Moderna Sues Rival COVID-19 Vaccine Makers Pfizer and BioNTech

Moderna has said it is suing rival vaccine maker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, citing infringement on its patents in developing the first COVID-19 vaccine approved in the United States, alleging they copied technology that Moderna developed years before the pandemic.

The lawsuits set up a high-stakes showdown between the leading manufacturers of COVID-19 shots that are a key tool in the fight against the disease. “Moderna believes that Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty infringes patents Moderna filed between 2010 and 2016 covering Moderna’s foundational mRNA technology,” the US-based biotech firm said in a statement on Friday.

“Pfizer and BioNTech copied this technology, without Moderna’s permission, to make Comirnaty,” Moderna said. Pfizer and BioNTech said they have not fully reviewed the complaint, but expressed surprise over the litigation.

“The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology,” a statement said. “We will vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit.” When the news broke, Pfizer shares fell nearly 1 percent, while BioNTech US-listed shares were down about 1.5 percent and Moderna shares slipped 1.7 percent.

The lawsuit, which seeks undetermined monetary damages, was filed in the US District Court in the state of Massachusetts. Moderna said the lawsuit would also be filed in the Regional Court of Dusseldorf in Germany.

Just a decade old, Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had been an innovator in the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology that enabled unprecedented speed in developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

The mRNA technology used in the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots differs from that in traditional vaccines, which rely on injecting weakened or dead forms of a virus to allow the immune system to recognize it and build antibodies.

Instead, mRNA vaccines deliver instructions to cells to build a harmless piece of the spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. After creating this spike protein, cells can recognize and fight the real virus, hailed as a major advancement in the development of vaccines.

Germany-based BioNTech had also been working in this field when it partnered with the US pharma giant Pfizer.

Lawsuits can take years to resolve

Moderna said it had begun building up the technology in 2010 and patented work on coronaviruses in 2015 and 2016, which allowed for the rollout of its shots in “record time” after the pandemic struck.

The virus has killed at least 6.48 million people worldwide since 2020 and made nearly 600 million ill, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. In addition to death and suffering, the disease has led to a reshaping of life ranging from a change in norms on working from home to a scrambling of supply chains and workforces.

Moderna said it pledged in October 2020 not to enforce its COVID-19-related patents while the pandemic continued, but less than two years later changed that stance as the fight shifted gears.“Moderna expected companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its intellectual property rights and would consider a commercially reasonable licence should they request one for other markets,” it said.

“Pfizer and BioNTech have failed to do so,” the firm added. Pfizer and BioNTech are already facing multiple lawsuits from other companies which say the partnership’s vaccine infringes on their patents. Germany’s CureVac, for instance, also filed a lawsuit against BioNTech in Germany in July. BioNTech responded in a statement that its work was original.

Moderna has also been sued for patent infringement in the US and has an ongoing dispute with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) over rights to mRNA technology. These types of lawsuits are not unheard of in the pharmaceutical industry, where patents can be worth billions of dollars, and can take years to resolve.

Source: Moderna sues rival COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

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BRUSSELS— Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG -0.88% Google started its appeal Monday to overturn a $5 billion antitrust fine imposed by the European Union, contending that its Android operating system for mobile devices has boosted competition rather than foreclosing it.

The tech giant presented oral arguments in Luxembourg before the EU’s second-highest court, in its appeal to overturn the 2018 decision from the bloc’s antitrust enforcer. In that case, EU authorities found Google had illegally abused the market power of Android to push companies that manufacture and distribute Android phones into agreements aimed at entrenching and expanding the dominance of the Google search engine on mobile devices.

That decision was the largest of three antitrust fines totaling more than $9 billion that the EU has levied against Google in the past half decade. It also ordered changes to the distribution agreements buttressing one of the company’s biggest growth engines: search ads on mobile phones.

“Android has created more choice for everyone, not less,” a Google spokeswoman said. “This case isn’t supported by the facts or the law.”

A verdict isn’t expected for months, and it can be appealed to the EU’s top court, the Court of Justice. Still, the litigation is a new test for the EU’s competition and digital-policy chief, Margrethe Vestager, who already faces a pending appeal of an earlier decision against Google’s alleged abuse of the dominance of its search engine to favor its online-shopping ads.

Ms. Vestager has since opened a new antitrust probe into Google’s ad-tech business, along with a wave of cases exploring whether companies including Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. abuse their dominance to drive out smaller rivals. The companies deny wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission, the bloc’s top antitrust regulator, declined to comment.

