* Ruling invalidates two patents
* Clears the way for generic competition by year-end
By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Del., Sept 28 (Reuters) - Two Sanofi-Aventis SA (SASY.PA) patents on the cancer drug Taxotere were invalidated by a U.S. court on Monday, clearing the way for Hospira Inc HSP.N to launch a generic version by the end of the year.
Delaware District Court Judge Gregory Sleet ruled that the Taxotere patents were invalid because the invention was obvious and the French drugmaker obtained the patents improperly.
Sanofi sued Hospira and Canadian drugmaker Apotex Inc in 2007 for infringing two patents, issued in 1998, that protect Taxotere.
Lake Forest, Illinois-based Hospira and Apotex had sought approval from regulators to make a generic injectable form of docetaxel, the active ingredient in Taxotere.
Taxotere is marketed in more than 100 countries to treat lung, prostate, gastric and head and neck cancer.
“We’re obviously very pleased with the ruling,” said Dan Rosenberg, a spokesman for Hospira. He said it would clear the way for Hospira to launch a competing generic once a patent on the active pharmaceutical ingredient expired in November. That patent was not part of the legal dispute.
Shares of Sanofi were down 0.7 percent at 49.69 euros in European trading. Shares of Hospira were down 0.5 percent at $56.80 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Sanofi and Apotex did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The case is Aventis Pharma SA et al v Hospira Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 07-00721. (Reporting by Tom Hals; editing by John Wallace)