Médecins du Monde challenges patents on COVID-19 vaccine

Médecins du Monde (MdM), a global medical humanitarian organization, has exposed Pfizer/BioNTechs’s patent abuse on the COVID-19 vaccine by challenging the two patent applications filed by BioNTech at the European Patent Office (EPO).

The organization took legal measures and submitted third party observations on the basis of lack of inventive step, essential criteria to be met before granting a patent. The objective of the legal action was to avoid undue privatization of important vaccine production knowledge that would prevent other companies from producing other vaccines. 

“BioNTech’s overbroad scope of patent claims would cover a wide range of technologies, potentially creating an unjustified monopoly that would hinder the production of other COVID-19 vaccines. MdM demonstrated that much of what was included in the two patent applications derives from already existing knowledge, priorly generated by publicly funded research projects. It simply didn’t make any sense to allow a private company to have that kind of patent over something that was a result of public investments” said Chloé Forette, Campaign coordinator from MdM.

EPO examiners also raised similar concerns on the patentability of BioNTech’s claims and concluded that there was no inventive step due to the broad scope of claims proposed in the filed patent application. This forced BioNTech to amend its patent application and massively reduce its intentions to a specific lipid, relinquishing its previous ambitions of a large monopoly. Such change could potentially enable wider opportunities for new manufacturers of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, greatly needed in light of the high and unmet global demands.

This is an important step: if a third party uses the same RNA in a lipid nanoparticle but does not use this particular lipid, it is no longer within the scope of the patent.” said Dr Carine Rolland, President of MdM-France, adding “this opens the possibility for manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines at affordable prices around the world”.