Dispute between vaccine developers: Federal Court declares Curevac’s corona vaccine patent invalid

The Federal Patent Court has declared a basic patent on a corona vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Curevac from Tübingen invalid. On Tuesday, the court upheld the lawsuit filed by Mainz competitor Biontech against Curevac. The shares of the Tübingen company subsequently lost a good third of their value.

Curevac announced that it would appeal to the Federal Court of Justice. The company applied for a contested patent in 2007 and was granted it by the European Patent Office for 20 countries in 2010. It is a method to overcome the disadvantages of vaccines based on mRNA, a messenger molecule, and increase their effectiveness.

The Federal Patent Court declared it invalid in Germany. Other national patent courts often follow the decisions of the Munich judges.

The conflict between the companies has been going on for a long time

The Munich procedure is only part of the dispute between the two companies, but it is very crucial. Curevac filed a suit for damages against Biontech and its American partner Pfizer in the Düsseldorf regional court in July 2022 for alleged infringement of several of its patents. Curevac demands “fair compensation” for the violation of its intellectual property rights, which Biontech and Pfizer allegedly used in the successful production of their corona vaccine.

The dispute involves a lot of money: Biontech made a profit of 10.3 billion euros in 2021, and the net result in 2022 was 9.4 billion euros.

In return, Biontech sued the Federal Patent Court in Munich and successfully obtained the invalidation of a fundamental patent of Curevac. This is not an invention. The Düsseldorf regional court postponed the proceedings until December 28 pending the decision of the federal judges.

A man pipettes a blue liquid in a laboratory of the biopharmaceutical company Curevac.

© dpa/Sebastian Gollnow

Curevac failed to bring a coronavirus vaccine to market in time. The company, however, claims to have developed core technologies that have made a significant contribution to the development of effective vaccines against Covid-19: it was “a pioneer in the discovery of the potential of mRNA for the treatment of diseases and the production of vaccines.”

Biontech is happy with the decision

Biontech welcomed the decision of the Federal Patent Court. He specifies “that our research work is original”. Biontech developed the world’s first approved Covid-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, in 2020. This helped vaccinate more than a billion people worldwide.

After the outbreak of the corona pandemic in 2020, the German state also invested in Curevac. However, the company which has a good thousand employees has not been able to produce a vaccine against the coronavirus. It does not yet have a commercially approved product and is in the red.

According to Curevac, the dispute with Biontech and Pfizer in Germany concerns eight patents. In the United States, where a large part of the corona vaccine was produced, there are ten patents.

Meanwhile, the market for Covid-19 vaccines has collapsed. Biontech is also struggling with declining sales. Its American partner Pfizer had to write off billions on its stocks and fell into the red in the last quarter. The American manufacturer Moderna, which is also launching a vaccine against the coronavirus, reported a loss of several billions in the third quarter. (dpa)

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