Pharmaceutical and biotech company Moderna has filed an explosive patent infringement lawsuit against Pfizer and BioNTech over the mRNA technology behind the COVI-19 vaccine in the United States and Germany.
U.S. law firm Wilmer Culter Pickering Hale and Dorr is representing Moderna, and Paul Hastings is representing BioNTech.
Wilmer has previously represented Moderna in patent litigation, but Wilmer partner Bill Lee, the lead lawyer on the complaint filed in Massachusetts federal court Friday, has a history representing Pfizer. In 2013, Lee, a former co-managing partner at Wilmer, led Pfizer to a $2.15 billion patent infringement settlement with generic drug makers.
Moderna announced it is suing Pfizer and BioNTech in both Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany, contending that their COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering its own mRNA technology.
“We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the decade preceding the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.
Wilmer has previously defended Moderna against patent litigation from Arbutus Biopharma Corp. over two drug-delivery patents involved in COVID vaccines.
Moderna had pledged in October 2020 not to enforce its COVID-19-related patents while the pandemic continued. But this March, when vaccine supply no longer stood in the way of access in many parts of the world, the company updated its pledge, making clear it would not enforce patents for any COVID-19 vaccine used in 92 low- and middle-income countries subject to a financing deal to ensure equitable access, but that it also expected companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights.
In a joint statement Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech said “we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.” The companies said they remain confident in their intellectual property supporting their vaccine “and will vigorously defend against the allegations.”
Wilmer spokesperson Molly Nunes on Friday said that Lee’s past work on behalf of Pfizer does not pose any conflicts in the current representation.
BioNTech has previously been defended by Paul Hastings in response to other infringement claims connected to COVID-19 vaccines.