Pfizer, BioNTech seek administrative review of 2 Moderna patents at heart of mRNA vaccine litigation

As Moderna’s COVID vaccine patent lawsuits wind their way through courts around the globe, Pfizer and BioNTech contend their rival is trying to monopolize the entire mRNA field.

In the latest chapter of the legal saga, Pfizer and BioNTech are pressing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to invalidate a pair of Moderna patents tied to mRNA vaccine production.

Monday, the partners filed dual petitions seeking inter partes reviews at the patent office’s administrative tribunal. Pfizer and BioNTech’s goal is to invalidate two Moderna patents at the heart of the legal proceedings between the rival mRNA vaccine makers.

An inter partes review is an administrative trial proceeding conducted at the PTO’s Patent Trial and Appeals Board to review the validity of claims in a patent. The process takes place outside the federal court system.

Moderna is attempting to “coopt an entire field of mRNA technology,” Pfizer and BioNTech argued in the petitions filed Monday.

They hold that Moderna obtained the patents at issue during the pandemic and secured “unimaginably broad claims” related to mRNA vaccines.

One patent, the so-called ‘127 patent, concerns technologies focused on the administration of an mRNA vaccine. The other, patent ‘600, refers to the shots’ composition. 

A Moderna spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the new inter partes review filings.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s inter partes review bid is the latest move in a complex web of litigation. The kerfuffle began last August, when Moderna fired its initial salvo in the U.S. and Germany. Moderna has also sued Pfizer and BioNTech in the Netherlands, the U.K., Ireland and Belgium.

Moderna has stated its goal isn’t to purge Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine from the market, nor is it targeting the partners’ sales in low- and middle-income countries. What Moderna is seeking, however, is compensation and damages to make up for alleged infringement of patents tied to lipid nanoparticle delivery, spike protein encoding and more.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have hardly played sitting duck. In December, the companies parried Moderna’s initial lawsuits with a countersuit in the U.S., demanding a jury trial and attempting to refute their competitor’s infringement claims.

Pfizer and BioNTech have argued Moderna is stretching its “already overbroad” and “invalid” patents in a bid to “claim credit for others’ work.” 

Meanwhile, drugmakers writ large have railed against the U.S. PTO’s inter partes review system, calling the process unconstitutional.

But in 2018, the Supreme Court disagreed. In a 7-2 vote that year, the U.S. high court held that the system is constitutional.