Moderna is suing Pfizer and BioNTech over alleged infringement of its mRNA vaccine technology patents, the company announced today.
“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 in a statement.
Moderna said in 2020 that it would not enforce its patents during the pandemic to allow for an unhindered public health response. It’s still not planning to enforce patents in low- and middle-income countries, the company said in a statement. But it’s coming after Pfizer and BioNTech, which it said it expected to “respect its intellectual property rights.” In the filing, the company said, “Moderna refrained from asserting its patents earlier so as not to distract from efforts to bring the pandemic to an end as quickly as possible.”
The lawsuit shouldn’t have a major effect on vaccine availability — Moderna said in its statement that it’s not looking to remove the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, known commercially as Comirnaty, from the market. It’s looking for payment, said Shannon Thyme Klinger, Moderna’s chief legal officer, in the statement: “Moderna expects Pfizer and BioNTech to compensate Moderna for Comirnaty’s ongoing use of Moderna’s patented technologies.”
Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech both developed COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA. The shots introduce tiny snippets of the coronavirus’ genetic material to the body for it to create antibodies against.