• Moderna is suing competing vaccine maker, Pfizer, and partner company BioNTech.
  • Moderna alleges that Pfizer infringed on patents for its mRNA vaccine technology.
  • Moderna said it developed the technology before the pandemic.

Moderna on Friday filed a lawsuit against vaccine maker, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, alleging the pharmaceutical companies copied its technology for COVID-19 vaccines. 

Moderna in a news release accused Pfizer of infringing on its patents for its mRNA technology filed between 2010 and 2016 — long before the coronavirus developed in 2019. Prior to the pandemic, Moderna had never sold a product.

"We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna's inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission,' Moderna's top lawyer, Shannon Thyme Klinger, said in the release. 

Moderna said it was not seeking to remove Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from the market and only seeking monetary damages for activities occurring after March 8, 2022.

A Pfizer spokesperson told Insider the company had not yet been served the lawsuit and was therefore unable to comment.

The lawsuit will be filed in Massachusetts federal court as well as in Germany, Moderna said. 

Moderna previously said it would not enforce patent infringements for its COVID-19 vaccine. In 2020, company President Stephen Hoge said Moderna is "quite studiously not asserting infringement." More recently, the company said it would "never" enforce its coronavirus vaccine patents in low and middle-income countries, but signalled it might enforce its intellectual property rights against major drug companies.

"If people have used, or are using our technology to make a vaccine, I don't understand why, once we're in an endemic setting when there's plenty of vaccine and there's no issue to supply vaccines, why we should not get rewarded for the things we invented," Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in March.

Last year, the Biden Administration said it supported plans from the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

"This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in 2021. "The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines."

Patent lawsuits are fairly common in the pharmaceutical industry. Moderna is already facing a lawsuit over its mRNA technology from the US National Institutes of Health. Meanwhile, both Pfizer and BioNTech have also been sued by outside drug companies for patent infringements related to their COVID-19 vaccines.

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