August 29, 2022

Moderna sues Pfizer and BioNTech for COVID-19 vaccine patent infringement

By: Lauren McCaffrey

Editor's Note

On Friday, August 26, the vaccine manufacturer Moderna sued Pfizer and the German drugmaker BioNTech, accusing its competitors of copying technology that Moderna had developed prior to the pandemic, The New York Times August 26 reports. The patent infringement claims could result in a protracted and expensive legal battle between the companies.

According to experts, regardless of its outcome, Moderna’s litigation was unlikely to impede access to COVID-19 vaccines or halt mRNA product development. However, the outcome may determine which company will hold more powerful and profitable medical technology.

Prior to the pandemic, Moderna reportedly had invested billions of dollars to work on technology for other infectious diseases. Moderna claims that Pfizer and BioNTech copied pivotal features of this patented technology.

“The battle really is who is going to be, in the future, the go-to source that other companies may have to license from,” said an expert on pharmaceutical policy and law at Harvard Medical School, Ameet Sarpatwari. Moderna “Establishing their ownership and their dominance in this space is going to set the stage for future royalties that they’re going to get.”

Although a spokesman for Moderna said that the company plans to leave the amount of the damages for the court to decide, Jacob S. Sherkow, an expert on biotechnology patent law at the University of Illinois College of Law, said that if Moderna’s litigation succeeded, he estimates that Pfizer might be forced to pay tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Based on the history of disputes over intellectual property between similar companies, analysts at the investment bank SVB Securities “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.”


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