Following Moderna’s announcement that it would be filing patent infringement lawsuits against Pfizer and BioNTech, the two companies have responded. In a press release BioNTech acknowledged the accusations, resolving to “vigorously defend against all allegations”. Pfizer also responded in a statement to Science, suggesting surprise at Moderna’s move.  

BioNTech emphasised that the work behind the Comirnaty vaccine is “original”. The statement, issued on 26th August 2022, suggested that the company “values and respects” intellectual property rights but “remains confident in its intellectual property”. 

“It is an unfortunate but rather regular occurrence that other companies make allegations that a successful product potentially infringes their intellectual property rights”.  

Although the company declined to comment on any legal strategy, it is clear that the stance is defensive.  

Further acknowledgement of the legal action came from Pfizer, who, as of 29th August had “not yet fully reviewed the complaint”. It suggested to Science that it was “surprised by the litigation”. Echoing BioNTech’s approach the spokesperson emphasised that they are “confident in [their] intellectual property”.  

Kevin Noonan, a biotechnology patent attorney from Chicago, described the suit as “David versus Goliath”, with Moderna assuming the role of David. He suggested that this enforcement of prior patents would open Moderna up to future attacks.  Georgetown University’s Lawrence Gostin expects Pfizer to be careful with their response, anticipating future invalidation of patents: “they’re going to have to walk a tightrope”. However, this lawsuit indicates a much deeper issue for global health. He is concerned that mRNA technology will become “more monopolistic” whereas we want “as many innovators” at the table as possible.  

For more from representatives of Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech at the World Vaccine Congress in Europe get your tickets here.