Vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech urged a London court to revoke their rival Moderna’s patents covering an mRNA technology that is crucial in the development of Covid-19 vaccines.

The US drugmaker and its German partner began the legal battle against Moderna in the UK in September 2022, with a lawsuit in London’s High Court, seeking to revoke Moderna’s patents.

Moderna, after a few days, hit back at Pfizer and BioNTech alleging that they copied the mRNA technology it had pioneered and patented well before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

The competing lawsuits over the companies’ Covid-19 vaccines form only part of the ongoing litigation worldwide, centred around mRNA technology.

Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are simultaneously involved in legal proceedings in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US, along with the European Patent Office.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel then said: “We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the decade preceding the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This foundational platform, which we began building in 2010, along with our patented work on coronaviruses in 2015 and 2016, enabled us to produce a safe and highly effective Covid-19 vaccine in record time after the pandemic struck.

“As we work to combat health challenges moving forward, Moderna is using our mRNA technology platform to develop medicines that could treat and prevent infectious diseases like influenza and HIV, as well as autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases and rare forms of cancer.”

In October 2020, Moderna pledged not to enforce its Covid-19-related patents during the pandemic period, as part of its commitment to equitable global access.

Moderna updated its pledge in March 2022, when the collective fight against Covid-19 entered a new phase and vaccine supply was no longer a barrier to access in many parts of the world.

While it would never enforce its patents for any Covid-19 vaccine, Moderna wants companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights.

Moderna seeks damages for alleged infringement of its patents by Pfizer and BioNTech for their Comirnaty vaccine since March 2022.

The US drugmaker Pfizer made $11.2bn in sales from Comirnaty last year, while Moderna earned $6.7bn from its vaccine Spikevax, which shows that potentially huge sums are at stake.

Pfizer and BioNTech, are asking the High Court to revoke Moderna`s patents, arguing that Moderna’s developments of mRNA technology were obvious improvements on previous work.

The London lawsuits have been divided into three separate trials, with one due to consider Moderna’s 2020 pledge not to enforce its vaccine-related patents during the pandemic.