patents filed between 2010 and 2016. The lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, where Moderna is based, and the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany, where BioNTech is based.
"Moderna believes that Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering Moderna's foundational mRNA technology," said the company in a news release shared on Friday. "This groundbreaking technology was critical to the development of Moderna's own mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax. Pfizer and BioNTech copied this technology, without Moderna's permission, to make Comirnaty."
Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, told The New York Times that these lawsuits were filed in order to "protect the innovative mRNA technology platform" that the company created and patented ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. They previously received $10 million in government funding to develop its COVID-19 vaccine, and said in 2020 that it would not enforce any of its COVID-related patents amid the continuing pandemic. As vaccine supply has improved, they walked back on that approach earlier this year. Moderna said, however, that it would not enforce its patents on lower income countries.
The company said Pfizer specifically copied two features of its patented mRNA technology. Moderna does not want Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccines removed from the market or to prevent future sales, but it is seeking profits.
"Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint but we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine was based on BioNTech's proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer," said pfizer in a statement, via CNN. "We remain confident in our intellectual property supporting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and will vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit."
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