Pfizer and BioNTech asked a US government tribunal on Monday to cancel patents on COVID-19 vaccine technology that rival Moderna has accused the companies of infringing.
Pfizer and its German partner told the US Patent Office's Patent Trial and Appeal Board that the two Moderna patents are "unimaginably broad" and cover a "basic idea that was known long before" their invention date of 2015.
Representatives for Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filings.
Pfizer said in a statement on Monday that it and BioNTech's vaccine was "based on BioNTech's proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer," and that they remain confident in their intellectual property.
Pfizer and BioNTech have separately challenged the two patents and a third related Moderna patent in court in an ongoing Massachusetts federal lawsuit that Moderna filed against them last year.
Moderna in the lawsuit accused Pfizer and BioNTech of violating its patent rights in messenger-RNA vaccine technology. The case is one of several that have been brought by biotech companies seeking patent royalties from Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech's blockbuster COVID-19 vaccines.
Pfizer earned $37.8 billion from sales of its COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty last year, while Moderna made $18.4 billion from its vaccine Spikevax.
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board hears challenges to patent validity based on "prior art" that challengers say disclosed the inventions before they were patented. Defendants frequently turn to the board as an alternative path to fend off patent infringement claims.
Pfizer and BioNTech said in their board petitions that scientists discovered that mRNA could be used for vaccines as early as 1990. They argued that Moderna's patents were invalid based on separate patent applications and other publications from as early as 2004.
The cases are BioNTech SE v. ModernaTX Inc, Patent Trial and Appeal Board, Nos. IPR2023-01358 and IPR2023-01359.