German biotech company CureVac said Tuesday it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against rival BioNTech for work that it says contributed to the development of the BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. BioNTech said its work is original and it would “vigorously” contest the claim.
CureVac last year reported disappointing results from late-stage testing of its own COVID-19 shot. The company said it was seeking “fair compensation” from BioNTech for the alleged infringement, but it didn't cite an amount.
CureVac said it would not pursue a court injunction and doesn't “intend to take legal action that impedes the production, sale or distribution” by BioNTech and partner Pfizer of their successful Comirnaty vaccine.
Both CureVac and BioNTech have worked to develop the messenger RNA technology employed in their respective vaccines and potentially for other uses.
CureVac said it filed its suit against BioNTech and two subsidiaries at the state court in Duesseldorf. It asserted in a statement that its intellectual property portfolio “protects multiple inventions that are considered essential to the design and development of BioNTech’s SARS CoV-2 mRNA vaccine, among others.”
Those, it said, relate to the engineering of mRNA molecules, including sequence modifications to increase stability, and mRNA vaccine formulations specific to SARS CoV-2 vaccines.
BioNTech said in a statement that it values and respects valid intellectual property rights, adding that its “work is original, and we will vigorously defend it against all allegations of patent infringement.”
“However, we are aware that it is not unusual that other companies in the pharmaceutical industry, having witnessed the success of Comirnaty, are now suggesting that the vaccine potentially infringes their intellectual property rights,” it said.