Experts have expressed concern over the Biden administration’s recent covert intervention in a private patent infringement lawsuit filed by two biotech firms against Moderna, the manufacturer of the COVID-19 vaccine, citing the potential establishment of a worrisome precedent.
In early 2022, Genevant Sciences and Arbutus Biopharma Corp. filed a lawsuit against Moderna, alleging that the latter utilized their patented technology in its COVID-19 vaccine. The two companies are seeking damages for the infringement in a federal court located in Delaware.
As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, the Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys submitted court documents last month that offered to absolve Moderna of any potential liabilities arising from a lawsuit alleging that the company did not pay licensing fees for the technology used in the development of its COVID-19 vaccine.
According to Moderna’s legal team, the development of the vaccine was a part of the federal government’s “Operation Warp Speed” initiative, and therefore any legal settlement costs should be borne by the government. The Biden DOJ’s attorneys eventually concurred with this argument, asserting that the financial responsibility should “shift” to the federal government.
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Although a judge denied the request, Moderna and the DOJ may decide to appeal the judge’s ruling. In reaction, Genevant accused Moderna of attempting to transfer responsibility for its patent infringement to American taxpayers.
According to Gregory Dolin, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, “The reason it’s problematic is because the government didn’t tell Moderna, ‘We need a vaccine to look this way.’ The government told Moderna, ‘We need a vaccine however you come along with it whether it’s an mRNA vaccine or traditional vaccine.’”
“If they did infringe the patent, if there is a licensing fee or royalty fee to be paid, it makes no sense for it to be paid by the taxpayers when Moderna gets to reap all the benefits. It seems odd that U.S. taxpayers would essentially immunize Moderna of every single dose of the drug they produced irrespective of where it was shipped,” argued Dolin.
Moderna has already generated billions in revenue from the vaccine. After the vaccine’s introduction, the company’s revenue surged from $800 million in 2020 to $19 billion in 2022.
Aside from its direct earnings, Moderna has received several billion dollars in government subsidies during the vaccine’s development. The Pentagon provided the company with $8.2 billion via a contract, while the Department of Health and Human Services allocated an additional $1.7 billion to Moderna.