Moderna blasts Pfizer counterclaims in COVID-19 vaccine patent lawsuit

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
  • Moderna sued Pfizer, BioNTech for violating mRNA patents
  • Calls companies' response an attempt to 'distract' from the issues

(Reuters) - Moderna Inc fired back at counterclaims by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE in a U.S. lawsuit over COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, arguing that Pfizer and BioNTech were "clearly aided" by Moderna's technology in developing their shot.

Moderna said Pfizer and BioNTech copied its innovations and called their argument that its patented technology was pioneered by other scientists an attempt to "distract from the issues in this case."

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna sued Pfizer and BioNTech in August, accusing the companies of infringing three patents related to messenger RNA (mRNA).

Moderna asked for an undisclosed amount of money damages from Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines sold since March. Pfizer's vaccine made over $26.4 billion for the New York-based company in the first nine months of 2022, while Moderna sold over $13.5 billion worth of its vaccine over the same period.

Pfizer and BioNTech responded earlier this month that they developed their vaccine independently and that it does not infringe Moderna's patents. They also said that Moderna's patents were invalid, that it downplayed contributions by other scientists to technology it said it invented, and that it waived its right to bring the lawsuit when it pledged not to sue other COVID-19 vaccine makers during the pandemic.

A Pfizer spokesperson on Thursday said Pfizer and BioNTech are confident in their intellectual property and Pfizer will "vigorously defend" against Moderna's claims.

A spokesperson for Moderna declined to comment beyond the text of the Wednesday filing.

"No inventor acts in a vacuum, and great leaps in science and medicine often result from the innovations of multiple parties," Moderna's filing said. "But Moderna's inventions are critical contributions that are appropriately protected by patents Moderna earned through the creative and persevering work of its scientists."

The company also said Pfizer and BioNTech were trying to "twist" its pandemic patent pledge.

"Now that vaccine supply is no longer a barrier to access in the United States and elsewhere, Moderna expects others will not continue to profit from their unlicensed use of Moderna's patented inventions, as Pfizer and BioNTech have continued to do," Moderna said.

The case is ModernaTX Inc v. Pfizer Inc, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, No. 1:22-cv-11378.

For Moderna: William Lee, Amy Wigmore, Emily Whelan, Kevin Prussia and Andrew Danford of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr

For Pfizer: Thomas Selby and Stanley Fisher of Williams & Connolly

For BioNTech: Bruce Wexler, Eric Dittman and Young Park of Paul Hastings

Read more:

Pfizer, BioNTech countersue Moderna over COVID-19 vaccine patents

Moderna sues Pfizer/BioNTech for patent infringement over COVID vaccine

Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com