Moderna Pharmaceuticals and BioNTech, two prominent pharmaceutical companies involved in the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, find themselves embroiled in a legal dispute over patent infringement. The conflict spans multiple countries, including Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Ireland. Moderna has filed lawsuits against BioNTech, alleging that the latter has copied key features of Moderna’s patented mRNA vaccine technologies, which have contributed to the success of mRNA vaccines.
Moderna’s two patents in question are EP 3 590 949 B1 and EP 3 718 565 B1. The former protects “ribonucleic acids containing n1-methyl-pseudouracils and uses thereof,” while the latter covers the “betacoronavirus mRNA-LNP vaccine.” Both patents pertain to mRNA vaccines, albeit with different applications. EP 949 focuses on modified mRNA, while EP 565 relates to an improved substance for the prevention of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases.
While Moderna has clarified that it does not seek to remove BioNTech’s Comirnaty brand COVID-19 vaccine from the market, it is requesting damages for all sales made by its competitors after March 8, 2022. Moderna claims that Pfizer, BioNTech’s partner, and BioNTech were not at the same level of mRNA vaccine development as Moderna before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oppositions against Moderna’s patents have also come from other pharmaceutical companies, including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and strawman opponents. The European Patent Office’s Opposition Division has already revoked EP 565 due to added matter, although it remains uncertain whether Moderna will appeal this decision. In Germany, the infringement proceedings for patent EP 565 are currently suspended.
Moderna has changed legal representation throughout the duration of the proceedings. Initially represented by Mathys & Squire, the firm was later taken over by Hoffmann Eitle. London-based patent attorney David Miller, who filed the EP 565, began the opposition proceedings and continued to represent Moderna after joining Hoffmann Eitle as a partner. In infringement proceedings across Europe, Moderna has sought legal advice from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
For BioNTech, the Munich-based patent attorney firm Zwicker Schnappauf initiated the opposition against EP 565, with Sebastian Höpfner leading the charge. In parallel infringement proceedings, BioNTech’s legal team is collaborating with patent litigators from Hoyng ROKH Monegier.
This legal battle showcases the fierce competition between pharmaceutical companies in the race to develop and market effective COVID-19 vaccines. As the proceedings continue, it remains to be seen how the courts will ultimately resolve the disputes over these crucial patents.
1. What are the patents in question for Moderna and BioNTech?
Moderna’s patents EP 3 590 949 B1 and EP 3 718 565 B1 are at the center of the legal battle. EP 949 protects modified mRNA, while EP 565 covers an improved mRNA vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 and respiratory diseases.
2. What is Moderna seeking in the lawsuit against BioNTech?
Moderna is not seeking the removal of BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine from the market. However, they are requesting damages for all sales made by BioNTech and Pfizer after March 8, 2022.
3. Who else is opposing Moderna’s patents?
Other pharmaceutical companies, including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and several strawman opponents, have filed oppositions against Moderna’s patents.
4. Has any of the patents been revoked?
Yes, the European Patent Office’s Opposition Division has revoked EP 3 718 565 B1 due to added matter. It is currently unclear if Moderna will appeal this decision.
5. Who are the legal representatives for Moderna, BioNTech, and other involved companies?
Hoffmann Eitle represents Moderna, while Zwicker Schnappauf & Partner represents BioNTech. Other legal advisors include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hoyng ROKH Monegier, df-mp for Pfizer, and Carpmaels & Ransford for Sanofi.