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Moderna Sues Pfizer, Claiming Patent Infringement Over Covid-19 Vaccines

Vaccine manufacturer Moderna has sued Pfizer and their development partner, BioNTech, claiming that their Covid-19 vaccine copied technology that Moderna had developed for years prior to the pandemic. Both Covid Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were authorized by the FDA and began distribution across the country within a week of each other in December 2020.

Moderna is seeking damages that could potentially total in the tens of millions in royalties and lost profits incurred since March. However, the company said they would not pursue damages for sales to the world's poorest countries or against the U.S. government. Moderna also said that given the need to access the vaccines, they were not seeking to remove Pfizer’s vaccine from the market, nor are they asking for an injunction to prevent its future sale.

In two lawsuits, one in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, where Moderna is based, and the other in Germany, headquarters for BioNTech, Moderna claims that three patents they filed between 2011 and 2016 related to its mRNA technology were infringed. Messenger RNA is the genetic molecule that helps make protein. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use technology to command cells to make tiny pieces of viruses that strengthen the immune system to protect against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. However, Moderna had been working on the technology and invested billions of dollars in its development for other infectious diseases years before Covid as we know it emerged.

The simultaneous suits claim that Pfizer and BioNTech copied crucial features of its patented technology, including making the same chemical modification to their mRNA and targeting the same type of protein that Moderna scientists have pioneered.

Moderna is being represented by the powerful WilmerHale and their lead counsel is veteran patent litigator, William Lee. Analysts at investment bank SVB Securities noted to their investors that the history of disputes over intellectual property between similar companies “suggests the most likely outcome would be modest royalties paid by both companies, with little net favorable financial impact for anyone but the law firms involved.”

📸: The New York Times; Shutterstock

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