While the appeal is under way, Google has had to comply with the decision, offering all users of new Android phones in the EU a choice screen of alternative search engines. But so far Google’s market share for search on mobile phones has remained relatively stable, according to Statcounter.

At issue in the hearing this week is whether Google’s Android is indeed dominant, as European regulators argue, and whether Google’s distribution deals for the operating system and its Google Play app store for Android were anticompetitive.

The Commission has argued that Google used those agreements to block the rise of potential competitors and secure the dominance of its cash cow search engine on mobile phones—an outcome far from assured at the time.

The Commission found Google had abused its control of the Android operating system by forcing phone makers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser if they also wanted to include Google’s Play store for apps, by far the most common way to get Android apps.

The Commission also found Google’s so-called antifragmentation agreements—deals that discourage official Android manufacturers from selling devices that run unofficial, modified versions of Android—illegally blocked the development and emergence of competing operating systems.

“Instead of an antifragmentation agreement, it should be called an anticompetition agreement,” said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer representing FairSearch, a group representing Oracle Inc. and other companies whose 2013 complaint led the Commission to open a formal case investigating Android in 2015.

Apple and Google have one of Silicon Valley’s most famous rivalries, but behind the scenes they maintain a deal worth $8 billion to $12 billion a year according to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit. Here’s how they came to depend on each other. Photo illustration: Jaden Urbi

Google argues that those analyses are flawed. It says Android devices must compete with Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and the Commission was wrong to largely exclude them from its analysis. The company argues that its antifragmentation agreements are necessary to keep Android phones compatible with apps, and aren’t a barrier to creating competing operating systems.

Google also says the allegation that it blocked competing apps is false because manufacturers typically install many rival apps on Android devices, and consumers can easily download others. The company says it has a right to recoup the money it spends developing Android, which it makes available free to manufacturers, by encouraging them to install Google Search, from which the company makes the bulk of its revenue.

Google and the Commission will be joined in this week’s arguments by nearly a dozen outside companies and trade groups that have filed their own supporting briefs in the case. Google’s supporters include the Computer & Communications Industry Association and two handset manufacturers.

Arguments on the Commission’s side will include some from German publisher groups and complainants in the case, including FairSearch.

By: Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com and Daniel Michaels at daniel.michaels@wsj.com

Source: Google Pushes to Overturn EU’s $5 Billion Antitrust Decision on Android – WSJ

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Influencer Sues Pinterest, Alleging She Cofounded The Company and Might’ve Been A Billionaire Today

A widely followed Pinterest influencer has filed a lawsuit against the company and its billionaire cofounders, saying she helped start the business but was cut out of any financial rewards.

Christine Martinez, a former Walmart executive turned online personality, says she counseled Pinterest founders Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra as they initially worked on the firm around its start in 2008. According to the lawsuit, Martinez advised the pair on many different aspects of the company, including its signature visual-bookmarking feature and the ability to create collections of images called “boards,” and helped find influencers to promote the site. She originally met Silbermann through her husband, who had lived with Silbermann while studying at Yale.

Martinez says she never had anything in writing about her status as a cofounder but expected to be compensated similar to Silbermann, Sciarra and a third cofounder, Evan Sharp. Silbermann remains Pinterest’s CEO, and Sharp works there still as its chief design and creative officer. Sciarra left Pinterest within a few years of its founding. Silbermann and Sciarra retain billion-dollar stakes in the company.

A Pinterest spokesperson dismissed Martinez’s story as “completely without merit and we will defend our position in court.” In the litigation, Martinez accused Silbermann and Sciarra of breach of implied contract, idea theft, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices.

Martinez’s allegations will likely revive questions about how Pinterest, a social network popular among women, treats its female executives. Last year, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, Françoise Brougher, sued the company, alleging gender discrimination. Pinterest settled in December for $22.5 million but only after additional comments and stories about racism and inequities at the company surfaced from other Pinterest workers, prompting a virtual staff walkout last August.

In court documents, Martinez’s attorneys say she believed she’d be rewarded after the company went public, which it did in 2019. If that is the case, it would’ve been hard to sit on the sideline recently: The company shares struggled at first but soared during last year’s coronavirus lockdown—they trade for around $55 today, roughly double from the IPO—as Pinterest saw a marked increase in users.

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I’m a senior editor at Forbes, where I cover social media, creators and internet culture. In the past, I’ve edited across Forbes magazine and Forbes.com.

Source: Influencer Sues Pinterest, Alleging She Cofounded The Company—And Might’ve Been A Billionaire Today

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