With EU agency's ruling, Moderna tallies a win in vaccine patent war against Pfizer and BioNTech

After Moderna last year suffered a loss in its heated patent fight against Pfizer and BioNTech, the mRNA drugmaker can now celebrate a win.

The European Patent Office (EPO) has opted to maintain the validity of one of Moderna’s key patents in the high-stakes dispute, which is currently playing out in Europe and beyond. The EPO ruling was delivered in a Thursday oral verdict, the Financial Times first reported.

The patent in question, referred to as the ‘949 patent, describes “ribonucleic acids containing n1-methyl-pseudouracils" and their potential uses. According to its listing with the EPO, the patent's challengers include Sanofi and GSK as well as partners Pfizer and BioNTech.

Pfizer is “disappointed” with the decision and “may appeal,” a company representative said in an emailed statement.

BioNTech, meanwhile, isn’t sweating the result. A spokesperson said the judgment “does not change our unwavering and unequivocal stance that this patent is invalid." 

“We will continue to vigorously defend our innovations against all allegations of patent infringement including this case,” the BioNTech spokesperson added.

Moderna did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

For Moderna, the outcome is a welcome result after the EPO found its other asserted patent, the ‘565 patent, invalid last year. That patent protects “respiratory virus vaccines."

While Moderna can tally a win, the larger patent war is still ongoing, with litigation spanning the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., Ireland and the Brussels Commercial Court Belgium.

The mRNA drugmaker first kicked off the legal battle in 2022 by filing lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany. Pfizer and BioNTech struck back with a scathing countersuit.

In the U.S. litigation, a Massachusetts federal judge recently granted a stay on the case to allow more time for the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to review challenges to two Moderna patents. 

Over in the Netherlands, the District Court of The Hague shot down Moderna's ‘949 patent last year due to lack of novelty, Juve Patent reported, pausing the infringement proceedings.

Even as the drugmakers work through the tangled legal web, sales for the two primary COVID-19 vaccines have come down sharply in recent years.

Moderna’s Spikevax revenue came in at $6.7 billion last year, a 64% decrease from 2022. Pfizer reported $11.2 billion in 2023 Comirnaty sales, a 70% decline.