Pfizer wins pause on Moderna’s COVID-19 patent lawsuit

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Moderna’s (MRNA.O), opens new tab patent lawsuit claiming Pfizer (PFE.N), opens new tab and BioNTech (22UAy.DE), opens new tab copied its COVID-19 vaccine technology will be put on hold while the U.S. Patent Office determines whether two of the three Moderna patents at issue are valid, a Massachusetts federal court said on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns stayed the closely watched case over Moderna’s objections after determining that the Patent Office’s rulings would “simplify” the patent-infringement lawsuit, according to an entry on the court’s docket.

A Moderna spokesperson said in a statement that the company was disappointed with the pause but “continues to believe in the strength and validity of its patents.” Representatives for Pfizer and BioNTech did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Moderna accused Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine of violating its patent rights in messenger-RNA technology in a 2022 lawsuit. The case is one of several brought by biotech companies seeking patent royalties from the blockbuster COVID-19 vaccines.

Moderna earned $6.7 billion in revenue from its vaccine Spikevax last year, while Pfizer made $11.2 billion from sales of its vaccine Comirnaty. Sales of both vaccines declined significantly last year from 2022.

Defendants frequently turn to the U.S. Patent Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which reconsiders the validity of patents issued by the office, as an alternative path to fend off infringement claims. Pfizer and BioNTech asked the board to review two Moderna patents last year, arguing they were “unimaginably broad” and cover a “basic idea that was known long before” their invention date of 2015.

The board agreed to review both patents last month. Review proceedings generally last between one year and 18 months, and Pfizer asked the Massachusetts court to pause Moderna’s infringement case during the office proceedings.

Moderna opposed Pfizer’s request, arguing a stay would be “highly prejudicial” and unnecessarily delay an infringement trial that Stearns has said could be held in autumn or early winter.

Stearns granted Pfizer’s request on Friday. The judge said that the board review would streamline the infringement case and that a pause would not hurt Moderna financially or affect its ability to present evidence at trial.

The case is ModernaTX Inc v. Pfizer Inc, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, 1:22-cv-11378.

For Moderna: William Lee, Emily Whelan, Kevin Prussia, Andrew Danford and Amy Wigmore of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr

For Pfizer: Thomas Selby, Stan Fisher and Kathryn Kayali of Williams & Connolly

For BioNTech: Bruce Wexler, Eric Dittmann, Young Park and Ashley Mays-Williams of Paul Hastings

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