San Diego-based company Allele Biotechnology filed a lawsuit on October 5, 2020 against Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer and BioNTech (defendants) alleging that they used its patented mNeonGreen protein technology in the development of their COVID-19 products.

According to a press release sent to Managing IP, Allele said it does not want to hinder the development of vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 and wants the defendants to recognise its patent rights and negotiate a licence like other users of the technology.

Allele’s CEO Jiwu Wang said: “[I]n no way does Allele want to prohibit, or slow down development of vaccines or therapeutics discovered using this technology.” Its licensing director Dan Catron added: “The purpose of these lawsuits is to maintain Allele's patent rights and to ensure that an agreement can be put in place to protect the rights of current and future licensees.”

Legal representatives

The lawsuit against Regeneron was filed in New York by Perkins Coie while the case against Pfizer and BioNTech was filed in California by Troutman Pepper.

Both law firms are ranked in IP STARS.


There may well be similar disputes that settled behind the scenes to avoid negative publicity, but this is a high-profile IP dispute because Regeneron made the headlines recently for the use of its investigational antibody cocktail REGN-COV2 as part of President Trump’s treatment.

This year we have seen companies publicly commit to collaborate and ensure IP rights do not hinder the fight against COVID-19. This, of course, does not mean that IP holders should not take legal action, if and when appropriate.

It will be interesting to see if the parties in this dispute settle or proceed to trial.