Moderna Sues Pfizer Over mRNA Vaccines

    Moderna Sues Pfizer Over mRNA Vaccines
    Last updated: 3 months ago
    Image credit: AFP/Getty Images [via CNBC]


    • On Fri., Moderna said it's suing Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for allegedly copying the technology used for the first approved COVID vaccine, which they claim to have developed years before the pandemic. [1]
    • The decade-old Cambridge, Mass.-based company filed the suit in both the US District Court in Mass. and Regional Court in Dusseldorf, Germany, seeking undetermined monetary damages from the period after March 8, 2022, when it started to enforce its patent after halting it during COVID. [2]
    • Moderna said Pfizer stole two types of their intellectual property: An mRNA structure Moderna says it was the first to validate in human trials in 2015, and the second being the code for a spike protein it developed while working on a vaccine for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). [3]
    • The lawsuit says that Moderna first applied for the mRNA patents between 2010 and 2016. Pfizer and BioNTech allegedly later "copied" the invention in the development of its COVID vaccine that would compete with Moderna's vaccine. Pfizer was the first to receive emergency authorization from the FDA and Moderna a week after. [4]
    • This isn't the first COVID shot-related lawsuit to come out of the pandemic: Moderna has been sued by the US National Institutes of Health over rights to mRNA technology, and BioNTech was sued by Germany's CureVac in July. [2]
    • Moderna said it doesn't want Pfizer's vaccine removed from use and would consider a "reasonable license" for competitors to use it, adding that it's only seeking damages for the vaccine's use in wealthier countries. [5]
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    Narrative A

    Moderna publicly stated that other companies were allowed to use its technology during the pandemic, and only after Pfizer made billions more in profits is the company suing for damages. This is a surprising lawsuit, as Moderna could have easily enforced its patents from the beginning.

    Narrative B

    As the rightful owner of this mRNA technology, Moderna kindly allowed its invention to be used by other companies during the worst parts of the pandemic. However, once developing countries no longer faced issues with obtaining the vaccine, Moderna expected Pfizer to respect its patent and it has failed to do so.

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