Moderna sues Pfizer/BioNTech over COVID patent

STORY: The pharmaceutical company Moderna is suing Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for patent infringement in the development of the first COVID-19 vaccine that was approved in the United States -- alleging they copied mRNA vaccine technology that Moderna developed years before the pandemic, without permission.

The lawsuit was being filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Dusseldorf in Germany, Moderna said in a news release on Friday (August 26).

Moderna, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was an innovator in the messenger RNA vaccine technology, which teaches human cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response.

That enabled unprecedented speed in developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

An approval process that previously took years was completed in months, thanks largely to the breakthrough.

Germany-based BioNTech had also been working in this field when it partnered with the U.S. pharma giant Pfizer.

Pfizer said the company had not been served and they were unable to comment at this time.

Early in the pandemic, Moderna said it would not enforce its COVID-19 patents to help others develop their own vaccines, particularly low and middle-income countries.

But in March 2022 it said it expected companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights. It said it wouldn't seek damages for any activity before March 8, 2022.

Pfizer and BioNTech are already facing multiple lawsuits from other companies who say the partnership's vaccine infringes on their patents. They have said they will defend their patents vigorously.

Moderna has also been sued for patent infringement in the United States and has an ongoing dispute with the U.S. National Institutes of Health over rights to mRNA technology.