September 2, 2022
Moderna and Pfizer were both pioneers of popular COVID-19 vaccines, with Moderna even limiting enforcement of its IP rights to ensure it reached as many people as possible. However, with this policy now being rescinded in higher-income markets, the company is looking to sue competitor Pfizer.  We take a look at what commercial awareness questions may arise from this intellectual property dispute.

By Holly Porter

What Happened?

Moderna has alleged that Pfizer copied a chemical modification Moderna made following publicised human trials in 2015. Following the trials, Moderna altered synthetic mRNA molecules by adding 1-methyl to the original uridine structure. It is this structure that Moderna patented and subsequently used for the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine also used the amended uridine structure in its own Covid-19 Comirnaty vaccine. In the US federal court, it will need to be decided whether Moderna’s 1-methyl chemical modification ‘non-obvious’ to someone with ‘ordinary skill in the art’. Moderna will contend that the chemical modification would not have readily occurred to a typical biochemist and therefore marked a true innovation, while Pfizer will seek to demonstrate that this is not the case, claiming that BioNTech was working on similar technology at the same time and the development was a result of its own research.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel has commented that the lawsuit relates only to Pfizer’s infringement of patents Moderna filed between 2010-2016, and not any developments Moderna made with the National Institutes of Health across the pandemic. 


Get the Latest Commercial Awareness Updates

Sign Up to Our Newsletter and Stay Up to Date

Subscribe Now

Commercial Awareness Topics

During the pandemic, Moderna confirmed that it would not enforce its Covid-19 patents in the global effort to defeat the virus and to uphold the company’s commitment to equitable global access.  In March of this year, Moderna confirmed non-enforcement of its Covid-19-related patents for vaccines used in 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries. Outside of these countries, Moderna is seeking compensatory damages from Pfizer and BioNTech for ongoing use of its patented technologies. 

Talking points: Do you believe Moderna’s agreement to not enforce Covid-19 patents against the 92 low- and lower-middle income countries strikes a good balance against being equitable whilst also upholding a patent system that rewards and protects innovation? Do you think the US government should have offered more support or incentive for patents to be lifted in the interests of ending the pandemic? 


Loading More Content